Pope Francis participated in a vigil with young people at Soamandrakizay Diocesan Camp, outside the capital Antananarivo, and challenged them to ask if Jesus can count on them.
After hearing the testimonies of two young people, who told the Pope about their experiences in prison ministry and in mission work, the Pontiff responded by saying “how good it is to meet two young people with a living faith, a faith on the move!” Jesus’ disciples, he continued, “must not keep still… They need to be on the move, acting, committed, certain that the Lord is supporting and accompanying them”.
What do you seek?
The Pope recalled the question Jesus asks His disciple on the banks of the river Jordan: “What do you seek?”. “The Lord knows that we are looking for the happiness for which we were created and which the world will not be able to take from us”, he said.
Any search, born of faith, “helps make the world in which we live a better place”, continued Pope Francis. What we do for others transforms us; it changes our way of seeing and judging people. It makes us more sensitive, and we understand and discover that the Lord is part of our life.
“The Lord does not call us by our sins, errors, faults, or our limits”, explained Pope Francis, “but by our name”. The Lord always reminds us “how precious we are in His eyes, and He entrusts us with a mission”.
Making a fresh start
Referring to the prison ministry described in one of the testimonies, the Pope described what that young person had learned. “You abandoned the quick and easy criticism that always paralyzes us”, he said. “You realized that a good number of those in prison were there not because they were bad, but because they had made bad choices. They took the wrong path and they realize it, but now they long to make a fresh start”.
“One of the most beautiful gifts our friendship with Jesus can offer us”, said the Pope, is that He is always with us and never abandons us. We all know from experience, he continued, that people can “go astray”, running after enticing illusions that end up “leaving our dreams and our soul stranded along the way”. Those disillusionments can cause us to “become bitter” or be tempted to “give up”.
Get your hands dirty
The Lord is the first to tell you “this is not the way to go”, the Pope insisted. He calls you “to become missionary disciple here and now”, he said. “He is the first to reject all those voices that would lull you to sleep, make you passive, numb and apathetic… He tells us not to be afraid to get our hands dirty”.
“The Lord is the first to trust in you”, the Pope told the youth of Madagascar, “but He also asks you to trust in yourselves and your own skills and abilities”. The Lord asks you to “encourage one another and join Him in writing the most beautiful page of your lives, rejecting apathy and offering a Christian answer to the many problems that you face”. Pope Francis challenged the young people to ask themselves: “Can Jesus count on me?”
You are not alone
The Lord entrusts us with a mission, insisted the Pope, “but He does not send us out alone to the front lines”. Pope Francis used the example of another testimony to illustrate how “it is impossible to be a missionary disciple all by ourselves”. We may be able to accomplish great things on our own, he said, “but together we can dream of and undertake things undreamt of!”
Pope Francis reminded the young people that “we are one great family” and that Mary is our Mother. She would never have said: “Let’s see how things turn out”, continued the Pope. She simply said “yes”. This is the “yes” of all those “willing to commit themselves and take risks, ready to stake everything, with no guarantee except the sure conviction of knowing they are bearers of a promise”, he said.
Mary, said Pope Francis, is “the Mother who watches over her children as they walk in life, often weary and in need, but always anxious that the light of hope not be extinguished. This is what we desire for Madagascar, for each of you and your friends”, concluded the Pope: “that the light of hope not be extinguished”.