By Seàn-Patrick Lovett
The secret is out: everyone knows that the next World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2022. The announcement was made at the end of the closing WYD Mass which Pope Francis celebrated in Panama City’s Metro Park on Sunday morning before 700,000 people.
“With Mary, keep saying “yes” to the dream that God has sown in you”, he told them. But the Pope’s concluding message to the hundreds of thousands of World Youth Day participants and pilgrims from all over the world can be summarized in one word: “Now”.
Not today but Now
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. Taking his cue from the Gospel of Luke, the Pope interpreted that “today” as “now”. “Jesus”, he began, “reveals the now of God”. “In Jesus, the promised future begins and becomes life”. Unfortunately, continued the Pope, “we do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real”. Because “a close and everyday God, a friend and brother, demands that we be concerned with our surroundings”. “God is real because love is real”, he said.
Not tomorrow but Now
The Pope described the danger of living in “a kind of waiting room, sitting around until we are called”. Both adults and young people risk thinking “your Now has not yet come”, he said, “that you are too young to be involved in dreaming about and working for the future”. Pope Francis referenced last year’s Synod of Bishops on Youth, saying it helped us realize that “we need one another”, that we have to “encourage dreaming of and working for tomorrow, starting today”. “Not tomorrow but now”, he said. “Realize that you have a mission and fall in love”, said the Pope. “We may possess everything, but if we lack the passion of love, we will have nothing”.
Not meantime but Now
For Jesus there is no “meantime”, Pope Francis continued. “He is not an interval in life or a passing fad. He is generous love that invites us to entrust ourselves”. The Pope invited all young people not to be “paralyzed” by “fear and exclusion, speculation and manipulation”. But rather, to recognise the “concrete, close, real love” of Jesus. The Lord and His mission are not “something temporary”, said Pope Francis, “they are our life”.
The Now of God
At the conclusion of Mass, the Pope thanked all those who have contributed to making this “World Youth Day dream come true” in Panama. But his last words were for the young people themselves: “We are on a journey”, he reminded them. “Keep walking, keep living the faith and sharing it”. And do not forget, said Pope Francis, that “you are not the tomorrow, you are not the ‘meantime’, you are the Now of God”.