Pope Francis participates a vigil with young people on Saturday, before visiting the Akamasoa Association and speaking with religious on his last day in Madagascar.
Pope Francis participates in a vigil on Saturday with young people at Soamandrakizay Diocesan Camp, outside the capital Antananarivo, and challenges them to ask if Jesus can count on them.
The Pope recalled the question Jesus asks His disciple on the banks of the river Jordan: “What do you seek?”. “The Lord knows that we are looking for the happiness for which we were created and which the world will not be able to take from us,” he said.
Any search, born of faith, “helps make the world in which we live a better place,” continued Pope Francis. What we do for others transforms us; it changes our way of seeing and judging people. It makes us more sensitive, and we understand and discover that the Lord is part of our life.
“One of the most beautiful gifts our friendship with Jesus can offer us,” said the Pope, is that He is always with us and never abandons us. We all know from experience, he continued, that people can “go astray,” running after enticing illusions that end up “leaving our dreams and our soul stranded along the way.” Those disillusionments can cause us to “become bitter” or be tempted to “give up.”
“The Lord is the first to trust in you,” the Pope told the youth of Madagascar, “but He also asks you to trust in yourselves and your own skills and abilities.” The Lord asks you to “encourage one another and join Him in writing the most beautiful page of your lives, rejecting apathy and offering a Christian answer to the many problems that you face.” Pope Francis challenged the young people to ask themselves: “Can Jesus count on me?”
Pope Francis reminded the young people that “we are one great family” and that Mary is our Mother. She would never have said: “Let’s see how things turn out,” continued the Pope. She simply said “yes.” This is the “yes” of all those “willing to commit themselves and take risks, ready to stake everything, with no guarantee except the sure conviction of knowing they are bearers of a promise,” he said.
Mary, said Pope Francis, is “the Mother who watches over her children as they walk in life, often weary and in need, but always anxious that the light of hope not be extinguished. This is what we desire for Madagascar, for each of you and your friends,” concluded the Pope: “that the light of hope not be extinguished.”
Pope Francis then visited the Akamasoa Association in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Sunday afternoon, and called it “an expression of God’s presence in the midst of his people who are poor.”
The Pope’s message included an invitation to remain faithful “to the values of hard work, discipline, honesty, self-respect and respect for others.”
The Pope stressed how this experience has helped them understand that “God’s dream is not only for our personal development, but essentially for the development of the community, and that there is no worse form of slavery… than to live only for ourselves.”
Finally, the Pope prayed that this ray of light will spread, “so that we can enact models of development that support the fight against poverty and social exclusion, on the basis of trust, education, hard work and commitment.”
For these, concluded Pope Francis, “are always indispensable for the dignity of the human person.”
Pope Francis’ last official engagement in Madagascar saw him meeting with priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons, seminarians, novices and postulants whom he encouraged to continue to fight their battles in prayer and in praise.
Pope Francis wrapped up his two-day Apostolic Visit to Madagascar on Sunday evening at Antananarivo’s Saint Michel College, an institute founded by French Jesuit missionaries in 1888 and that has become a well-known centre for higher education throughout the region.
The Pope’s message to the men and women gathered in Antananarivo to be with their pastor, was one of thanks for their hard work – often carried out in difficult situations – and of encouragement in times of difficulty.
“Even those things you see as problems are signs of a Church that is alive, dynamic and striving to be each day to be a sign of the Lord’s presence,” he said.
And as they go forward in their mission, Pope Francis urged those present never to stop praising the Lord.
Often, he said, we can yield to the temptation of wasting our time talking about “successes” and “failures,” the “usefulness” of what we are doing or the “influence” we may have.
But then we risk ending up denying our own history, he said, and the history of your people “which is glorious because it is a history of sacrifices, hope, daily struggle, a life consumed in fidelity to work, tiring as it may be.”
The Pope told his audience that “the joy of the disciples was born of their certainty that they were acting in the name of the Lord, sharing in his plan and participating in his life, which they loved so much that they wanted to share it with others.”
He reminded them that one triumphs over evil whenever one teaches people to praise our heavenly Father, teaches the Gospel or visits the sick bringing the consolation of reconciliation.
Pope Francis did not neglect to mention the inner battles religious and consecrated people so often have to deal with as they grow in their vocations.
He noted that often the spiritual life “comes to be identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort, but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world or a passion for evangelisation.”
As a result of this, he said, instead of being men and women of praise, we become “professionals of the sacred.”
Thus, he invited those present to conquer the spirit of evil on its own terrain, urging them to respond to doubts and difficulties with evangelical responsibility and poverty “that inspires us to give our lives for the mission.”
“Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary joy!” he said.
Pope Francis concluded his discourse upholding a happy Church of the poor and for the poor, “a Church imbued by the fragrance of her Lord, a Church that lives joyfully by preaching the Good News to the marginalised of the earth, to those who are closest to God’s heart”.
“May you continue to be a sign of his living presence in our midst!” he said.
Vatican News and Linda Bordoni – Pope to clergy and religious in Madagascar: ‘be a sign of His living presence’
With thanks to Vatican News.