Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his May 31, 2017, general audience. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis told pilgrims to ignore gloomy people that drag others down, and stressed the need to maintain a healthy dose of the joy experienced in our first encounter with Christ, which he said must serve as a constant motivation to spread the good news.
“Do not listen to deluded and unhappy people; don't listen to those who cynically recommend not to cultivate hope in life,” the Pope said Aug. 30.
“Let us not entrust ourselves to those who extinguish every enthusiasm saying that no business is worth the sacrifice of an entire life, don't listen to the 'elderly' of heart who suffocate youthful euphoria,” he said.
Rather, Francis told pilgrims to instead “cultivate healthy utopias.” God, he said, “wants us to be able to dream like him and with him, while we walk well aware of reality,” and if a dream goes out, “go back and dream it again, drawing with hope on the memory of its beginnings.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience. In his address, the Pope continued his catechesis on Christian hope, focusing on the specific relationship between hope and memory.
The “icon” for this relation is the calling of the first disciples, John and Andrew, he said, noting that “their memory was totally impressed by this experience.”
So strong was the impact of this moment that in the first chapter of his Gospel, John recalls the exact time they met Jesus, saying “it was around four in the afternoon.” John, the Pope said, tells the story “as a clear memory from youth, which remains intact in his aged memory.”
Noting how the two had chosen John the Baptist as their spiritual guide, Francis pointed to the moment when, as Jesus passed by, the Baptist tells the then-young men that “this is the Lamb of God.”
For John and Andrew this meeting is “the spark,” he said, noting that they then leave their first master and follow Jesus, who after some time turns and asks a key question: “What are you looking for?”
In the Gospels, Jesus “appears as an expert of the human heart,” Francis said, explaining that in this moment he met two youths who were “healthily iniquitous.”
“What youth is a satisfied youth, without a search for meaning?” the Pope asked, adding that “young people who do not search for anything are not youth, (but) they have aged before their time.”
In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis addressed the youth in the square and those watching the audience through the media, asking them, “What are you looking for? What are you searching for in your heart?”
In the day's Gospel, Jesus appears as “an arsonist of hearts,” who with his question to John and Andrew brings out “the desire for life and happiness that every young person carries inside.”
The vocation of the two disciples begins with a friendship with Jesus “strong enough to impose a commonality of life and passion with him,” he said. In fact, they barely begin their time with Jesus and “immediately they are transformed into missionaries.”
This, Francis said, is evidenced by the fact that their respective brothers – Simon Peter and James – also begin to follow Jesus. “It was an encounter so moving, so happy, that the disciples will forever remember that day which illuminated and oriented their youth.”
Asking those present how to find one's vocation in modern society, Pope Francis said it can happen in many ways, but, as shown in the Gospel, a first indicator is “the joy of the encounter with Jesus.”
Every vocation – whether to marriage, consecrated life or the priesthood – begins “with an encounter with Jesus who gives us new joy and hope,” he said. The Lord then brings us, even amid trials and hardship, to “an increasingly full encounter with him and to the fullness of joy.”
“Jesus wants people who have experienced that being with him gives immense happiness, which can be renewed every day of life,” he said, adding that a disciple who is not joyful “does not evangelize this world,” and is ultimately “a sad” disciple.
“You become a preacher of Jesus not by refining the weapons of rhetoric,” Francis said, noting that “you can talk and talk and talk,” but if there is no joy, it won't be effective.
Because of this, Christians, like Mary, must “guard the flame of their 'falling in love': in love with Jesus.”
“Of course there are trials in life, there are moments in which we need to go forward despite the opposing cold and wind,” the Pope said. But as Christians, “we know the path which leads to that sacred fire that he has lit once and for all.”
After his address, the Pope greeted pilgrims present from various countries around the world and issued an appeal for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, celebrated Sept. 1 to coincide with the event on the Orthodox calendar.
The event was instituted by Pope Francis in 2015, and in honor of the shared day of prayer, he and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople wrote a joint-statement calling for a merciful approach to caring for creation.
In his comments, Francis noted that in their statement, both he and Bartholomew “invite everyone to assume a respectful and reasonable and attitude toward creation.”
“We also make an appeal to those who have an influential role, to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, who suffer the most from ecological imbalances.”