Pope Francis sent a message to young people gathered at Mladifest, the annual international prayer meeting being held from August 1-6 in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Entrusting them to the example of Mary, the Pope invited them to believe in the fullness and true happiness giving oneself to God brings.
Here is a translation of the message:
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The Youth Festival is an intense week of prayer and encounter with Jesus Christ, in particular in His living Word, in the Eucharist, in Adoration, and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This event — the experience of many says it — has the force to set one out on the way to the Lord. And this is in fact the first step taken by the “rich young man” of whom the Synoptic Gospels speak (cf. Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23), who set out, rather, who ran to meet the Lord, full of enthusiasm and desire to meet the Master, to inherit eternal life, namely, happiness. The Festival’s guiding word this year is, in fact, the question which that young man addressed to Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s a word that puts us before the Lord, and He fixes His gaze on us, loves us, and invites us: “Come! Follow Mew!” (Matthew 19:21).
The Gospel doesn’t tell us the name of that young man, and this suggests that he could represent each one of us. In addition to owning many goods, he seems to be well-mannered and educated, and also animated by healthy anxiety that drives him to seek true happiness, life in fullness. Therefore, he sets out to meet an authoritative, credible, and reliable guide. He finds such an authority in the person of Jesus Christ and because of this, he asks Him: “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” (Matthew 10:17). However, the young man is thinking of a good to acquire with his own strength. The Lord answers him with another question: “Why do you ask me about what is good. One there is Who is good” (v. 18). Thus Jesus directs him to God, who is the only and supreme Good from whom all other good comes.
To help him to access the source of goodness and of true happiness, Jesus points out to him the first stage to go through, namely, to learn to do good to his neighbor: “If you would enter life, keep the Commandments” (Matthew 19:17). Jesus brings him back to earthly life and points out to him the way to inherit eternal life, that is to say, concrete love for his neighbor. But the young man answers that he has always done this and he realizes that it’s not enough to follow precepts to be happy. Then Jesus fixes on him a look full of love. In fact, he recognizes the desire for fullness that the young man feels in his heart and his healthy anxiety that makes him seek, so He feels tenderness and affection for him
However, Jesus sees the weak point of His interlocutor: he is too attached to the material goods he possesses. Therefore, the Lord suggests to him a second stage to go through, that of passing from the logic of “merit” to that of gift: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven” (Matthew 19:21). Jesus changes the perspective: He invites him not to think about ensuring the beyond for himself, but to give all in the earthly life, thus imitating the Lord. It’s the call to further maturation, to pass from observed precepts to obtain the recompense for free and total love. Jesus asks him to leave what weighs down the heart and is an obstacle to love. What Jesus suggests is not so much a man stripped of everything, but a free man rich in relations. If the heart is crowded with goods, the Lord and one’s neighbor become only things among others. Our having too much and wanting too much suffocates our hearts and makes us unhappy and unable to love.
Finally, Jesus suggests a third stage, that of imitation: “Come! Follow Me!” “To follow Jesus isn’t an exterior imitation, because it touches man in the depth of his inner being. To be disciples of Jesus means to be conformed to Him” (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 21). Instead, we will receive a rich and happy life, full of the faces of so many brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers and children . . . (cf. Mathew 19:29). It’s not a loss to follow Christ, but an incalculable gain, while renunciation concerns the obstacle that hinders the way. That young man, however, had a divided heart between two masters: God and money. The fear of risking and losing his goods makes him go back home sad. ”His countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful” (Mark 10:22). He did not hesitate to ask the decisive question, but he did not have the courage to accept the answer, which is the proposal to “detach” himself from himself and his riches to “attach” himself to Christ, to walk with Him and discover true happiness.
Friends, Jesus also says to each one of you: “Come! Follow Me!” Have the courage to live your youth entrusting it to the Lord and set out on the way with Him. Let yourselves be overcome by His look of love that frees us from the seduction of idols, from false riches that promise life but procure death. Don’ be afraid to receive the Word of Christ and to accept His call. Don’t get discouraged as the rich young man of the Gospel; instead, fix your gaze on Mary, the great model of imitation of Christ, and entrust yourselves to Her who with Her “here I am,” answered the Lord’s call without reservations. Her life was a total donation of herself, from the moment of the Annunciation to Calvary, where She became our Mother. We look at Mary to find the strength to receive the grace that enables us to say our “here I am” to the Lord. We look at Mary to transform our life into a gift for others. With her concern for the spouses of Cana, She teaches us to be attentive to others. She shows us with her life that our joy lies in the Will of God; to receive it and live it isn’t easy, but it makes us happy. Yes, “the joy of the Gospel fills the heart and the whole life of those that encounter Jesus. Those that let themselves be saved by Him are free from sin, from sadness, free from inner emptiness, free from isolation. With Jesus Christ, joy is born and reborn” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 1).
Dear young people, in your journey with the Lord Jesus, encouraged also by this Festival, I entrust you all to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our heavenly Mother, invoking light and strength from the Holy Spirit. May the gaze of God, who loves you personally, accompany you every day so that, in your relations with others, you can be witnesses of the new life that you received as a gift. I pray for this and I bless you, and I ask you also to pray for me.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, June 29, 2021.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester