“Now you know how our hearts beat faster when we have a mission, not because someone told you this, but because you experienced it for yourselves. You experienced in your own life that ‘no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15:13).”
With those words and in a spirit of gratitude, Pope Francis on January 27, 2019, met with the World Youth Day volunteers in Rommel Fernandez Stadium to thank them for their service during the event. After listening to the testimonies of several volunteers, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude to the volunteers not only for their service during the event but in the many months of advance preparation. He said he knew that they had experienced some difficult moments.
“The good thing is that you did not let those weaknesses get in the way of your service, or bother you too much,” he said. “You experienced them in serving others, yes; in trying to understand and help other volunteers and pilgrims, yes; but you were determined not to let this stop you or paralyze you, you went ahead.
“That is the beauty of knowing that we are sent, the joy of knowing that, in spite of every difficulty, we have a mission to carry out. Not to let our limitations, our weaknesses, and even our sins hold us back and stop us from living the mission, because God invites us to do what we can and ask for what we cannot, in the knowledge that his love is taking hold of us and transforming us progressively (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 49-50). Put service and mission first, and you will see that everything else will follow.”
Pope Francis thanked the group for its attention to every detail – “like offering someone a glass of water.” And he commended their “joy, creativity, and commitment.”
“You have had a more lively and real experience of faith; you have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know,” Francis said. “Now is the moment when you are sent forth: go out and tell, go out and bear witness, go out and spread the word about everything you have seen and heard. Dear friends, let everyone know about what happened during these days. Not with lots of words but rather, as you did here, with simple and ordinary gestures, those that transform and renew each hour of the day.”
The Holy Father concluded his remarks by admitting that he didn’t know if he will be at the next World Youth Day. But he is certain Peter will be there.