05 Editorial - Be "Influencers" of Faith, Hope and Life - Fr. Joshan Rodrigues

posted Jan 30, 2019, 9:34 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 4, 2019, 8:14 AM ]
The week-long Catholic youth extravaganza of faith, culture and life came to an end on January 27, 2019 with the announcement that Lisbon, Portugal would host the next World Youth Day in July 2022. "Nos vemos en Portugal," declared Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who is the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Marriage and Family, whose department is in charge of overseeing World Youth Day planning.

During the closing Mass of the 34th World Youth Day, which took place in the John Paul II field, some 15 miles from downtown Panama City, Pope Francis told the nearly half a million young people from around the world that Jesus is not "an interval in life, nor a passing fad," but a loving God who's concrete and close. Pope Francis then quoted his predecessor, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: "It is hard to accept that 'God's love can become concrete, and can almost be experienced in history with all its painful and glorious vicissitudes'." He looked out into the crowds, and told them: "You, dear young people, are not the tomorrow; you are not the 'meantime', you are the Now of God."

Pope Francis seemed at his elemental best throughout the week – the energy, faith and 'loudness' of the young people present clearly rubbing off on him. Though an international gathering with participants from more than 156 countries, this World Youth Day had been billed as the WYD of the Americas, with the host city of Panama strategically chosen as the midpoint uniting the two continents. Clearly referring to the famed Panama Canal, he described the country as a "bridge between the oceans and natural land of meetings," and hoped that it would foster "new channels of humanity" that break through division, anonymity and isolation.

His ability to connect with young people with ease was on full display, as he spoke about "apps", "influencers", "cloud" and "tutorials" in his addresses to them. Leading a prayer vigil on the penultimate day, the Pope told them that Mary wasn't an "influencer," yet she became the "most influential woman in history," because of her "yes" to God. Life, he said, is not "a salvation up 'in the cloud,' and waiting to be downloaded, a new 'app' to be discovered, or a technique of mental self-improvement."

To feel acknowledged and loved, Pope Francis said, people need more than simply being "online," needing to find spaces where they can feel part of a larger community. To be an "influencer" in the twenty-first century is to be "guardians of roots, guardians of all that prevents our life from dissipating and evaporating into nothingness. Be guardians of everything that can make us feel part of one another, to feel that we belong."

Exhibiting the 'Francis' touch, he made time to visit Casa Hogar del Buen Samaritano, a centre for people with HIV and AIDS, who have been rejected by their own families. The Pope praised the work of those who assisted at the Centre, and emphasised that "this is the face of the Church that normally is unseen and unnoticed, but it's a sign of the concrete mercy and tenderness of God. It's a living sign of the good news of the resurrection that is at work today in our lives."

The Pope concluded his visit by thanking the more than 20,000 Panamanians and 2,200-plus international volunteers who had spent the entire week organising and assisting at the various events. "You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be here!" The Holy Father likened it to Jesus' miracle of the multiplication "not only of loaves, but also of hope." He urged the bright yellow-shirted volunteers to continue their mission of helping others. "Go out and tell everyone about what you have seen and heard. Many words are not needed; only simple and ordinary gestures that transform and renew each hour of the day." (Collated from various online news sources)

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on the Editorial board of The Examiner.