Francis exclaimed his own joy and called Christians to be “never gloomy,” as he visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida today to entrust this week’s World Youth Day to Mary.
The Pope began his homily at a Mass he celebrated in the shrine recalling the experience of the 2007 Fifth General Conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. Benedict XVI opened that conference and then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio played a leading role.
Speaking of the conference, he noted how the bishops, “who were discussing the theme of encountering Christ, discipleship and mission — felt encouraged, supported and in some way inspired by the thousands of pilgrims who came here day after day to entrust their lives to Our Lady. […] It can truly be said that the Aparecida Document was born of this interplay between the labours of the Bishops and the simple faith of the pilgrims, under Mary’s maternal protection.”
Mary teaches the Church true discipleship, the Pontiff said, explaining that for this reason, “I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary — who loved and raised Jesus — that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal.”
He then went on to speak about what he called “three simple attitudes”: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.
Know in your heart
Regarding hope, he commented: “How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them. In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope!”
God always has the “upper hand,” Francis said. “And God is our hope.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world,” he encouraged.
He also called listeners to be open to “being surprised by God.”
“Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us,” Francis said.
“God always saves the best for us,” he assured. “But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.”
Finally, the Pope urged “living in joy.”
“Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side,” he affirmed.
“Christians cannot be pessimists!” the Holy Father continued. “They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will ‘light up’ with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said: ‘the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future.'”
At the end of the Mass, Francis commented that he would be back to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Aparecida, which will be marked in 2017.
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