“Not to accept ourselves, to live glumly, to be negative, means not to recognize our deepest identity,” he said. “It is like walking away when God wants to look at me, trying to spoil his dream for me.”
The Pope added that “God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind.”
“No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important!”
God is not concerned about whether you are stylish or what kind of phone you have, Pope Francis said. “In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.”
“He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. He is always “cheering us on”; he is our biggest fan.”
However, to brood over our problems or “past injuries,” the pontiff said, “is unworthy of our spiritual stature!”
“It is a kind of virus infecting and blocking everything; it closes doors and prevents us from getting up and starting over. God, on the other hand, is hopelessly hopeful!”
Francis encouraged the youth in their awareness of being God's beloved sons and daughters, end recommended that they pray every morning: “Lord, I thank you for loving me; help me to be in love with my own life!”
Another obstacle Zacchaeus faced was his shame before Jesus. “It must have been quite a struggle – on one hand, a healthy curiosity and desire to know Jesus; on the other, the risk of appearing completely ridiculous.”
However, the “attraction of Jesus was more powerful” than Zacchaeus' shame, the Pope said, comparing his encounter to that of someone who behaves in unexpected ways upon falling in love.
“For us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away,” he said.
(Story continues below)
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However, Francis explained we cannot wait around when Jesus “offers us life – we can’t respond by thinking about it or 'texting' a few words!”
The Pope went on to encourage young people to not be ashamed of bringing everything to the sacrament of confession, “especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins.”
“He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace,” he said.
Pope Francis challenged young people to not let their “soul become numb,” but to say without fear “yes” to Jesus, aiming for “the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice.”
Finally, the third obstacle which Zacchaeus faced came from the crowds, their judgment of him on account of his profession, and of Jesus for his willingness to enter the house of a sinner.
“People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad,” he said.