At the Closing Mass of the 28th World Youth Day, held at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis invited the youth present to “Go, do not be afraid and serve. Over 3 million pilgrims from all over the world were present at the Mass. Also in attendance were the heads of State of 4 South American countries: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Suriname, as well as the Vice-presidents of Uruguay and Panama.
The Holy Father encouraged the youth to take the experience gathered in these days of the WYD, but to spread it everywhere. Constricting this experience to just the small group of the parish, movement or community, he said, would be comparable to “withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly.
“Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history,” the Pope said.
“Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “if you would like to, if you have the time”, but: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God.”
Expressing his hope for the evangelization of the Church in Latin America, the Holy Father told the pilgrims that the proclamation of the Gospel is entrusted to them so that “it may resound with fresh power”.
“The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you.”
Do Not Be Afraid
Pope Francis told the youth that despite fear they might have of announcing the Good News because of youth or inexperience, God still calls them and does not abandon them just as with the prophet Jeremiah. “When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us,” the Holy Father said. “When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always”. And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.”
The Holy Father also encouraged priests to accompany their young people and to share “this experience of faith with them” as well as calling on them to “never let them feel alone.” Pope Francis also took the opportunity to thank the Youth Ministry groups, Movements, and new Communities who offer young people an experience of being in the Church. “They are so creative,” he said, “so audacious. Carry on and do not be afraid!”
Regarding service, the Holy Father said that the act of serving others is a way of allowing our own lives to be identified with Jesus’ life. The 76 year old Pontiff drew from the example of Saint Paul who made himself “a slave to all.”
“Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did,” the Pope said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis appealed to all youth to announce the Gospel which he said is bringing God’s power “to pluck up and break down evil and violence.
“The Church is counting on you!” he exclaimed. “The Pope is counting on you!”