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02 Christus Vivit

posted Apr 11, 2019, 5:57 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 17, 2019, 10:09 PM ]
The face of Christ, confident and resolute, as He triumphantly enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, knowing fully well what lies ahead, is the face of Youth! "A young person is a promise of life that implies a certain degree of tenacity," says Pope Francis, in his recently published Apostolic Exhortation to Young People – Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive). The release of this document a few days before Palm Sunday is no coincidence, as this day has been commemorated as World Youth Day in dioceses around the world since 1985, through the initiative begun by Saint Pope John Paul II. Indeed, Christus Vivit is a tribute to the courage, faithfulness and restlessness of youth searching for the Divine.

Words like 'life', 'alive' and 'living' occur in the text more than 280 times, about as many times as the word 'young', pointing to what Pope Francis considers the key to discerning the role of young people in the life and mission of the Church. Youth is a living testament to the 'life in abundance' that Christ brings us. Life implies constant growth and movement, a rejection of stagnancy and yearning for the convenient. It is because of this restlessness, this 'life', that the Church can claim to be "the real youth of the world", in spite of being an ancient institution. The document is a fruit of 'listening' – which Pope Francis says the Church ought to do more of – and showcases the Pope's desire for the Church to follow a synodal path of decision making.

Pope Francis urges young people to remember a great message containing three fundamental truths– truths that every young person must carry in his/her heart, as they face seemingly insurmountable challenges and exhausting hurdles. First, that God loves you no matter what, because you are the work of His hands. It is not a love that domineers or overwhelms; it is a love that is free and freeing, a love that heals and raises up. Second, Christ saved you, because only what is loved can be saved. Christ's sacrifice was total and unconditional, because we were precious and priceless to Him. Therefore, Pope Francis says, "You are not for sale! Do not let yourself be bought. Do not let yourself be enslaved by ideologies, making you slaves and addicts of passing fads." Thirdly, Christ is alive! Christ is not a distant memory from the past, but He fills our space and time right now in the present. Evil could not keep Jesus dead, nor will it have the last word in our lives. Our Saviour triumphs, and that enables us to always look to the future with confidence and courage.

Pope Francis tells young people that these three truths must seize their imagination. These truths must be their constant source of spiritual replenishment, like "a tree that is planted by a running stream, its leaves shall always stay green." (Jer 17:8). Indeed, this is the fulcrum on which the entire mystery of Holy Week hinges. As we journey through Holy Week, we experience the infinite depth of God's love for us. We are saved by Christ's supreme sacrifice, not because we deserve it, but because we are loved. The climactic truth is seen in the bursting forth of Light, Truth and Eternity in the Resurrection of Christ. Christ is alive!

Pope Francis exhorts young people to always grow in relationship with the Father, to be aware of being part of a family and a people, and to be open to the promptings of the Spirit. Like Jesus, who went about His Father's business in the prime of His youth, they must show profound compassion for the weakest and the poor, the courage to confront corrupted authority in every sphere of life, to put their trust in deep friendships, to be stars of light in the night of other young people. Beset by the scourge of scandal and wrongdoing, the balm of holiness, generated by the lofty spiritual lives of so many young people, can heal the wounds of the Church and the world.

The Pope gives the example of many prophets and persons in the Old and New Testaments, and of the saints, who showed the tenacity, courage and the willingness to say 'Yes' to God's call at a very young age. But it is Mary's example that shines forth in the heart of the Church. She was prepared to commit, to take risks, to ask questions, to embrace suffering; she was ready to stake everything she had on God. In this way, she became a powerful "influencer" of God. By their life, love and leaven, young people are called to become "influencers" of God's Message of Salvation and bring His indestructible happiness to all.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on the Editorial Board of The Examiner.