Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
The 31st World Youth Day that took place in Krakow from 26 to 31 July was an outstanding celebration of hope, mercy and compassion for young people particularly at a time when our shattering world is experiencing such a deep suffering as well as terrible cruelty. Three powerful messages from Pope Francis which the now empty fields of Campus Misericordia and Blonia Park certainly reverbate to all those who visit or simply think about them can be encapsulated into the following three phrases: (1) the exhortation to dream big; (2) not to be afraid to embark on risks; and (3) to get up off one’s comfortable sofa and leave a mark on life.
The Pope challenged young people to think outside their mental box. When addressing to some 1.5 Million youth on Saturday evening July 30 and encouraged them to discard indifference and joyfully integrate unity in their lives the Holy Father told them:
“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal ‘more’. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy. To take the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists.The God who asks us to devise an economy inspired by solidarity. In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others”.
Obviously such a noble undertaking, precisely that of leaving behind one’s comfort zone in order to embrace the suffering other necessarily needs great courage. It needs overcoming what Pope Francis termed as “the paralysis of shame”. Zacchaeus, although a public figure, put aside any impressions people around him might have had about him and, instead, let Jesus’ personal love win him over. In his humility he clearly understood that “Jesus alone could pull him out of the mire of sin and discontent”. What did he do? “He ‘ran ahead’, ‘climbed’ the tree, and then, when Jesus called him, he ‘hurried down’ (vv. 4, 6). He took a risk, he put his life on the line”.
Taking Zaccheus’ example Pope Francis drew an interesting moral to our lives. In his homily at the Closing Mass for World Youth Day on Sunday 31 July the Holy Father said: “For us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but totake a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away. When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life – we can’t respond by thinking about it or ‘texting’ a few words!”
Finally, the courage to endeavour a risk for Jesus implies getting up off one’s comfortable sofa and leave a mark on life. Thus, Pope Francis exhorted: “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to ‘vegetate’, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark”.
Our world is calling for people who want to decide actively for their future. It requires people who want to be alert so as tobring about the changes that are needed in order to live truly free and no longer spoil their lives and those of others by living drowsily and dully.
Am I ready to dream big? Am I prepared to be fearless and take risks? Am I bold enough to abandon my comfortable sofa and make a difference in a person’s life? Do I want to make these three words my life programme?