Dear Young People,
I am happy to be with you in this atmosphere of celebration. Happy to listen to your witness and to share your enthusiasm and love for Jesus.
I thank Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela, who is charge of the youth apostolate, for his kind words. I also thank Manuel and Liz for their courage in sharing their lives and their testimony at this meeting. It is not easy to speak about personal things, and even less so in front of so many people. You have shared the greatest treasure which you have: your stories, your lives and how Jesus became a part of them.
To answer your questions, I would like to speak about some of the things you shared.
Manuel, you told us something like this: “Today I really want to serve others, I want to be more generous”. You experienced hard times, and very painful situations, but today you really want to help others, to go out and share your love with others.
Liz, it is not easy to be a mother to your own parents, all the more when you are young, but what great wisdom and maturity your words showed, when you said: “Today I play with her, I change her diapers. These are all things I hand over to God today, but I am barely making up for everything my mother did for me”.
You, young Paraguayans, you certainly show great goodness and courage.
You also shared how you have tried to move forward. Where you found strength. Both of you said it was in your parish. In your friends from the parish and the spiritual retreats organized there. These two things are key: friends and spiritual retreats.
Friends: Friendship is one of the greatest gifts which a person, a young person, can have and can offer. It really is. How hard it is to live without friends! Think about it: isn’t that one of the most beautiful things that Jesus tells us? He says: “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15). One of the most precious things about our being Christians is that we are friends, friends of Jesus. When you love someone, you spend time with them, you watch out for them and you help them, you tell them what you are thinking, but also you never abandon them. That’s how Jesus is with us; he never abandons us. Friends stand by one another, they help one another, they protect another. The Lord is like that with us. He is patient with us.
Spiritual retreats: Saint Ignatius has a famous meditation on the two standards. He describes the standard of the devil and then the standard of Christ. It would be like the football jerseys of two different teams. And he asks us which team we want to play for.
In this meditation, he has us imagine: What it would be like to belong to one or the other team. As if he was saying to us: “In this life, which team do you want to play for?”
Saint Ignatius says that the devil, in order to recruit players, promises that those who play on his side will receive riches, honor, glory and power. They will be famous. Everyone will worship them.
Then, Ignatius tells us the way Jesus plays. His game is not something fantastic. Jesus doesn’t tell us that we will be stars, celebrities, in this life. Instead, he tells us that playing with him is about humility, love, service to others. Jesus does not lie to us; he takes us seriously.
In the Bible, the devil is called the father of lies. What he promises, or better, what he makes you think, is that, if you do certain things, you will be happy. And later, when you think about it, you realize that you weren’t happy at all. That you were up against something which, far from giving you happiness, made you feel more empty, even sad. Friends: the devil is a con artist. He makes promises after promise, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises. He makes you want things which he can’t give, whether you get them or not. He makes you put your hopes in things which will never make you happy. That’s his game, his strategy. He talks a lot, he offers a lot, but he doesn’t deliver. He is a con artist because everything he promises us is divisive, it is about comparing ourselve to others, about stepping over them in order to get what we want. He is a con artist because he tells us that we have to abandon our friends, and never to stand by anyone. Everything is based on appearances. He makes you think that your worth depends on how much you possess.
Then we have Jesus, who asks us to play on his team. He doesn’t con us, nor does he promise us the world. He doesn’t tell us that we will find happiness in wealth, power and pride. Just the opposite. He shows us a different way. This coach tells his players: “Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. And he ends up by telling them: “Rejoice on account of all this!”.
Why? Because Jesus doesn’t lie to us. He shows us a path which is life and truth. He is the great proof of this. His style, his way of living, is friendship, relationship with his Father. And that is what he offers us. He makes us realize that we are sons and daughters. Beloved children.
He does not trick you. Because he knows that happiness, true happiness, the happiness which can fill our hearts, is not found in designer clothing, or expensive brand-name shoes. He knows that real happiness is found in drawing near to others, learning how to weep with those who weep, being close to those who are feeling low or in trouble, giving them a shoulder to cry on, a hug. If we don’t know how to weep, we don’t know how to laugh either, we don’t know how to live.
Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressivity, true happiness comes from learning to be patient, from respecting others, from refusing to condemn or judge others. As the saying goes: “When you get angry, you lose”. Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive. We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance. Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again.
Happy too are those who bring new life and new opportunities. Happy those who work and sacrifice to do this. All of us have made mistakes and been caught up in misunderstandings, a thousand of them. Happy, then, are those who can help others when they make mistakes, when they experience misunderstandings. They are true friends, they do not give up on anyone. They are the pure of heart, the ones who can look beyond the little things and overcome difficulties. Happy above all are the ones who can see the good in other people.