Pope to youth in Greece: Experience God’s love, meet real people, dream big
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis urged young people to allow themselves to be amazed by God’s love, have real encounters with others and dream big. He made the exhortation to young people from various parts of Greece at an event on Monday morning at Saint Dionysius School, run by the Ursuline Sisters in Maroussi, in the northern suburbs of Athens.
The event included testimonies from three young people from the Philippines, Greece and Syria, on which the Pope shared his reflections.
The wonder of God’s love and forgiveness
To the recurring doubts of faith that Katerina Binibini from the Philippines experienced, the Holy Father pointed out that doubts are not a sign of the lack of faith. On the contrary, doubts are “vitamins of faith”: they help strengthen faith and make it more conscious, free and mature. Faith is precisely a daily personal journey with Jesus.
But doubts that make us gloomy and depressed are to be rejected as temptations from the devil. We need to go back to the starting point, and allow ourselves to wonder and be amazed that we are God’s beloved children.
“So,” said the Pope, “instead of starting the day by looking in the mirror, why not open your bedroom window and focus on the beauty that you see all around you?”
“If nature is beautiful in our eyes, in God’s eye each of you is infinitely more beautiful!” We should feel the wonder of the Father’s forgiveness who embraces and lifts us up.
The Holy Father told the young people to know themselves, stressing, “your worth is in who you are and not what you have” – the “brand of the dress or shoes you wear”.
He urged them to watch out against “today’s sirens” of easy gains, consumerism, the cult of physical wellness, entertainment at all costs...” which like fireworks flare up for a moment and turn to smoke in the air.
“That is why it is important to cherish the wonder, the amazement, the beauty of faith!” he said.
“We are Christians not out of duty, but out of beauty,” the Pope stressed, inviting the youth to “wonder at creation, at friendship, at God’s forgiveness and at the faces of other people.”
Faces of real people
In her testimony, Ioanna Vidali from Tinos Diocese spoke about the faces of other people, particularly her mother and grandmother who taught her to pray and thank God every day.
That is how faith came to her naturally and genuinely, Pope Francis said. Hence the need to turn to the Lord for everything, “to talk to him, to share our worries with him”. That is how Jesus became Ioanna’s friend. “It is not enough to have clear ideas about God, but to bring your life before Him.”
Jesus, on the other hand, makes Himself known through real faces and real people. God does not hand us a catechism; He makes Himself present through people’s life stories. He walks among us.
Real vs virtual encounters
Another person in Ioanna’s life was a nun who showed her the joy “of seeing life as service”. Serving others is the path to true joy, the Pope said, adding, “Helping others is not for losers, but for winners”.
One stays youthful not by settling for posting a few tweets or having virtual encounters but by through real encounters especially with people who need help. Many people today, he noted, are constantly using social media, but are not themselves very social: they are caught up in themselves, prisoners of the cell phone in their hand.
“Cultivate the mystique of togetherness, the joy of sharing, the enthusiasm of serving,” the Pope said. “Keep dreaming of fraternity” as “other people are the path to discovering ourselves”.
He acknowledged it isn’t easy to get out of the comfort zone and from the couch in front of the TV. One needs to engage in athletics for the soul by training oneself “to be open to others, taking a few extra steps so as to shorten your distance from others, vaulting with your heart over obstacles; lifting one another’s burdens...”
The third testimony was that of Aboud Gabro, who fled with his family from war-torn Syria by boat and was stranded on a rock in the sea without water and food, awaiting rescue.
The Pope described Aboud’s story as “a true modern-day odyssey”. He added, “The meaning of life is not found by staying on the beach waiting for the wind to bring something new.”
Pope Francis urged the young people not to be paralyzed by fear but to dream big and dream together, and, like Aboud, nourish the courage of hope. Right choices and good decisions, he said, are always about others, not just about ourselves.
He encouraged the young people to dare to go ahead, taking risks. They must have the courage not be stuck on the couch, lonely, but to be always with others, which will give meaning to life.