The Catholic young people of Burma are “a welcome sound” of encouragement, Pope Francis told them Thursday at a Mass said at St. Mary's Cathedral in Yangon.
“Dear young people of Myanmar … you are a beautiful and encouraging sight, for you bring us ‘good news’, the good news of your youth, your faith and your enthusiasm. Indeed, you are good news, because you are concrete signs of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ, who brings us a joy and a hope that will never die,” Francis said Nov. 30 in the largest city of Burma (also known as Myanmar).
The Pope's Mass with Burmese youth comes at the conclusion of his visit to the country, where he arrived Nov. 27. He also met with government officials, religious leaders, Buddhist monks, and the country's bishops. The previous day, he said Mass in Yangon's Kyaikkasan Ground, attended by much of the country's Catholic population. From Burma, he will continue on to Bangladesh before returning to Rome.
“As my visit to your beautiful country draws to a close, I join you in thanking God for the many graces we have received in these days,” he stated.
“Some people ask how it is possible to speak of good news when so many people around us are suffering? Where is the good news when so much injustice, poverty and misery cast a shadow over us and our world?”
In the face of this suffering, he said it is important that the Burmese youth “are not afraid to believe in the good news of God’s mercy, because it has a name and a face: Jesus Christ. As messengers of this good news, you are ready to bring a word of hope to the Church, to your own country, and to the wider world.”
“You are ready to bring good news for your suffering brothers and sisters who need your prayers and your solidarity, but also your enthusiasm for human rights, for justice,” and for Christ's love and peace.
The Pope's words about solidarity, human rights, and justice come as international attention on Burma is focused on the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who have been denied citizenship and who face general persecution in the Buddhist-majority country. In recent months, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled the country for Bangladesh amid state-sponsored violence against them.
At the same time, Pope Francis challenged his listeners with three conditions of salvation given in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans which was proclaimed at the Mass, and which ask us “to think about our place in God’s plan.”
“In effect, Paul asks three questions, and I want to put them to each of you personally,” he said. “First, how are people to believe in the Lord unless they have heard about him? Second, how are people to hear about the Lord unless they have a messenger, someone to bring the good news? And third, how can they have a messenger unless one is sent?”
While wanting all of his listeners “to think deeply about these questions,” the Pope offered guidance to “help you to discern what it is that the Lord is asking of you.”
First, he said, it is important to listen for God's voice: “Our world is full of many sounds, so many distractions, that can drown out God’s voice. If others are to hear and believe in him, they need to find him in people who are authentic. People who know how to listen … But only the Lord can help you to be genuine, so talk to him in prayer. Learn to hear his voice, quietly speaking in the depths of your heart.”
“But talk also to the saints,” he added, pointing to Saint Andrew, whose feast was celebrated at the Mass. “Andrew was a humble fisherman who became a great martyr … But before he became a martyr, he made his share of mistakes, and he needed to be patient, and to learn gradually how to be a true disciple of Christ. So do not be afraid to learn from your own mistakes!”
Pope Francis urged Burma's youth to “let the saints lead you to Jesus and teach you to put your lives in his hands. You know that Jesus is full of mercy. So share with him all that you hold in your hearts: your fears and your worries, as well as your dreams and your hopes. Cultivate your interior life, as you would tend a garden or a field. This takes time; it takes patience. But like a farmer who waits for the crops to grow, if you wait the Lord will make you bear much fruit, a fruit you can then share with others.”
The Pope then turned to young people's need to be “messengers of the good news of Jesus, above all to your contemporaries and friends. Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think!”
“Don’t worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between,” he told them, in consideration of the fact that Catholics make up only about one percent of Burma's population. “The Gospel always grows from small beginnings. So make yourselves heard.”
#Pope to young people in Yangon: “Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think!... Make yourselves heard. I want you to shout! But not with your voices. No! I want you to shout with your lives, with your hearts, & in this way to be signs of hope...” pic.twitter.com/XvufBjwyhR
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) November 30, 2017rn
“I want you to shout … with your lives, with your hearts, and in this way to be signs of hope to those who need encouragement, a helping hand to the sick, a welcome smile to the stranger, a kindly support to the lonely.”
Finally, Pope Francis discussed being sent forth at the conclusion of Mass “to take with us the gifts we have received and to share them with others. This can be a little daunting, since we don’t always know where Jesus may be sending us. But he never sends us out without also walking at our side, and always just a little in front, leading us into new and wonderful parts of his kingdom.”
To be sent by Christ is to follow him, the Pope added. “The Lord will invite some of you to follow him as priests … Others he will call to become religious or consecrated men and women. And yet others he will call to the married life, to be loving fathers and mothers. Whatever your vocation, I urge you: be brave, be generous and, above all, be joyful!”
Francis concluded by given Burma's young people the example of Mary, who though young, “had the courage to trust in the 'good news' she had heard, and to express it in a life of faithful dedication to her vocation, total self-giving, and complete trust in God’s loving care. Like Mary, may all of you be gentle but courageous in bringing Jesus and his love to others.”
“Dear young people, with great affection I commend all of you, and your families, to her maternal intercession. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me. God bless Myanmar!”