Share joy of God’s love, sow seeds of hope, pope tells youths

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World Youth Day
Young people pray while Pope Francis celebrates Mass for World Youth Day at Tejo Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Embrace God’s unconditional love and live in a way that is based on and radiates hope, Pope Francis told Catholic young people.

Christian hope “is the celebration of the love of the risen Christ, who is always at our side, even when he seems far from us,” the pope said in his annual message for local celebrations of World Youth Day.

Hope is nurtured by prayer and the concrete choices one makes every day, he said in the message, published Nov. 14 at the Vatican.

“I urge all of you to choose a style of life grounded in hope,” he wrote. For example, instead of sharing negative things on social media, share things that inspire hope.

“Each day, try to share a word of hope with others. Try to sow seeds of hope in the lives of your friends and everyone around you,” the pope wrote.

He also encouraged all young people, especially those engaged in youth ministry, to reread the final document of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, and the apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit (“Christ is Alive”), published in 2019.

“The time is ripe to take stock of the situation and to work together with hope for the full implementation of that unforgettable synod,” he wrote.

Pope Francis watches as young people take the cross to begin the World Youth Day Stations of the Cross service at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 4, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pilgrims of hope

While the next international celebration of World Youth Day will be held in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027, Pope Francis has asked Catholic young people around the world to prepare for the Holy Year 2025 and its Jubilee of Young People in Rome, which will be part of the Holy Year celebration.

In the two years preceding the Jubilee of Young People, dioceses around the world are to celebrate World Youth Day on a local level on the feast of Christ the King, which will be Nov. 26 this year and Nov. 24, 2024. The papal messages for both years are dedicated to Christian hope in preparation for the jubilee year whose theme is “Pilgrims of Hope.”

“Rejoice in hope,” the theme of this year’s message, “was St. Paul’s encouragement to the community of Rome at a time when it was undergoing harsh persecution,” the pope wrote.

This “joy in hope,” he wrote, “is not a product of our human efforts, plans or skills, but of the energy born of an encounter with Christ. Christian joy comes from God himself, from our knowledge of his love for us.”

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said Christian comes from a “‘certainty based on faith: I am wanted. I have a task in history. I am accepted, I am loved. … Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist … even in hard times.'”

Be a part of God’s answer to difficulties

Pope Francis urged young people to be part of God’s answer to the problem of so many tragedies and difficulties humanity faces today. “Created by him in his image and likeness, we can be signs of his love, which gives rise to joy and hope even in situations that appear hopeless.”

The pope pointed to Sts. Maximilian Kolbe and Josephine Bakhita as well as Blessed Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children as people who “were witnesses of hope even amid the most horrid examples of human evil.”

He also recalled the Italian film “Life is Beautiful,” in which a young Jewish father helps his small son to see things with “‘eyes of hope,’ protecting him from the horrors of the concentration camp, preserving his innocence and preventing human malice from robbing him of a future.”

Hope must be nurtured, he added, so it will not be “extinguished by the worries, fears and pressures of daily life.”

The Holy Spirit, prayer and everyday decisions all nurture hope, he said, as hope is “a virtue that is built up day by day.”

“Each of you can be such a beacon” of hope, he wrote, “to the extent that your faith becomes concrete, rooted in reality and sensitive to the needs of our brothers and sisters.”

“Dear young people, do not be afraid to share with others the hope and joy of the risen Christ! Nurture the spark that has been kindled in you, but at the same time share it,” he wrote.

“Stay close in particular to your friends who may be smiling on the outside but are weeping within, for lack of hope. Do not let yourselves be infected by indifference and individualism. Remain open, like canals in which the hope of Jesus can flow and spread in all the areas where you live,” the pope wrote.

The text of the pope’s message in English can be found here and the text in Spanish is available here.

Carol Glatz

Carol Glatz writes for Catholic News Service.