Pope Francis’s kairos magic

In his message for the 37th World Youth Day 2023, Pope Francis is urging young people to translate their faith into selfless service to humanity. He presents Mary, the Mother of our Lord as an example they can emulate. As usual, his appeal is gentle but firm.

By Maximillia Munizwa

“Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country”.

This is the text that Pope Francis has picked as the theme for his message to young people, as they journey towards Lisbon for the 37th World Youth Day, 2023.  The script relates to Mary’s decision soon after giving her big “Yes” to God’s plan to make her the mother of His Son and the Saviour of the world.

But just why would Pope Francis speak to young people using what may loosely be seen as a “divine-female-female” text?

Picture this:  A pure teenage maiden betrothed to Joseph, excitedly looking forward to her wedding. Then the Angel’s message changes everything.  Her forever-love-story with Prince Charming is crushed and she has to resign herself to living without “seeing” her future husband.  The young Miss finds herself in a divine and prophetic daze.  She is also humanly emotional and confused.

Yet, and against what may have been a traumatising moment, the same message occasions Mary to visit Elizabeth, her elderly relative.  Foremost, to rejoice with Elizabeth.  Second, convinced that God’s plan for her was the best thing, Mary wants to strengthen her own belief to the revelation that she had received.

In a nutshell, Mary’s faith led her to travel quite some distance to serve a pregnant mother who needed company and all the help she could get at the time.  Faith and selfless service are the principal themes of Francis’ message to his generation Z sons and daughters (10-25 year olds) on their pilgrimage to Lisbon.

Just like the biblical adolescent Mary, young people today are also encountering a series of crises.  They have plenty to worry the world.  Some are often left disoriented and jumbled up.  Some are openly defiant.  Some experience a whole family of destructive symptoms, while some hang out in spaces where their lifestyles afford them no room for God.

Young people also have their non-cynical think-through questions about real issues that bug them, but are hardly answered to satisfaction.  Like, “If God is so smart, why couldn’t he have made the Bible less than 2,000 pages?”  “Why does a good God stand by as bad people kill good people?” Or, “How does one person become three people?”

Pope Francis may not be a youth development expert but he surely knows how to capture the magical Kairos moment.  He does this without hammering on the pulpit or with fire in his eyes.  Rather, he is gentle, for he knows that despite the hubbubs of the world, young people are indispensable and invaluable for they are the pillars of the present and of the future world and the Church.  So, instead of whining, he has chosen to plant some biblical truth and values in their hearts, presenting the adolescent Virgin Mary as their model and mediatrix.

This is a great relationship that the Pope is creating.  Since Mary is our life-giving Mother who stands for second chances, the Holy Father’s message to the youth, is, therefore, a message of hope; a reassurance that no matter the situation one finds oneself in, faith is crucial, as is service to humanity.  The ultimate result?  Great wheat, less chaff!

To my sons and daughters, you may not be visited by an angel, but you are worthy in God’s eyes.  You may slip, fall, be shoved, bumped, kicked, crushed, maltreated or offended along life’s jarring highway, but you must keep going, emulating Mary and trusting in her intercession.  May Pope Francis’s exhortation take permanent root in your minds and hearts.

Meanwhile, Lisbon awaits!  Let’s make the pilgrimage!

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