Pope Francis to Medjugorje youth festival: Christ frees us ‘from the seduction of idols’

Pope Francis (Photo by Alfredo Borba licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution)

In a message to the Medjugorje Youth Festival on Monday, Pope Francis told young Catholics that Christ’s loving gaze can free them from attraction to idols.

“Have the courage to live your youth by entrusting yourselves to the Lord and setting out on a journey with him,” the pope said Aug. 2.

“Let yourself be conquered by his loving gaze that frees us from the seduction of idols, from false riches that promise life but cause death,” he continued. “Do not be afraid to welcome the Word of Christ and to accept his call.”

Pope Francis’ message was sent on the second day of the 32nd Medjugorje Youth Festival taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina Aug. 1-8.

In his reflection, the pope spoke about the Gospel’s rich young man, who, he said, set out to meet the Lord with enthusiasm and with a desire to know how he could reach eternal life.

“The Gospel does not tell us the name of that young man, and this suggests that he can represent each of us,” Francis said.

The pope noted that Jesus points the young man to the commandments, as the first step to take to inherit eternal life.

When the young man says he already acts with charity toward his neighbors, Jesus tells him: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, give it to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven.”

“What Jesus proposes is not so much a man deprived of everything, as a man who is free and rich in relationships,” Pope Francis underlined. “If the heart is crowded with goods, the Lord and neighbor become only things among others. Our having too much and wanting too much will suffocate our hearts and make us unhappy and unable to love.”

The pope said the third step Jesus proposes to the young man is to “come, follow me.”

Quoting Benedict XVI’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, Francis said “following Christ is not an external imitation, because it touches man in the profound interiority of him. Being disciples of Jesus means being conformed to him.”

“In return, we will receive a rich and happy life, full of the faces of so many brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers and children… (cf. Mt 19:29),” the pope stated. “Following Christ is not a loss, but an incalculable gain, while renunciation concerns the obstacle that prevents the journey.”

“Do not be discouraged like the rich young man of the Gospel; instead, fix your gaze on Mary, the great model of the imitation of Christ, and entrust yourselves to her who, with her ‘here I am,’ responded unreservedly to the call of the Lord,” he said, adding that “We look to Mary to find the strength and receive the grace that allows us to say our ‘here I am’ to the Lord.”

The Medjugorje Youth Festival is focused on prayer, with Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary, and a Marian procession. The week also includes religious lessons, testimonies, and a musical show.

“This event -- as the experience of so many says -- has the strength to set us on the path towards the Lord,” the pope said.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the retired prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments celebrated the youth festival’s opening Mass Aug. 1. Earlier this month, Sarah underwent a robot-assisted prostate surgery in south Italy.

In his Aug. 1 homily, Cardinal Sarah said “we have come here, to Medjugorje, to renew our faith in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, that is, to establish an authentic and vital relationship with Him, our Lord and our God, so that in prayer we can answer the crucial question: How to find Jesus and how to behave in His penetrating and sovereign Presence?”

“Many of our contemporaries, I would even say the multitude of people so close to us, in our families, among our friends, where we study and work, seem insensitive, indifferent, even opposed and hostile to the question of the existence of God; they even claim that they no longer think of faith at all and that it is a sign that they are free,” Sarah said.

The cardinal encouraged young people to remember their baptism and, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:24, “to put on a new man, created by God in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

“Today Christ the Lord calls us to look up; it is really important to remind modern consumers to eat to live, not to live to eat,” he said.

Cardinal Sarah said “Jesus, who knows the human heart, wants to respond to our deepest desires, to our most essential aspirations, to this hunger for Love and this thirst for the Absolute that torments us.”

The Eucharist, he continued, is “a remedy that allows us to leave the shore of our comfort and our false security, which is marked by relativism, and to cross to the shore of the Gospel of Truth and the Salvation of our souls.” - Catholic News Agency