March 22, 2017
MESSAGES - “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49)
Dear Young Friends,
Here we are, on the road again, following our great meeting in Kraków, where we celebrated the Thirty-first World Youth Day and the Jubilee for Young People as part of the Holy Year of Mercy. We took as our guides Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, the apostles of divine mercy, in order to offer a concrete response to the challenges of our time. We had a powerful experience of fraternity and joy, and we gave the world a sign of hope. Our different flags and languages were not a reason for rivalry and division, but an opportunity to open the doors of our hearts and to build bridges.
At the conclusion of the Kraków World Youth Day, I announced the next stop in our pilgrimage, which with God’s help will bring us to Panama in 2019. On this journey we will be accompanied by the Virgin Mary, whom all generations call blessed (cf. Lk 1:48). This new leg of our journey picks up from the one that preceded it, centred on the Beatitudes, and invites us to press forward. I fervently hope that you young people will continue to press forward, not only cherishing the memory of the past, but also with courage in the present and hope for the future. These attitudes were certainly present in the young Mary of Nazareth and are clearly expressed in the themes chosen for the three coming World Youth Days. This year (2017) we will reflect on the faith of Mary, who says in the Magnificat: “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). The theme for next year (2018) – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30) – will lead us to meditate on the courageous charity with which the Virgin welcomed the message of the angel. The 2019 World Youth Day will be inspired by the words “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), Mary’s hope-filled reply to the angel.
In October 2018, the Church will celebrate the Synod of Bishops on the theme: Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. We will talk about how you, as young people, are experiencing the life of faith amid the challenges of our time. We will also discuss the question of how you can develop a life project by discerning your personal vocation, whether it be to marriage in the secular and professional world, or to the consecrated life and priesthood. It is my hope that the journey towards the World Youth Day in Panama and the process of preparation for the Synod will move forward in tandem.
Our age does not need young people who are “couch-potatoes”
According to Luke’s Gospel, once Mary has received the message of the angel and said “yes” to the call to become the Mother of the Saviour, she sets out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of her pregnancy (cf. 1:36, 39). Mary is very young; what she was told is a great gift, but it also entails great challenges. The Lord assured her of his presence and support, yet many things remain obscure in her mind and heart. Yet Mary does not shut herself up at home or let herself be paralyzed by fear or pride. Mary is not the type that, to be comfortable, needs a good sofa where she can feel safe and sound. She is no couch potato! (cf. Address at the Vigil, Kraków, 30 July 2016). If her elderly cousin needs a hand, she does not hesitate, but immediately sets off.
It was a long way to the house of Elizabeth, about 150 kilometres. But the young woman from Nazareth, led by the Holy Spirit, knows no obstacles. Surely, those days of journeying helped her to meditate on the marvellous event of which she was a part. So it is with us, whenever we set out on pilgrimage. Along the way, the events of our own lives come to mind, we learn to appreciate their meaning and we discern our vocation, which then becomes clear in the encounter with God and in service to others.