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Pope FrancisAugust 04, 2023
Young people cheer as Pope Francis arrives in the popemobile for the World Youth Day Stations of the Cross with young people at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 4, 2023.Young people cheer as Pope Francis arrives in the popemobile for the World Youth Day Stations of the Cross with young people at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 4, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Jesus is the Way (Jn 14:6). In the Gospels, we most often find him on the road. He never stays put, but goes to the public squares, to the shores of the lake, to the mountains, to the Temple.... He has nowhere to lay his head (cf. Mt 8:20). The Lord does not let himself be conditioned by people’s expectations, by how they expect him to act; his words and actions are direct and speak to the concrete reality of their everyday lives. He keeps moving; he shows concern for those around him; he stops before those who suffer and yet continue to hope. He feels compassion for the weary, and he reaches out to those in pain. He stops to listen to each person’s story, and tenderly cares for all before resuming his journey.

Jesus’ public life is one of constant journeying; indeed, his whole life is a journey. Like Mary, who “set out and went with haste” (Lk 1:39) to visit Elizabeth, Jesus shows us that God takes the first step: he sets out to seek us where we are. Christ became one of us, even to the point of bending down to wash our feet, bearing our wounds in order to heal them and touching the rock bottom of our humanity: he experienced our loneliness and our fears, our pain and our suffering, our abandonment and our death—all the way to the tomb. The Son of God went up to Calvary in order to come down and encounter us here below, for that is the way of love. And “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Jesus’ public life is one of constant journeying; indeed, his whole life is a journey.

The cross that is present at every celebration of World Youth Day is the icon of this journey. It is the sacred sign of the greatest love of all, the love with which Christ wants to embrace our lives. The cross shows us the true beauty of love. Dear young friends, the beauty of Christ crucified is the great paradox of our faith. It is the beauty of a love that gives itself completely to you and me, to each and every one of us. It is the beauty of a love that bears the marks of our wounds. It is the beauty of a boundless love, yet a love utterly concrete and thus credible, which brings us to our knees, moves us deeply, brings tears to our eyes and leads us to pray from the depths of our heart: “Lord, as I contemplate your terrible sufferings, I find myself able to believe in love” (Primo Mazzolari, Un volto da contemplare, Milan 2001, 86).

Brothers and sisters, tonight too, Jesus walks with us. He is journeying at our side, never stopping, never hesitating, never wondering if it is worth it, filled with hope and love for us. Such is the Way of the Cross: Jesus “sets out, vulnerable, confronting death, hardship and ignominy—he takes all these head-on, never slowing his pace. It is clear that all his sufferings are nothing compared to the object of his hope” (C. BOBIN, L’uomo che cammina, Magnano 1998, 11).

What, then, does Jesus hope for? He desires to open up the windows of your soul, to let in the fullness of his life and love; he desires to dry your secret tears by his tender love, to relieve your loneliness by his closeness and your fears by his consolation; he desires to lift the oppressive burdens you carry in your heart and to heal the wounds of your sins. He wants to free your souls from the sorrow, despair and lethargy that dampen your enthusiasm and to spur you on to take the risk of love. In this way, you can become examples of generosity, of a life spent in care and concern for the poor in our midst, of responsibility for the needs of our time, our society and the beauty of creation. These are the things that Jesus hopes for.

Jesus is fighting at your side, and he never gives up, so that your life can be saved from the darkness of death.

“He healed your wounds by suffering on the cross”; “he freed you from eternal death on that same cross, by accepting earthly death” (St. Augustine, In Ioan., III, 3). Jesus is fighting at your side, and he never gives up, so that your life can be saved from the darkness of death. Whenever you experience any kind of “death,” he reaches down into the depths of your heart to raise you up to life, to his life. And at the end of your earthly journey, he has prepared a safe haven for you: heaven itself. He will turn the end of your life into a new beginning: a resurrection without end, a life of eternal joy and peace, free of mourning and tears, free of pain and regret.

Dear friends, that is what Jesus desires. It is the reason why he, who “is the secret of history, the key to our ultimate destiny” (St. Paul VI, Homily in Manila, 29 November 1970), journeys to Golgotha and mounts the cross for us. He wants to rekindle in us the light of beauty and to make us sentinels of hope, unafraid to step into the darkness of the night, neither lingering in the past nor fearful of the future.

So, let us stay “connected” to Christ, walking in the footsteps of our Saviour. Let us go up with him to Calvary, offering him our dreams, desires and joys, together with our sufferings, our fears and all those situations in which we feel hopeless or overwhelmed. Let us join to his experience of abandonment all those times when we feel alone, rejected and wronged. Let us bring to him all our hopes for a church that better reflects his image and for a more just, hospitable and fraternal world. Let us ask him once more to take upon himself every form of injustice, violence and discrimination, all the horrors of war, and whatever harms the poor or devastates his handiwork in creation.

Let us bring to Jesus the agonized cries of our parched humanity, which thirsts for peace.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus fully understands our wounds, our weaknesses and our failings. We believe that he took upon himself all evil and pain, so that these would never again be meaningless or pointless. In union with Jesus, then, each of us can be his witnesses and declare:

I believe in the One who constantly seeks you, who suffers in me and in others, in you and for you. I believe in the One who said, ‘Once I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself’. He has been there for twenty centuries, in the flesh of insults and suffering, in the flesh of redemption. Whether you like it or not, his terrible cry, ‘I thirst’, cries out within you… And if ever, conscious of your great poverty, you say: ‘Lord, I have nothing to give you’, he will be there to give you living water” (Madeleine Delbrêl, Éblouie par Dieu.Correspondance, 1: 1910-1941, in Œuvres complètes, Montrouge 2004, vol. I, 132-133).

Let us bring to Jesus the agonized cries of our parched humanity, which thirsts for peace. Let us look with confidence to the One who is “our peace” (Eph 2:14). To Jesus, whose side was pierced for our sake, let us open our hearts. Let us put our trust in him. May the stream of blood and water that flowed from his side bathe, purify and transform us. May it make us passionate prophets of the Gospel and intrepid witnesses of hope.

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