In an Aug. 15 meeting with Asian youth, Pope Francis emphasized the need to respond joyfully to God’s call in order to carry the hope of Christ to a world that desperately needs it.
“Dear young friends, in this generation the Lord is counting on you!” he told throngs of young people from across the Asian continent. “Are you ready to say ‘yes’ to him? Are you ready?”
“Just as the Lord made his glory shine forth in the heroic witness of the martyrs, so too he wants to make his glory shine in your lives, and through you, to light up the life of this vast continent,” the Pope encouraged.
“He calls you to rise, to be wide awake and alert, and to see the things in life that really matter. What is more, he is asking you to go out on the highways and byways of this world, knocking on the doors of other people’s hearts, inviting them to welcome him into their lives.”
Pope Francis spoke to a gathering of young people at Solmoe Shrine, birthplace of the first Korean-born priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, who was martyred in the 1800s. The gathering was part of his Aug. 13-18 visit to South Korea, which coincides with the Sixth Asian Youth Day.
The Pope thanked the young people for their joy and enthusiasm, as well as for the testimonies, hopes and challenges that some of the individuals presented to him at the meeting.
“This great gathering of Asian young people also allows us to see something of what the Church herself is meant to be in God’s eternal plan,” he said. “Together with young people everywhere, you want to help build a world where we all live together in peace and friendship, overcoming barriers, healing divisions, rejecting violence and prejudice.”
God intends the Church to be “a seed of unity for the whole human family,” the Holy Father explained. “In Christ, all nations and peoples are called to a unity which does not destroy diversity but acknowledges, reconciles and enriches it.”
But when we look at the world today, and even when we examine our own hearts, we see selfishness, injustice and hostility, he said, pointing to the problems of poverty and “an idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure which come at a high cost to human lives,” as well as “spiritual poverty, loneliness and quiet despair.”
“God seems to be removed from the picture. It is almost as though a spiritual desert is beginning to spread throughout our world,” he lamented. “It affects the young too, robbing them of hope and even, in all too many cases, of life itself.”
“Yet this is the world into which you are called to go forth and bear witness to the Gospel of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the promise of his Kingdom.”
While the situation of the world may seem hopeless, the pontiff said, we know that Christ has conquered death, and that “his word has the power to touch every heart, to conquer evil with good, and to change and redeem the world.”
It is only the love of Christ that “can bring new life to every human heart and can transform every situation, even the most apparently hopeless,” he continued, explaining that this is the message which young people must share with those around them at school, work, and in their families and communities.
“He entered your hearts on the day of your Baptism; he gave you his Spirit on the day of your Confirmation; and he strengthens you constantly by his presence in the Eucharist, so that you can be his witnesses before the world.”
Two-thirds of the way through his prepared remarks, the Pope announced that he wished to speak to the young people spontaneously and from the heart, but was not comfortable doing so in English. Encouraged by the eager applause of those present, he set aside his text and began speaking in Italian.
He responded to a question posed by one of the young women present about whether she should continue on a path of education or return home to her family. Pope Francis said that when the Lord calls us, he always calls us to honor him, whether it is through ordained ministry or marriage.
“You don’t choose the road you take. God chooses for you,” he said, explaining that it is simply our role to listen to which path God is calling us to take.
He invited the young people to pray with him three times, “Lord, what do you want from me?”
The Pope also addressed a question posed by another participant about the lack of saints and martyrs from Cambodia. He assured the young woman that the country has many saints, but said that the Church has not officially recognized them through the process of canonization. He was met with enthusiastic applause as he promised that upon returning to Italy, he would ask the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints to look into the matter.
In addition, he touched on the temptations of materialism, emphasizing that if you try to buy happiness, you will find that it is only an illusion. The happiness of love is the only joy that will last, he said.
The Holy Father concluded the two-hour gathering by giving the young people his blessing and asking them to pray for him.