Church experience more than just a cut-and-run flash mob, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Young men and women can live a true
experience of the church by joining together and reconnecting with the past,
Pope Francis told Catholic young people.

“The genuine experience of the church is not like a
flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing and then go their
separate ways,” the pope said in his message for World Youth Day 2017.

The message, released March 21 at the Vatican, centered on a
verse of the Magnificat: “The Mighty One has done great things for

Pope Francis has chosen several verses that reflect on
Mary’s faith from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke as the themes for
World Youth Day 2017-2019. This year and next, World Youth Day will be
celebrated on a local level — on Palm Sunday at the Vatican — and in 2019 it
will be an international gathering in Panama.

The pope reminded young people that another event, the Synod
of Bishops in 2018, will also help them to reflect on how they “live the
experience of faith in the midst of the challenges of our time.”

“It is my hope that the journey toward the World Youth
Day in Panama and the process of preparation for the synod will move forward in
tandem,” the pope said.

Young people are called to follow the example of Mary who, after saying
“yes” to becoming the mother of God, did not remain closed in on
herself but went out of her way to help her cousin Elizabeth.

“Mary does not shut herself up at home or let herself
be paralyzed by fear or pride,” the pope wrote. “Mary is not the type
that — to be comfortable — needs a good sofa where she can feel safe and sound.
She is no couch potato!”

Upon meeting her cousin, he explained, Mary proclaims the
“Magnificat,” a “revolutionary prayer” in that while she is
aware of her own limitations, she completely trusts in divine mercy.

Like Mary, young men and women today also can experience “great things”
if they allow their hearts to be touched by God in the “journey of life,
which is not a meaningless meandering but a pilgrimage that, for all its
uncertainties and sufferings, can find its fulfillment in God,” the pope

look toward the
future God has prepared for them, he continued, young people must look to the
past and remember God’s mercy and love in their own lives.

“I would like to remind you that there is no saint
without a past or a sinner without a future,” he said. “The pearl is
born of a wound in the oyster! Jesus, by his love, can heal our hearts and turn
our lives into genuine pearls.”

Although he
rejected the notion that young people are “distracted and
superficial,” Pope Francis said young people today need to reflect on
their lives in order to decide their future and not rely on current cultural
trends that present a false or incomplete reality.

Social media, he explained, only offers snippets of a
person’s memories and history and those glimpses are rarely “endowed with purpose and
meaning.” And
reality shows present young people with stories that are not real and are
“only moments passed before a television camera by characters living from
day to day without a greater plan.”

“Don’t let yourselves be led astray by this false image
of reality!” the pope said. “Be the protagonists of your history;
decide your own future.”

He also warned of giving in to society’s tendency to value
the present while dismissing “everything inherited from the past, as for
example the institutions of marriage, consecrated life and priestly
mission,” which are often written off as “meaningless and outdated forms.”

“People think it is better to live in ‘open’
situations, going through life as if it were a reality show, without aim or
purpose,” he said. “Don’t let yourselves be deceived! God came to enlarge the horizons
of our life in every direction.”

Instead, the pope said, by appreciating the wisdom and
memory of the past and nourishing themselves through the sacraments in the
present, young people can proclaim their own song of praise, like Mary, for the
“great things” God is doing for their future.

“Spread your wings and fly, but also realize that you
need to rediscover your roots and to take up the torch from those who have gone
before,” Pope Francis said. “To build a meaningful future, you need
to know and appreciate the past.”

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