“The salvation the Lord offers us is an invitation to be part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us.”
Those were the world of Pope Francis in his January 26, 2019, speech as he joined the vast crowds of young people at World Youth Day in Panama for a Vigil with young people Campo San Juan Pablo II – Metro Park.
Salvation isn’t something to be downloaded or discovered in a new “app”. It isn’t a self-improvement project or some sort of tutorial, the Holy Father warned. No, it truly is a love story.
The Pope offered the example of Mary and her “yes” to God’s will. He pointed out that she put no conditions on her acceptance. She didn’t say she would give it a try or see how things went. No, she just said “yes.” But that didn’t mean her life would be easy.
“Saying ‘yes’ to the Lord means preparing to embrace life as it comes, with all its fragility, its simplicity, and often enough too, with its conflicts and annoyances…it means embracing our country, our families and our friends as they are, with all their weak points and their flaws,” the Pope explained. “Embracing life is also seen in accepting things that are not perfect, pure or ‘distilled’, yet no less worthy of love. Is a disabled or frail person not worthy of love? Is a person who happens to be a foreigner, a person who made a mistake, a person ill or in prison, not worthy of love? We know what Jesus did: he embraced the leper, the blind man, the paralytic, the Pharisee and the sinner. He embraced the thief on the cross and even embraced and forgave those who crucified him.”
The Holy Father admitted that it is often hard to understand God’s love. But it is a gift to know that it comes despite our imperfections. God forgave even those who abandoned Him.
“Why did he do this? Because only what is loved can be saved. Only what is embraced can be transformed, Francis explained. “The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. Yet it is precisely through our problems, frailties, and flaws that he wants to write this love story.
“He embraced the prodigal son, he embraced Peter after his denials and he always embraces us whenever we fall: he helps us to get up and get back on our feet. Because the worst fall, the fall that can ruin our lives, is to remain down and not allow ourselves to be helped up.”
The HolyFather also warned of four “without” that can leave a young person without roots and unable to grow: without work, without education, without community, without family. He said strong roots are necessary to keep a person grounded.
“There is a question that we older people have to ask ourselves, but also a question that you need to ask us and we have to answer: What roots are we providing for you, what foundations for you to grow as persons?” Francis said. “It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future.
“Without education, it is difficult to dream of a future; without work, it is very difficult to dream of a future; without a family and community, it is almost impossible to dream of a future. Because dreaming of a future means learning how to answer not only the question what I am living for but also who I am living for, who makes it worthwhile for me to live my life.”