.- Pope Francis concluded his one-day pilgrimage to Assisi with a visit to young people, encouraging them to reject a “provisional culture” that fears making definitive commitments.
“I want to tell you not to be afraid of taking definitive steps in life,” he said to the cheering crowds of youth on Oct. 4. “Jesus didn't save us provisionally, he saved us definitively!”
The Pope spoke of how both the married and consecrated life are vocations from God.
“Two Christians who marry have recognized in their story of love the call of the Lord,” he said. “The sacrament of matrimony envelops this (human) love in the grace of God, rooting it in God himself.”
God also offers a different call “to celibacy and to virginity for the kingdom of heaven” which is “complementary” to marriage, he continued.
Each vocation, however, comes with the risk of making a commitment, which so many are afraid to do today.
Pope Francis recounted the story of one very good seminarian who told him, “I want to be a priest, but only for ten years.” He also noted how many mothers approach him and say, “I have a son who is 30, and he isn't married: I don't know what to do!”
“I tell them: stop doing his ironing!” quipped the Pope with a laugh.
He grew more serious, however, as he spoke of the “selfishness” that is so pervasive in our “provisional culture” which causes people to leave a marriage when they no longer “feel love.”
Surety in any vocation comes from a relationship with the Lord in which one prays daily, “listening to him in silence in front of the tabernacle and in our own souls, speaking to him, approaching the sacraments.”
Above all, the Holy Father stressed, it is crucial to remember that a vocation is a “yes” to God especially when so many see consecrated life as a “no” because of the sacrifices entailed.
Pope Francis acknowledged that virginity for the sake of the kingdom “involves the renunciation of a marital bond and one's own family, but at the core, it is a 'yes', as a response to the total 'yes' of Christ toward us, and this 'yes' bears fruit.”
This fruit comes in the work of evangelization, which “does not apply only to religion” but to “the world, society, and human civilization” because “every one of us needs salvation!” exclaimed the Pope.
The good news of salvation, he said, is that “God is much bigger than evil: God is infinite love, mercy without limit, and this Love has overcome evil at its root in the death and resurrection of Christ.”
Our response to that good news must entail our belief carried out in life. The Christian has “one mission: to carry the Gospel with the witness of our lives.”
Speaking personally, the Pope added, “if I don't succeed at being a servant of the Gospel, my life isn't worth anything!”
His pilgrimage to Assisi on Friday included speeches to bishops and religious as well as visits to holy sites such as the baptismal font where Saints Francis and Clare received the sacrament, and the tiny Church which St. Francis rebuilt in response to God's call. Pope Francis stopped to pray silently there before speaking to the enthusiastic youth.