On the Feast of the Annunciation this year 25th March, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation to young people and to the entire people of God. This was written in response to the Synod that met last October and is entitled Christ is Alive. I wonder how many young people have read it or planning to read it. I would love the opportunity to explore this letter with a group of young people to hear their response to what has been written. Like most Apostolic exhortations it is not short! I would like to give you a flavour of what he wrote to encourage you to read it yourself.
Pope Francis says reflecting on Jesus as a young person can prove inspiring for all those young people who are developing and preparing to take up their mission in life. “This involves growing in a relationship with the Father, in awareness of being part of a family and a people , and a people, and in openness to being filled with the Holy Spirit and led to carry out the mission God gives them, their personal vocation. None of this should be overlooked in pastoral work with young people, lest we create projects that isolate young people from their family and the larger community, or turn them into a select few, protected from all contamination. Rather, we need projects that can strengthen them, accompany them and impel them to encounter others, to engage in generous service, in mission.” We are reminded to be open to the signs of the times. The Pope recognises that many young people do not ask the Church for anything because they do no see her as significant for their lives. “A Church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum. How, then, will she be able to respond to the dreams of young people? Even if she possesses the truth of the Gospel, this does not mean that she has completely understood it; rather, she is called to keep growing in her grasp of that inexhaustible treasure.” These are for me challenging words. Chapter four is entitled “A great message for all young people.” In which three great truths are expressed. The first is that God loves you. “Never doubt this, whatever may happen in your life. At every moment you are definitely loved.” The second great truth is that Christ out of love, sacrificed himself completely in order to save you. “Young people, beloved of the Lord, how valuable must you be if you were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ! Dear young people, “you are priceless! You are not up for sale! Please, do not let yourselves be bought. Do not let yourselves be seduced.” The third truth inseparable from the second is Christ is alive! “Alive, he can be present in your life at every moment, to fill it with light and to take away all sorrow and solitude. Even if all others depart, he will remain, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). He fills your life with his unseen presence; wherever you go, he will be waiting there for you. Because he did not only come in the past, but he comes to you today and every day, inviting you to set out towards ever new horizons.” The Pope encourages young people to allow the Holy Spirit to open their hearts to receive this message. “Ask the Holy Spirit each day to help you experience anew the great message. Why not? You have nothing to lose, and he can change your life, fill it with light and lead it along a better path. He takes nothing away from you, but instead helps you to find all that you need, and in the best possible way.”