Vatican City: At 10.00 a.m. yesterday, Sunday (3.00 p.m. Rome time) the Pope celebrated Holy Mass for the 28th World Youth Day on the beach at Copacabana. The celebration was scheduled to take place at the “Campus Fidei” of Guaratiba, which holds up to two million people, but due to poor weather conditions it was held instead at the carioco beach. Three million pilgrims participated; a further million joined the two million young people who had spent the night on the beach after the Saturday's prayer vigil. The event was attended by 1500 bishops and 15,000 priests, as well as the presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Suriname. The Eucharistic liturgy began with the official hymn of World Youth Day, sung by a choir made up of priests from all over Brazil, including those who evangelise through the medium of religious music. The songs for the Holy Mass were selected by means of a national competition in which young Brazilians participated with their own original compositions.
The Pope based his homily on the theme of the 28th World Youth Day: “Go and make disciples of all nations”, and after reflecting on the excitement of these days, of living faith with people from all four corners of the world, he said that the moment had come to transmit this experience to others. “Three simple ideas”, he said. “Go, do not be afraid, and serve”.
To explain the meaning of the first, Pope Francis spoke to the young about the beauty of meeting Jesus in the company of others during these days, and sensing the joy of faith, but added, “the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared ... so that everyone may know … Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history”.
“Sharing the experience of faith ... proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you”, he continued, “but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination, from a desire for power, but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of Himself, but the whole of Himself, and He gave His life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus … accompanies us … in our mission of love”.
“Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: He sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. … Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, He wants everyone to feel the warmth of His mercy and His love”.
The Holy Father emphasised that he wished for Christ’s command, “Go”, to resonate in the young of the Church in Latin America, as “this continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now … the Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you”.
“Some people might think: 'I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?'” he continued, turning to the second idea, “do not be afraid”. He explained that their fear is not very different from that of Jeremiah, who was also young when he was called by God to be a prophet. “In today's reading he exclaims: 'Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth'. God says the same thing to you as He said to Jeremiah: 'Be not afraid ... for I am with you to deliver you'. He is with us! Jesus … never leaves anyone alone. ... And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation. He called them to form a group, a community”.
Finally, service, explained the Pope, means “allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing His sentiments, His thoughts, His actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service … Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did”.
“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”, he concluded. “If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives more joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to His Gospel. ... Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you!”