MAGIS 2023: Pope Francis says young people are called to be bearers of hope, not superheroes
Pope Francis greeted the pilgrims gathered this Saturday, July 22, in Lisbon, Portugal, for the opening of MAGIS 2023, the 10-day Jesuit youth experience preceding World Youth Day which starts in the city on Aug. 1. In his message, the pope implored young people to “truly believe and become what they are: ‘A future full of hope,’” he said, borrowing words from the MAGIS 2023 theme: “creating a hope-filled future.”
As pilgrims made their way into the MAGIS Arena, Samuel Beirão, S.J., the Portuguese Jesuit priest who serves as the coordinator of MAGIS 2023, appeared on jumbotrons on either side of the stage reading the message he had received that morning from Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the pope’s substitute for General Affairs at the Vatican's Secretariat of State, who is the equivalent of the Vatican’s chief of staff.
“Each person does not need to invent themselves or create themselves out of nothing, but rather discover themselves in the light of God and allow their true selves to flourish,” the letter reads. “For this, they need not be superheroes but sincere, genuine and free individuals; people who carry within themselves a hope-filled future: the hope of preparing a more dignified social and human climate than the current one, the hope of living in a world that is more fraternal, more just and peaceful, more sincere, more suited to humankind.”
“Each person does not need to invent themselves or create themselves out of nothing, but rather discover themselves in the light of God and allow their true selves to flourish.”
Nearly 2,000 pilgrims from more than 80 countries spread across the field at Colégio São João de Brito. “The reality we have here is much more beautiful than in our computers,” said Miguel Almeida, S.J, the provincial of the Jesuits in Portugal, in his opening remarks. He reminded pilgrims that by their mere presence and desire to come together across social, cultural and economic divides, “We are telling the world that a shared life together is possible,” he said. “We are creating a future filled with hope just because you are here.”
MAGIS 2023 is not organized by the Jesuits in Portugal alone, noted Father Beirão in his opening words to pilgrims. “Can we do this all together?” he said, recalling his conversation with his provincial when he received the mission to coordinate MAGIS 2023. He was insistent about his desire that the executive team of MAGIS 2023 be reflective of the global character of the mission of the Society of Jesus; involving Jesuits from other parts of the world, laypersons and consecrated religious from within the Ignatian family.
The response was generous, drawing Jesuits from as far afield as Zimbabwe and Brazil and a consecrated religious from an Ignatian congregation of women religious in Portugal. The hope in realizing such an event together was that it might reveal “a church that is more synodal and walks together,” said Ana Maria Ramirez, A.C.I., the provincial of the Atlantic European province of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in her opening address to pilgrims, “an experience of the universal church,” she continued, “that disposes our heart to the encounter with Jesus, one another and the world.”
And it was this disposition for an encounter with the Lord that permeated the opening Mass at MAGIS 2023, concelebrated by some 100 Jesuit priests and presided by Father Almeida, which coincidentally took place “on the day we celebrate the Apostle of the Apostles,” said Father Almeida. “This woman was the first to experience the Resurrection. And she is the first of the Apostles!” With these words, he called pilgrims “to a minute of silence, so that each of you may remember in your heart a person who told you about Jesus,” he said.
"I hope and I pray that MAGIS and World Youth Day may be the renewal of this personal encounter of Jesus with each of us.”
In his homily, Father Almeida picked up on a theme introduced in the earlier moment of silence. “We are here today because Mary Magdalene, 2,000 years ago, had the courage to run and tell the other apostles the most unimaginable and unbelievable story of humanity: That Jesus whom you saw dead is alive!” he told pilgrims.
“Ultimately, we are here today because Jesus Christ, the Risen One, the Living Jesus, at some point in our history, entered our lives and touched us. I hope and I pray that MAGIS and World Youth Day may be the renewal of this personal encounter of Jesus with each of us.”
The provincial then offered seven points, unpacking key elements of the encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Lord as told in the Gospel of John, concluding each with a set of personal questions that might serve as a provocation and challenge pilgrims to reconsider their relationship to God, to themselves, to others and to the world, and to live these relationships with greater depth and honesty.
“For this is the fruit of the encounter with Jesus,” he told pilgrims, as he drew his homily to a close, “whoever truly encounters Jesus feels the need to bring him to others. If the joy of MAGIS and World Youth Day does not stimulate me to introduce Jesus to others in my daily life, then it would not be the joy of the encounter with Jesus, it would not be true spiritual consolation, as St. Ignatius teaches us. It is only a superficial and psychological joy. Such a joy would not necessarily be bad, but it would be very impoverished!”
Full text of Pope Francis’ message
His Holiness Pope Francis sends a fraternal greeting of welcome to the participants of the Ignatian Youth Festival MAGIS2023/Portugal, which will take place from the 22nd to the 31st of this, the month of July, imploring upon all an abundance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so they may truly believe and become what they are: “a future full of hope.” Each person does not need to invent themselves or create themselves out of nothing, but rather discover themselves in the light of God and allow their true selves to flourish. And you, as the Holy Father wrote in the apostolic exhortation Christus vivit, “You are the ones who hold the future! Through you, the future enters into the world (...); be protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism” (no. 174), because young people “need to be marked by shared ideals, hopes and dreams, great horizons that we can contemplate together” (no. 166). For this, they need not be superheroes but sincere, genuine, and free individuals; people who carry within themselves a future full of hope: the hope of preparing a more dignified social and human climate than the current one, the hope of living in a world that is more fraternal, more just and peaceful, more sincere, more suited to humankind. Along with these wishes and appeals, Pope Francis expresses his deep gratitude to the organizers, animators, speakers, and listeners who make MAGIS 2023 a reality, and entrusts them to the tender care of the Virgin Mother, asking her to infect them with that blessed “haste” to serve, which led her to visit her cousin Elizabeth, causing John to leap for joy in her womb when he sensed the arrival of Jesus. The Holy Father wishes the same blessing of Mary for each and every one, and asks them not to forget to pray for him. Until Lisbon, God willing!
Vatican City, 3rd of July 2023.
✠ Edgar Peña Parra
Substitute for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State of His Holiness.
Full text of Father Almeida’s Homily for the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
As I said at the beginning of Mass, we are here today because someone told us about Jesus. Faith is woven from testimonies and stories shared from one person to another and handed down from generation to generation. We human beings are, first and foremost, storytellers. As far as we know, we are the only beings in creation who can tell stories and share them with one another. And in the stories we tell, we pass on our identities, the identities of our family; we make ourselves known and we get to know our friends and their families.
The same is true for the Christian faith we share. Since the radical beginnings of the history of Christianity, this has been (and remains) true. We are here today because Mary Magdalene encountered/met the Risen Christ that Easter morning and ran with haste to tell her friends and Jesus' apostles: I have seen the Lord!
We are here today because Mary Magdalene, 2000 years ago, had the courage to run and tell the other apostles the most unimaginable and unbelievable story of humanity: That Jesus whom you saw dead is alive!
And guess what: they believed and they told others and others told others... until it came to us.
Ultimately, we are here today because Jesus Christ, the Risen One, the Living Jesus, at some point in our history, entered our lives and touched us. I hope and I pray that MAGIS and World Youth Day may be the renewal of this personal encounter of Jesus with each of us.
Let me share with you some ideas from today's gospel.
1. Why is it Mary Magdalene who has the first experience of the Risen Jesus? The answer is quite simple: this happened because she was the one who went looking for Jesus. She woke up early in the morning and ran to the tomb to visit her beloved Master. This is crucial: Mary feels moved by the Spirit and obeys that inner movement and goes to the place where she thinks she can find Jesus. Like Mary Magdalene, you woke up early in the morning and came to this corner of Western Europe. What really brings you here? Why did you come? What are you really looking for?
2. Mary’s experience is first of all an experience of profound desolation: the tomb is empty! Mary experiences emptiness. This is so often our experience: the experience of our own emptiness, the experience of the emptiness of life. When we lose someone we love, when a dream falls apart, when a relationship breaks down... When we cannot find the meaning of life. The experience of emptiness. That is why Mary weeps. Mary sees the reality with the eyes of death. She is outside the tomb and she weeps as she mourns Jesus’ death. She is outside the tomb, but in fact she should be inside because deep down, inside of herself, she is dead!
3. Mary weeps. We too have our own reasons to weep. Our world weeps over war, injustice, poverty, selfishness, the economy that kills... And when we weep, our tears do not allow us to see reality properly. Our eyes become blurred. So it is with Mary. Her sadness and her tears do not let her see reality. And the reality is that Jesus is alive! Let me tell you again: Jesus is alive! And, as He did with Mary Magdalene, He is doing now with us. The Risen Jesus is here and comes to meet us through each other, through our experience of Church, through the sacraments we celebrate. What is Jesus telling me now through this experience of resurrection?
4. Sometimes our sadness isolates us in such a way that we think that our problem is the end of the world! Everything must revolve around us. And, like He did with Mary Magdalene, Jesus breaks this circle by calling us by name: "Mary!" And when Mary hears Jesus calling her name, in that voice... she recognizes Him. Friends recognize each other by the way they relate to each other. How does Jesus normally relate with me? What are the signs of His presence in my life? Can I recognize Him in my daily life? Mary had a close relationship with Jesus, so she was able to recognize him after His death and Resurrection. If we have a close relationship with Him, in moments of prayer, celebrating the Sacraments, sharing life in community… we will recognize Him when He appears to us through others, through our friends, through the poor, through those who suffer, through the different circumstances of our lives. The Risen Christ appears, not in person, in His flesh and bones, but always through others, through something that happens.
5. After calling Mary by her name, Jesus sends her to the Apostles to give them the Good News. Today, at the beginning of MAGIS, Jesus calls me by my name. I allow myself to be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and by the joy of the Risen Jesus and I make a resolution to bring Him to others.
6. For this is the fruit of the encounter with Jesus: whoever truly encounters Jesus feels the need to bring Him to others. If the joy of MAGIS and World Youth Day does not stimulate me to introduce Jesus to others in my daily life, then it would not be the joy of the encounter with Jesus, it would not be true spiritual consolation, as St. Ignatius teaches us. It is only a superficial and psychological joy. Such a joy would not necessarily be bad, but it would be very impoverished!
7. Jesus sends Mary to his friends. Jesus gives meaning to our life, breaks into our history and sends us out into the world: to our world so much in need of true joy, justice and peace.
My friends, it is with great pleasure and joy that, in the name of Jesus, I welcome you and send you out! May we too come out of MAGIS 2023 and World Youth Day like Mary Magdalene and shout aloud to the world: I have seen the Lord!