With World Youth Day coming up next year, Pope Francis has a question for young people: “Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love?"
“You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope?" the Pope asked Sept. 28.
His Message for the 31st World Youth Day in Krakow 2016 invited young people to reflect on mercy and to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow. The next global Catholic youth gathering takes place July 25-31.
“Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you," the Pope continued.
“Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to him and do not be afraid!"
Pope Francis credited to Divine Providence the decision to celebrate World Youth Day in Krakow, the city of Sts. John Paul II and Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina, a 20th century nun, had visions of Christ, upon which is based the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
“John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy," Pope Francis said. He noted that his predecessor had instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy and personally inaugurated Krakow’s Divine Mercy Shrine in 2002.
Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to come to Jesus and say “Jesus, I trust in you!"
“Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair," he said.
“We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus’ words taken from the Sermon on the Mount," the Pope continued. “During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’."
Pope Francis reflected on the message of Divine Mercy and the struggle to forgive.
“One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies," he said.
“I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence," the Pope said. “We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong."
“Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough"
Pope Francis also reflected on the example of the 20th century Italian layman Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who said, “Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meager way I know how, visiting the poor."
The Pope said Frassati was a young man who “understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need."
“He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen," the Pope said. He noted that Frassati, who was beatified in 1990, also followed the gospel command that his almsgiving be secret.
“At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio."
Pope Francis linked the Beatitudes with the works of mercy Christ commanded in Matthew 25: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.
“Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offences, patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead," he added.
“God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand," he said, recounting his deep feeling of mercy when he decided to stop into a church for confession at the age of 17.
“I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and he finds us first."
He said that the Church must “offer abundant signs of God’s presence and closeness, and reawaken in people’s hearts the ability to look to the essentials."
He explained that mercy is not “mere sentimentality" nor does it just imply being “a good person."
“It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world," the Pope said.