Vatican City, Feb 22, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing youth around the globe, Pope Francis encouraged young people Thursday to face their fears with discernment and courage, looking to the Mother of God as their example.
“What are your fears? What worries you most deeply? An ‘underlying’ fear that many of you have is that of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who you are,” Pope Francis said in his Feb. 22 message, saying that many insecurities arise from a “sense of inadequacy.”
“For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God…and in life!” the Pope continued.
Pope Francis’ words come ahead of the 33rd diocesan-level World Youth Day, which will take place March 25. This localized event is a preparation for the international World Youth Day, which is set to occur in Panama in 2019.
The diocesan World Youth Day also coincides with the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will discuss the topic of “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Pope Francis called this a “happy coincidence,” which will place the gaze of the Church on young people.
While many youth are ruled by their fears and hide behind “masks and false identities,” Pope Francis encouraged young people to remember the words from Scripture “do not be afraid,” which have been “repeated 365 times with different variation, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.”
“In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary,” the Holy Father said, noting that it is also “indispensable when searching for one’s vocation.”
While many see discernment as an individual process, Pope Francis said that it is rather an interior reflection on each person’s vocation, or “call from above.” Prayerful silence and dialogue with others, the Pope said, are necessary for the process of discernment.
On this note, the Roman Pontiff pointed to the example of Mary and her witness of love despite her fears, which was “full of boldness and focused completely on the gift of self.”
“Mary, like others in the Sacred Scriptures, trembles before the mystery of God’s call, who in a moment places before her the immensity of his own plan and makes her feel all her smallness as a humble creature,” Pope Francis said, noting her complete willingness even in the face of uncertainty.
“The first reason not to fear is the fact that God has called us by name. The angel, God’s messenger, called Mary by name,” Pope Francis continued, noting that God has also called “each of you by name.”
The angel’s words to Mary also ring true for youth today, the Pope said, noting that the all-knowing power of God will always sustain every individual, even amidst fear and darkness.
“The Angel’s words descend upon our human fears, dissolving them with the power of the Good News of which we are heralds: our life is not pure chance or a mere struggle for survival, rather each of us is a cherished story loved by God,” Pope Francis said.
However, the Pope said that courage is also needed for the youths of today to address their fears and discern what God wants for them, just as Mary did.
“From the certainty that God’s grace is with us comes the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, and in every area of our lives,” the Holy Father said.
Encouraging young people to face their fears with faith, discernment, and courage while looking to Mary as an example, Pope Francis said that the universal Church awaits the gift that all youths have to offer in their unique personhood.
“Dear young people, the Lord, the Church, the world are waiting for your answer to the unique call that each one receives in this life!” the Pope said.
“As World Youth Day in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves for our gathering with the joy and enthusiasm of those who wish to participate in such a great adventure… do you accept the challenge?”