Rev José Mario O Mandía

Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh included two meetings with young people: one on November 30 at St Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon and another on December 2 Notre Dame College in Dhaka. Here are some key lessons from those two encounters.

A welcome sound bearing good news

“The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound” (Rom 10:15; cf. Is 52:7). Using these words of Scripture, Pope Francis told the young people gathered there that they are “‘a welcome sound,’ you are a beautiful and encouraging sight, for you bring us ‘good news,’ the good news of your youth, your faith and your enthusiasm. Indeed, you are good news, because you are concrete signs of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ, who brings us a joy and a hope that will never die.”

Even when there is suffering, poverty, misery, young people “are ready to bring a word of hope,” … “to bring good news for your suffering brothers and sisters who need your prayers and your solidarity, but also your enthusiasm for human rights, for justice and for the growth of that ‘love and peace’ which Jesus brings.”

Pope Francis spoke of the same hope in Dhaka: “Dear young friends, when I look at your faces I am filled with joy and hope: joy and hope for you, for your country, for the Church and for your communities.”

Learn to listen, cultivate interior life

The world is full of noise, and there is a need for people “who know how to listen” to the Lord’s voice. We also need to talk to the saints so that they can teach us “to be patient,” not to “be afraid to learn from your own mistakes!”

“So share with him all that you hold in your hearts: your fears and your worries, as well as your dreams and your hopes,” he added. “Cultivate your interior life, as you would tend a garden or a field. This takes time; it takes patience. But like a farmer who waits for the crops to grow, if you wait the Lord will make you bear much fruit, a fruit you can then share with others.”

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat

The Holy Father also reminded the young people that they are “messengers of the good news of Jesus, above all to your contemporaries and friends.” Thus they should not keep quiet. “Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think! And don’t worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between. The Gospel always grows from small beginnings. So make yourselves heard. I want you to shout! But not with your voices. No! I want you to shout with your lives, with your hearts, and in this way to be signs of hope to those who need encouragement, a helping hand to the sick, a welcome smile to the stranger, a kindly support to the lonely.”

In Dhaka, the Pope remarked that “[y]oung people are always ready to move forward, to make things happen and to take risks. I encourage you to keep moving with this enthusiasm in the good times and the bad times. Keep moving, especially in those moments when you feel weighed down by problems and sadness, and when you look out and God seems to be nowhere on the horizon.”

Vocation gives direction: be brave, generous, joyful

In Dhaka, the Roman Pontiff explained that vocation “means ‘journeying’ through life, and not ‘wandering aimlessly.’ Our life is not without direction, it has a purpose given to us by God. He guides and directs us with his grace. It is as if he placed within us a computer software, which helps us to discern his divine programme and, in freedom, to respond. But like all software, it too needs constantly to be updated. Keep updating your programme, by listening to God and accepting the challenge of doing his will.”

In Myanmar, Pope Francis said there are many kinds of call, including the call to the married life, but whatever one’s vocation may be, “I urge you: be brave, be generous and, above all, be joyful!” He assured them that God “never sends us out without also walking at our side, and always just a little in front” but it’s important to let him lead the way and “not to charge ahead on our own.”

The Holy Father encouraged them to imitate Mary in her “faithful dedication to her vocation, total self-giving, and complete trust in God’s loving care. Like Mary, may all of you be gentle but courageous in bringing Jesus and his love to others.”

Wisdom is to look with God’s eyes

In response to the question of a young man in Bangladesh about the thirst for wisdom, Pope Francis said, “We receive that wisdom when we start to see things with God’s eyes, listen to others with God’s ears, to love with God’s heart, and to judge things by God’s values.”

The Holy Father said that this wisdom “helps us to know how to welcome and accept those who act and think differently than ourselves. It is sad when we start to shut ourselves up in our little world and become inward-looking.”

And where can we find this wisdom? “We Christians find this wisdom in our personal encounter with Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments, and in our concrete encounter with him in the poor, the sick, the suffering and the abandoned. In Jesus we discover the solidarity of God, who constantly walks by our side.”

Treasure the elderly

The Pope reiterated the need to recognize the role of the elderly: their memory, their experience, “which help us to avoid the repetition of past mistakes.” He added a word of advice: “Keep talking to your parents and grandparents. Do not spend the whole day playing with your phone and ignoring the world around you!”

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