Together with the youth, let us bring the gospel to all
Dear young people, I wish to reflect with you on the mission that Jesus has entrusted to us. Addressing you, I also do so to all Christians who live in the Church the adventure of their existence as children of God. What drives me to speak to all, in dialogue with you, is the certainty that the Christian faith always remains young when it opens up to the mission that Christ entrusts to us. “The mission reinforces faith,” St John Paul II wrote (Letter enc. Redemptoris missio, 2), a Pope who loved young people so much and who devoted himself greatly to them.
The synod we will celebrate in Rome next October, missionary month, offers us the opportunity to better understand, in the light of faith, what the Lord Jesus means to young people and, through you, to the Christian communities.
Life is a mission
Every man and woman is a mission, and this is why he is living on earth. Being attracted and being sent are the two movements that our hearts, especially when we are young in age, feel like inner forces of love that promise a future and drive forward our existence. No one better than young people perceives how life surprises and attracts. Living with joy one’s responsibility to the world is a great challenge. I know well the lights and shadows of being young, and if I think of my youth and my family, I remember how intense hope was for a better future. The fact that we are in this world without a prior decision of ours, makes us sense that there is an initiative that precedes us and calls us to existence. Each of us is called to reflect on this reality: “I am a mission on this earth, and for that I am in this world” (Exhortation ap. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 273).
We announce Jesus Christ
The Church, announcing what she has received for free (cf. Mt 10:8; Acts 3:6) shares with you young people the way and truth that lead to the meaning of existence on this earth. Jesus Christ, killed and resurrected by us, offers himself to our freedom and moves us to seek, discover, and proclaim this full and true meaning. Dear young people, do not be afraid of Christ and his Church. In them is the treasure that fills life with joy. I say this to you from experience: thanks to faith I have found the foundation of my longings and the strength to realize them. I have seen a lot of suffering, a lot of poverty, disfigure the faces of so many brothers and sisters. However, for those who are with Jesus, evil is an encouragement to love more and more. Out of love for the gospel, many men and women, and many young people, have generously given themselves, sometimes even martyrdom, to the service of their brothers and sisters. From the Cross of Jesus we learn the divine logic of offering ourselves (cf. 1 Co 1:17-25), as an proclamation of the Gospel for the life of the world (cf. Jn 3:16). Being inflamed by the love of Christ consumes those who burn and grow, enlighten and lively those who love the one (cf. 2:5:14). Following the example of the Saints, who discover to us the broad horizons of God, I invite you to ask yoursers at all times, “What would Christ do in my place?”
Transmitting faith to the ends of the earth
You too, young people, by baptism are living members of the Church, and together we have a mission to bring the gospel to all. You’re warming up to life. Growing up in the grace of faith, which is transmitted to us in the sacraments of the Church, immerses us in a stream of many generations of witnesses, where the wisdom of the one who has experience becomes witness and encouragement for those who open thee to the future. And the novelty of young people becomes, in turn, support and hope for those who are close to the goal of their path. In coexistence among men of different ages, the Church’s mission builds intergenerational bridges, in which faith in God and love for one’s neighbour are factors of deep union.
This transmission of faith, the heart of the Church’s mission, is carried out by the “contagion” of love, in which joy and enthusiasm express the discovery of the meaning and fullness of life. The spread of faith by attraction demands open hearts, dilated by love. Limits cannot be set on love: strong as death is love (cf. Ct 8:6). And that expansion creates the encounter, the testimony, the proclamation; it produces participation in charity with all those who are far from the faith and are indifferent, sometimes opposed and opposed to it. Human, cultural and religious environments still oblivious to the Gospel of Jesus and the sacramental presence of the Church represent the extreme peripheries, “the ends of the earth”, to where their missionary disciples are sent, from the Passover of Jesus, with the certainty of always having with them their Lord (cf. Mt 28:20; Acts 1, 8). This is what we call missio ad gentes. The most desolate periphery of humanity in need of Christ is indifference to faith or even hatred against the divine fullness of life. Any material and spiritual poverty, any discrimination of brothers and sisters is always a consequence of rejection of God and his love.
The ends of the earth, dear young people, are for you, today, very relative and always easily “navigable”. The digital world, the social networks that invade us and cross borders, erase boundaries and distances, reduce differences. It seems all at your fingertips, all so close and immediate. However, without the committed gift of our lives, we may have thousands of contacts, but we will never be immersed in a true communion of life. The mission to the ends of the earth demands the gift of self in the vocation given to us by those who have placed us on this earth (cf. Lk 9:23-25). I dare say that, for a young man who wants to follow Christ, the essential thing is the search and adherence to his own vocation.
I thank all the ecclesial realities that allow you to personally find Christ alive in his Church: parishes, associations, movements, religious communities, different expressions of missionary service. Many young people find in missionary volunteering a way to serve the “little ones” (cf. Mt 25:40), promoting human dignity and bearing witness to the joy of loving and being Christians. These ecclesial experiences make each one’s formation not only a preparation for one’s professional success, but the development and care of a gift from the Lord to better serve others. These laudable forms of temporal missionary service are a fruitful beginning and, in vocational discernment, can help you decide the total gift of yourselves as missionaries.
The Pontifical Missionary Works were born of young hearts, in order to encourage the proclamation of the Gospel to all people, contributing to the cultural and human growth of so many people thirsting for Truth. Prayer and material help, which are generously given and distributed by the MSPs, serve the Holy See to ensure that those who receive them for their own need may, in turn, be able to bear witness in their surroundings. No one is so poor that I can’t give what they have, and before even what it is. I like to repeat the exhortation I addressed to young Chileans: “Never think that you have nothing to contribute or that no one is needed: you need a lot of people and think about it. Each of you think about it in your heart: I need many people” (Meeting with young people, Sanctuary of Maipú, January 17, 2018).
Dear young people, the next missionary October, in which the synod dedicated to you will develop, will be a new opportunity to make us missionary disciples, increasingly passionate about Jesus and his mission, to the ends of the earth. To Mary, Queen of the Apostles, to Saints Francis Xavier and Teresa of the Child Jesus, to Blessed Paul Manna, I ask you to intercede for all of us and always accompany us. Ω
Vatican, 20 May 2018,
Solemnity of Pentecost.