“Moses, he was not articulate; Abraham, an old man; Jeremiah, very young; Zacchaeus, small of stature; the disciples, who fell asleep when Jesus told them they should pray; Paul, a persecutor of Christians; Peter, who denied him,” and the list could go on, he said. “So what excuse can we offer?”
Jesus, Francis explained, wants youth who are “on the move. He wants to see you achieve your ideals and to be enthusiastic in following his instructions.”
This is a difficult path that can't be walked alone, but must be one “as a team, where each member offers the best of his or her self,” he said, adding that “Jesus is counting on you” just as he counted on the many Peruvian saints who influenced society, including St. Rose of Lima, St. Turibius, St. Juan Macías and St. Francisco Solano, among others.
“Today (Jesus) asks if, like them, you are ready to follow him,” the Pope said, asking the youths “are you willing to follow him? To be guided by his Spirit in making present his Kingdom of justice and love?”
Pope Francis spoke to youth in Lima's Plaza de Armas before reciting the Angelus on the last day of his Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru. Earlier in the day he prayed Terce, also called the prayer of the “Third Hour” in the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, with contemplative sisters.
He also met with the country's bishops, and after lunch will celebrate Mass at Lima's “Las Palmas” airbase before returning to Rome.
In his speech to youth, Francis directed them to the example of one of his favorite Peruvian saints, Martin de Porres, who was a the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman. The saint had wanted to enter the Dominican order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a law at the time that prevented people of mixed race from joining religious orders.
“Nothing prevented that young man from achieving his dreams, nothing prevented him from spending his life for others, nothing prevented him from loving, and he did so because he had realized that the Lord loved him first,” the Pope said.
Because he was a “mulato,” meaning a person of mixed race, St. Martin had to endure many hardships, but he knew how to do one thing that was the secret to his ultimate happiness: “he knew how to trust.”
“He trusted in the Lord who loved him. Do you know why? Because the Lord had trusted him first; just as he trusts each of you and will never tire of trusting you,” the Pope said.
When we face similar difficulties in our lives, and are tempted to become negative or discouraged, “remember that Jesus is by your side,” Francis said. “Do not give up! Do not lose hope!”
The Pope told the young people to look to the saints for encouragement, but he also urged them ask for help from people they know can give them good advice, and to let these people accompany and guide them as they go forward in life.
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“The Lord looks on you with hope,” he said, explaining that God is never discouraged with us, but it is we who get discouraged with ourselves.
Pope Francis closed his speech telling youth to turn to Mary, who will encourage and support them “lest you grow discouraged. And if you get discouraged by anything, do not worry, for she will tell Jesus. Just don’t stop praying, don’t stop asking, don’t stop trusting in her maternal protection.”