By Amanda Murthy
“Dear young people, keep running the race before you, attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters.
“The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them!”
Those were the words of Pope Francis, who extended a hope-filled message dedicated to ‘the young people of the Church and to the entire people of God’, in his latest Apostolic Exhortation titled ‘Christus Vivit’ (Christ is Alive).
The nine-chapter exhortation was inspired by Pope Francis’ reflections and conversations that emerged from last year’s Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.
Pope Francis began his exhortation by analysing scriptural passages which highlighted the value of mutual respect between the young and older generation of today.
Then, reflecting on some of the events in the life of Jesus, Pope Francis explained that Jesus never stopped growing in His relationship with the Father and with others, throughout His short time on earth.
“These aspects of Jesus’ life (from the time He was born until His death), can prove inspiring for all young people who are developing and preparing to take up their mission in life,” Pope Francis said.
“This involves growing in a relationship with the Father, in awareness of being a part of a family and a people and in openness to being filled with the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission God gives them in their personal vocation.
“We need to create projects that will strengthen, accompany and impel the young people of the Church to encounter others, to engage in generous service, in mission,” Pope Francis reaffirmed.
Speaking on ways the Church can be opened to renewal, Pope Francis went on to encourage all believers to join him in asking the Lord to free the Church from those who make it grow old, encase it in the past, hold it back, keep it at a standstill, and to keep the Church away from any temptation.
The Holy Father spoke of Mary, the Mother of all Christians, who is the supreme modal for a youthful Church that seeks to follow Christ with enthusiasm and docility, before sharing stories of some of the young Saints of the Church.
“The Synod pointed out that many young Saints have allowed the features of youth to shine forth in all their beauty, and in their day they were real prophets of change.
“Their example shows us what the young people are capable of, when they open themselves up to encounter Christ.”
In following chapters, Pope Francis spoke about what it means to live the years of youth in light of the Gospel, how to form a lasting ‘friendship’ with Christ, how to grow in maturity, paths of fraternity and what it means to be courageous missionaries.
Pope Francis also shared on “three great truths” which he said all young people need to constantly keep hearing, and should not keep quiet about.
“The first truth I would tell each of you is this: God loves you – It makes no difference whether you have already heard it or not because I want to remind you of it – Never doubt this, whatever may happen to you in life, at every moment you are infinitely loved.
“Perhaps your experience of fatherhood may not be the best, however, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you can find security in the embrace of your heavenly Father who first gave you life and continues to give you life at every moment.
“He will be your firm support but you will also realise that He respects your freedom,” Pope Francis added.
The second truth affirmed by Pope Francis was that ‘Christ saves.’
“The same Christ who, by His cross, saved us from our sins, today continues to save and redeem us by the power of His total self-surrender.
“Look to His cross, cling to Him, let Him save you…and if you sin and stray far from Him, He will come to lift you up by the power of His cross.
“Christ makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.”
Pope Francis said it is also important for Christians to believe that ‘Jesus is alive’ because otherwise they risk seeing Jesus simply as ‘a fine model from the distant past, as a memory, or as someone who saved us 2000 years ago.’
“The One who fills us with His grace, liberates, transforms, heals and consoles us is someone who is fully alive,” Pope Francis wrote.
“If you are willing to encounter the Lord, let Him love and save you, if you can start talking to Him, the living Christ, about the realities of your life, then you will have a profound experience capable of sustaining your entire Christian life.
“For being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice of lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pope Francis concluded.