An actor portrays Jesus in the Way of the Cross during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
On Friday evening Pope Francis joined a large crowd of
World Youth Day pilgrims in praying the Stations of the Cross along a one-mile
stretch of Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. Below is the text of the Holy
Father’s meditation at the end of the stations, via Vatican Radio.
have come here today to accompany Jesus on his journey of sorrow and love, the
Way of the Cross, which is one of the most intense moments of World Youth Day.
At the end of the Holy Year of Redemption, Blessed John Paul II chose to
entrust the Cross to you, young people, asking you “to carry it throughout the
world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity, and announce to everyone that
only in the death and resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and
redemption” (Address to Young People, 22 April 1984). Since then, the World
Youth Day Cross has travelled to every continent and through a variety of human
situations. It is, as it were, almost “steeped” in the life experiences of the
countless young people who have seen it and carried it. No one can approach and
touch the Cross of Jesus without leaving something of himself or herself there,
and without bringing something of the Cross of Jesus into his or her own life.
I have three questions that I hope will echo in your hearts this evening as you
walk beside Jesus: What have you left on the Cross, dear young people of
Brazil, during these two years that it has been crisscrossing your great
country? What has the Cross of Jesus left for you, in each one of you? Finally,
what does this Cross teach us?
According to an ancient Roman tradition, while fleeing the city during the
persecutions of Nero, Saint Peter saw Jesus, who was travelling in the opposite
direction, that is, toward the city, and asked him in amazement: “Lord, where
are you going?” Jesus’ response was: “I am going to Rome to be crucified
again.” At that moment, Peter understood that he had to follow the Lord with
courage, to the very end. But he also realized that he would never be alone on
the journey; Jesus, who had loved him even unto death on the Cross, would
always be with him. Jesus, with his Cross, walks with us and takes upon himself
our fears, our problems, and our sufferings, even those which are deepest and
most painful. With the Cross, Jesus unites himself to the silence of the victims
of violence, those who can no longer cry out, especially the innocent and the
defenseless; with the Cross, he is united to families in trouble, those who
mourn the loss of their children, or who suffer when they see them fall victim
to false paradises, such as that offered by drugs. On the Cross, Jesus is
united with every person who suffers from hunger in a world where tons of food
are thrown out each day; on the Cross, Jesus is united with those who are
persecuted for their religion, for their beliefs, or simply for the color of
their skin; on the Cross, Jesus is united with so many young people who have
lost faith in political institutions, because they see in them only selfishness
and corruption; he unites himself with those young people who have lost faith
in the Church, or even in God because of the counter-witness of Christians and
ministers of the Gospel. The Cross of Christ bears the suffering and the sin of
mankind, including our own. Jesus accepts all this with open arms, bearing on
his shoulders our crosses and saying to us: “Have courage! You do not carry
your cross alone! I carry it with you. I have overcome death and I have come to
give you hope, to give you life” (cf. Jn 3:16).
And so we can answer the second question: What has the Cross given to those who
have gazed upon it or touched it? What has it left in each one of us? It gives
us a treasure that no one else can give: the certainty of the unshakable love
which God has for us. A love so great that it enters into our sin and forgives
it, enters into our suffering and gives us the strength to bear it. It is a
love which enters into death to conquer it and to save us. The Cross of Christ
contains all the love of God, his immeasurable mercy. This is a love in which
we can place all our trust, in which we can believe. Dear young people, let us
entrust ourselves to Jesus, let us give ourselves over entirely to him (cf.
Lumen Fidei, 16)! Only in Christ crucified and risen can we find salvation and
redemption. With him, evil, suffering, and death do not have the last word,
because he gives us hope and life: he has transformed the Cross from an
instrument of hate, defeat, and death into a sign of love, victory, and life.
first name given to Brazil was “The Land of the Holy Cross”. The Cross of Christ
was planted five centuries ago not only on the shores of this country, but also
in the history, the hearts and the lives of the people of Brazil and elsewhere.
The suffering Christ is keenly felt here, as one of us who shares our journey
even to the end. There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord
does not share with us.
But the Cross of Christ invites us also to allow ourselves to be smitten by his
love, teaching us always to look upon others with mercy and tenderness, especially
those who suffer, who are in need of help, who need a word or a concrete action
which requires us to step outside ourselves to meet them and to extend a hand
to them. How many people were with Jesus on the way to Calvary: Pilate, Simon
of Cyrene, Mary, the women… Sometimes we can be like Pilate, who did not have
the courage to go against the tide to save Jesus’ life, and instead washed his
hands. Dear friends, the Cross of Christ teaches us to be like Simon of Cyrene,
who helped Jesus to carry that heavy wood; it teaches us to be like Mary and
the other women, who were not afraid to accompany Jesus all the way to the end,
with love and tenderness. And you? Who are you like? Like Pilate? Like Simon?
Dear friends, let us bring to Christ’s Cross our joys, our sufferings
and our failures. There we will find a Heart that is open to us and understands
us, forgives us, loves us, and calls us to bear this love in our lives, to love
each person, each brother and sister, with the same love. Amen!