World Youth Day Concludes With Message of Courage and Hope

Pope Francis bade farewell on July 31 to an estimated 1.6 million young people from 187 countries in Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day. In his homily at the festival Mass, he challenged them “to have the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies.”

Francis concelebrated with 70 cardinals and over 800 bishops at the Field of Mercy, 10 miles from Krakow. “He comes like a friend to everyone, so open, so calm, so very, very friendly, smiling, so joyful like the young people here,” said Dorota, a 30-year-old Polish woman.

Advertisement

During his homily, Francis commented on the Gospel story read at Mass about Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who because he was so short climbed a tree to see Jesus. Just as Jesus met Zacchaeus, so too “Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet,” the pope said. Zacchaeus’s encounter with Jesus “changed his life, just as it has changed, and can daily still change, each of our lives,” the pope told the young people.

But Zacchaeus “had to face a number of obstacles in order to meet Jesus,” the pope continued, adding that modern young people face similar obstacles. First, like Zacchaeus, they feel “small of stature” and don’t think themselves “worthy.” This, the pope said, “has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself.” He reminded them that “our real stature” is that “we are God’s beloved children, always!” As such, “no one is insignificant.”

Zacchaeus faced a second obstacle in meeting Jesus, Francis said: “the paralysis of shame.” But “he mastered his shame” and climbed a tree “because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful.” Recalling that Zacchaeus “took a risk, he put his life on the line,” Francis said, “for us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away.”

Francis then referred to the third obstacle Zacchaeus faced: “the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him,” and asked, “How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner!” Francis said people “will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad,” but instead, “our heavenly Father ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good’ alike.”

He told his young audience: “People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid. Think of the motto of these days: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy’” (Mt 5:7).

Then, using the language of the internet, as he has done several times in these days, he encouraged them to “download the best ‘link’ of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary. The joy that you have freely received from God, freely give away, so many people are waiting for it!”

Francis concluded by recalling that Jesus told Zacchaeus, “I must stay at your house today” and telling the young people that Jesus extends that same invitation to them. Indeed, he said, “We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, has passed with a nearly 2-1 margin.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018