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Pope to young people: “Don’t retouch your photos; don’t use masks for false identities”

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Francis explains that smartphones aren't the only window on the world, and insists that we should leave our own "dark rooms" to go meet with others.

In reference to the upcoming 2018 World Youth Day, celebrated at a local level in dioceses across the globe, Pope Francis exhorted young people to dream, discern, and dialogue with others, so as not to disappear into the darkness of a “closed room in which the only window on the world is a computer and a smartphone.”

This year, the Bishop of Rome uses “the words addressed by God’s messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, to Mary, an ordinary girl from a small village in Galilee. […] The angel, seeing the depths of her heart, says: ‘Do not be afraid!’ God also reads our inmost heart. He knows well the challenges we must confront in life.”

“Open the doors of your life,” the pope insisted. That means sharing time and space with “meaningful relationships, real people, with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life.”

The pope’s message was released February 11, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The 2018 WYD is part of the preparation for the international World Youth Day that will take place in Panama in January 2019. It also coincides with the Synod on the subject of Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. Francis says that the Church wants to “receive and, above all, to embrace the precious gift” of young people.

Do not be afraid

“What are your fears?” Francis asks young people. He acknowledges that many are afraid “of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who [they] are.  Today, there are many young people who feel the need to be different from who they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard.”

The pope mentions those who “continuously ‘photo-shop’ their images, hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves.”

He also mentions the obsession on social networks for “receiving as many ‘likes’ as possible. Multiple fears and uncertainties emerge from this sense of inadequacy,” he warns.

The pontiff comments that “others fear that they will not be able to find an emotional security and that they will remain alone.” Another common fear of young people, he says, is that, due to the “uncertainty of work,” they fear “not being able to find a satisfactory professional position.”

Indeed, he says, “today a large number of young people are full of fear, both believers and non-believers.”

Discernment

Along these lines, he points out that “when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary. It allows us to bring order to the confusion of our thoughts and feelings, to act in a just and prudent way.”

Francis proposes identifying our fears with clarity “so as not to find [ourselves] wasting time and energy by being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts.” We must not “be afraid to face [our] fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are and to come to terms with them.”

The Bible doesn’t deny the reality of fear

“The Bible does not ignore the human experience of fear nor its many causes. Abraham was afraid (cf. Gen 12:10ff), Jacob was afraid (cf. Gen 31:31; 32:7), and so were Moses (cf. Ex 2:14; 17:4), Peter (cf. Mt 26:69ff) and the Apostles (cf. Mk 4:38-40; Mt 26:56). Jesus himself, albeit in an incomparable way, experienced fear and anguish (cf. Mt 26:37; Lk 22:44).

Faith conquers fear

The pope uses Jesus’ words to explain that we must conquer fear and move forward. “We have to act! Never close yourself in! In the Sacred Scriptures the expression ‘do not be afraid’ is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.”

Talk

Francis insists that it is “important to dialogue with and encounter others, our brothers and sisters in the faith who have more experience, for they help us to see better and to choose wisely from the various possibilities.”

“The other is not only a spiritual guide, but also the person who helps us open ourselves to the infinite riches of the life that God has given us,” he adds.

Dream

“It is important,” the pope continues, “to create spaces in our cities and communities to grow, to dream and to look at new horizons!” We need to enjoy “others’ company and friendship, as well as the pleasure of dreaming together, of walking together.”

“Authentic Christians are not afraid to open themselves to others and share with them their own important spaces, making them spaces of fraternity.”

God calls

Fear leaves us when we understand that God calls us “by name. The angel, God’s messenger, called Mary by name.” Francis emphasizes that this call includes both identity and vocation. “Since the divine call is unique and personal, we need the courage to disentangle ourselves from the pressure of being shaped by conforming patterns, so that our life can truly become an authentic and irreplaceable gift to God, to the Church and to all.”

Courage

“The certainty that God’s grace is with us,” the pope says, gives us “the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, in every area of our lives; courage to embrace the vocation which God reveals to us; courage to live out our faith without hiding or diminishing it.”

The pope expresses his confidence in young people and in the Church. He invites young men and women to have confidence in the Church as well. As an example, he proposes Mary. “I invite you once again to contemplate Mary’s love: a caring, dynamic and concrete love. A love full of boldness and focused completely on the gift of self.”

Love

“A Church permeated by these Marian qualities,” he explains, “will always be a Church going forth, one that goes beyond her own limits and boundaries to let the grace she has received overflow. If we allow ourselves to be truly touched by Mary’s example, we will live out authentically that charity which urges us to love God above all else and above ourselves, to love those with whom we share our daily life.” We will also be able to “love those who may seem hardly lovable in themselves.”

“It is a love that is service and dedication, above all towards the weakest and poorest, love that transforms our faces and fills us with joy.”

The WYD: for the courageous

At the end of the message, the pope invited young people to accept the challenge of the WYD, which “is for the courageous! Not for young people who are searching only for comfort and who withdraw whenever difficulties arise. Do you accept the challenge?”

For this reason, the pope speaks of the Virgin Mary, who accompanies the Church on its way towards an encounter with young people, especially during the upcoming pastoral events, including the pre-Synod in March and the Synod itself in October of 2018.

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