In Lisbon, during WYD23, Pope Francis indicated seven important steps that enable the youth to continue their journey.
Step 1: Called by name
This is how the Pope began his message at the welcoming celebration: “Called because we are loved [by] Him who calls us every day to embrace and encourage; to make each of us a unique and original masterpiece, whose beauty we can barely glimpse”.
The Pope invited each of the young people to think and imagine these words “Called by Name” written within our hearts, even forming the title of our life and the meaning of who we are. In his message at the welcoming celebration, the Pope addressed the young people in this way: “My friend, if God calls you by name, it means that for him you are not a number, but a face, a heart”.
Step 2: Jesus is counting on you
The second step proposed by the Pope to grow as a youth of Christ is to know that each of us matters to Him. If we are called by name, it is because He appreciates us, loves us and counts on us. He trusts us. He will never abandon us in a sad interior void. Speaking about the illusions of the virtual world in which people feel involved, the Pope wanted to assure us that Jesus will never deceive us or abandon us. Jesus promises and keeps his promises – he wants to give you real happiness, not virtual happiness, eternal happiness and not the momentary happiness of the virtual world. Jesus, unlike the utilitarianism of social media market research, wants us for our uniqueness, for what we are and the way we are.
Step 3: He wants us the way we are
It is very common to hear older people say that young people should be like this or like that; that young people should conform to this or that way of living in society. Well! Christ’s young people are called and loved as they are, starting from the personal situation in which they live. Pope Francis said “We are called as we are, with our problems, with the limitations we have, with our overflowing joy, with this desire to be better and to triumph. Think about it. Jesus calls us as we are, not as others want us to be.”
Step 4: Feel part of an open community
It was perhaps one of the most evocative moments of WYD23 – when Pope Francis insisted that the Church is a community open to all: “Everyone, everyone, everyone!”. “Friends, I want to be clear with you, who are allergic to falsehoods and empty words: in the Church there is room for everyone. For everyone! In the Church, no one is too much, there is room for everyone. […] Everyone, in their own language, repeat with me: everyone, everyone, everyone. This is the Church, mother of all.” And the Pope continues: “The Church must have open arms to all, without exceptions, without prejudices, without moralism, without distinctions of race, sex, social or moral condition… everyone is truly everyone! How? Like a mom! Why? Because a mother, regardless of the condition of her son or daughter, is always welcoming. She may or may not agree with the choices of her son or daughter, but she will never stop welcoming into her arms the one she brought into the world.”
Step 5: Don’t get tired of asking
A young person, according to the Pope, is someone who asks many questions and who must never tire of asking. The Pope says: “And it is good to ask questions; indeed, it is often better than giving answers, because those who ask remain “restless” and restlessness is the best medicine against addiction, that creeping normality that anesthetizes the soul”. Pope Francis insists on the fact that “God loves by surprise. It is not programmed. And to allow ourselves to be surprised, it is important not to become fixed on convincing and proselytizing answers to all of life’s questions, to the doubts of faith and to the challenges that today’s society brings to us.”. This is why the Pope insists on the fact that it is important not to stop asking questions, even more than always looking for answers to give.
Step 6: Feel Jesus walking with me.
In his Way of the Cross speech, Pope Francis said that young people must feel comforted and always accompanied by Jesus Christ on their journey through the ups and downs of life. “Know that you are not alone. You know Jesus will never turn away from you but walks alongside us in our suffering, in our anxieties and in our loneliness. Young people are therefore called to realize how Jesus gives himself and does so on the cross, on the various crosses of our lives and of our world.”
The Pope said that “the Cross is the greatest meaning of the greatest love, the love with which Jesus wants to embrace our life. Yes, your life, the life of others, the life of each of us. Jesus walks for me and we must tell everyone. Jesus walks this path for me, to give his life for me. And no one can have greater love than he who gives his life for his friends, than he who gives his life for others. Do not forget this: no one has greater love than he who gives up his life.”
Step 7: Get up and don’t be afraid.
In his message for the WYD23 vigil, Pope Francis said: “Walk. If you fall, get up, get help to get up, don’t stay on the ground. Get up and walk towards a goal; train yourself every day of your life. Nothing in life is free, everything is paid for. Only one thing is free, the love of Jesus. Therefore, with this gift that we have, the love of Jesus, and with the desire and will to walk, let us walk in hope. Let us look at our roots, without fear, do not be afraid!”. According to the Pope, these attitudes will generate missionary joy in people. Such a joy that makes us unable to resist bringing the love of Jesus Christ to everyone. (Filipe Resente)