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Gerard O’ConnellNovember 21, 2021
Students hold placards as they demonstrate to demand global action on climate change as part of the "Fridays for Future" movement in São Paulo March 15, 2019. The banner reads: "Hey Ricardo Salles, climate change is not fake news." The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences hosted a workshop Sept. 13-14 on the "post-truth" era in communications. (CNS photo/Amanda Perobelli, Reuters)Students hold placards as they demonstrate to demand global action on climate change as part of the "Fridays for Future" movement in São Paulo March 15, 2019. The banner reads: "Hey Ricardo Salles, climate change is not fake news." The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences hosted a workshop Sept. 13-14 on the "post-truth" era in communications. (CNS photo/Amanda Perobelli, Reuters)

Pope Francis delivered an inspiring homily to 2,000 young people gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 21, in which he encouraged them to “dream and live”; he assured them that “many” of their dreams for “fraternity, solidarity, justice, peace” are “Jesus’ own dreams for humanity.”

He encouraged them not to be afraid to encounter Jesus because “he loves your dreams and helps you to make them come true.” He recalled that the late Italian Jesuit cardinal, Carlo Maria Martini, “used to say that the church and society need ‘dreamers who remain ever open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit,” and he added, “I hope that you will be one of these dreamers.”

Francis addressed his homily to young people because on today’s feast in the diocese of Rome, as in other dioceses worldwide, young people came together to celebrate World Youth Day, beginning the journey to the next international WYD that will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1 - 6, 2023. The pope is expected to attend. WYD was started by John Paul II in Rome in 1986 and since then has been celebrated at both the diocesan level and every two or three years at the international level. The last international WYD, the 16th gathering, was held in Panama City in January 2019.

Pope Francis: “You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task: to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing.”

Drawing on the scripture readings for the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis reminded his young audience in St. Peter’s Basilica and worldwide that “the final word on our life will belong to Jesus, not to us” because he is “the Lord of history.” He is “the One who endures while everything else passes away,” and he is “our sure and eternal hope.” Moreover, he said, the scriptures tell us that “God is indeed coming, that he is present and at work, guiding our history towards himself, towards all goodness.”

Francis recalled how the prophet Daniel “saw the Lord coming with the clouds as he ‘watched in the night visions’” (Daniel 7:13). He reminded the young people that “God also comes in the night, amid the often-dark clouds that gather over our life” and said, “we need to be able to recognize him, to look beyond the night, to lift our gaze in order to see him amid the gloom.”

He encouraged the young, “Never stop seeking the light amid whatever darkness we may often bear in our hearts or see all around us. Lift your gaze from earth to heaven, not in order to flee but to resist the temptation to remain imprisoned by our fears, for there is always the danger that our fears will rule us. Do not remain closed in on ourselves and our complaints. Lift up your eyes! Get up!”

“You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task: to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing; to be sentinels prepared to see the light in night visions; to be builders amid the many ruins of today’s world; to be capable of dreaming.”

He told them it is “crucial” for a young person “to be capable of dreaming” because those who dream “do not remain in the darkness, but light a candle, a flame of hope that announces the coming of the dawn.” He encouraged them, “Dream, make haste, and look to the future with courage.”

“Do not live your lives numbly or asleep. Instead, dream and live.”

He told them, “We are grateful when you dream” and when as a result “you sometimes make noise.” He thanked them “for all those times when you work courageously to make your dreams come true, when you keep believing in the light even in dark moments, when you commit yourselves passionately to making our world more beautiful and humane.”

Pope Francis thanked them too “for all those times when you cultivate the dream of fraternity, work to heal the wounds of God’s creation, fight to ensure respect for the dignity of the vulnerable and spread the spirit of solidarity and sharing.” He thanked them above all, “because in a world that thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream.”

He urged them, “Do not live your lives numbly or asleep. Instead, dream and live.” He assured them, “This helps us adults, and the church as well. Yes, as a church too, we need to dream, we need youthful enthusiasm in order to be witnesses of the God who is always young!”

Pope Francis reminded young people that when Pilate asked Jesus if he were a king, “Jesus did not hide his identity, he did not mask his intentions, or take advantage of the opening that even Pilate had left for him. With the courage born of truth, he answered: ‘I am a king’ and said, ‘I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.’”

Francis said, Jesus came “to proclaim by his life that his Kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the world; that God does not reign in order to increase his power and to crush others; he does not reign by force of arms. His is the Kingdom of love.”

He urged his young audience, “let us allow Jesus to draw us in, to challenge us, to awaken in us the courage born of truth.”

He told them, “It is good to worship Jesus, and as a result, to be inwardly free, to see life as it really is, and not be deceived by the fashions of the moment and the displays of consumerism that dazzle but also deaden. Friends, we are not here to be enchanted by the sirens of the world, but to take our lives in hand, to ‘take a bite out of life,’ in order to live it to the full.”

In this way, he said, “with the freedom of Jesus, we find the courage we need to swim against the current.” He emphasized that “having the courage to swim against the current” does not mean “to swim against other people, like those perpetual victims and conspiracy theorists who are always casting blame on others; but rather against the unhealthy current of our own selfishness, closed-mindedness and rigidity, that often seeks like-minded groups to survive.”

He encouraged them to swim against the tide “so as to become more like Jesus. For he teaches us to meet evil only with the mild and lowly force of good. Without shortcuts, without deceit, without duplicity.”

Francis said, “Our world, beset by so many evils, does not need any more ambiguous compromises, people who move back and forth like the tide—wherever the wind blows them, wherever their own interests take them—or swing to the right or left, depending on what is most convenient, those who sit on the fence.” He said, “A Christian like that seems more of a tight-rope walker than a Christian. Those who are always performing a balancing act are looking for ways to avoid getting their hands dirty, so as not to compromise their lives, not to take life seriously.” He counseled the young not to be like that.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by encouraging young people, “Be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society. Don’t be afraid to criticize! We need your criticism. Many of you, for example, are critical of environmental pollution. We need this! Be free in criticism. Be passionate about truth, so that, with your dreams, you can say: ‘My life is not captive to the mindset of the world: I am free, because I reign with Jesus for justice, love and peace.’”

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