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World Youth Day / JMJ / GMG / WJT 2015 

This, the 30th World Youth Day, was celebrated on Palm Sunday in St Peter's Square with Papa Francisco.

Pope Francis's Message for XXX WYD   
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“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8)

Dear Young People,
We continue our spiritual pilgrimage towards Krakow, where the next international edition of World Youth Day will be held in July 2016. As guide on our pathway, we have chosen the evangelical text of the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the Beatitude of the poor in spirit, inserted in the wider context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary significance of the Beatitudes and Jesus' strong summons to embark with courage on the adventure of the search for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8).

1. The desire for happiness

The word 'blessed', or 'happy', appears nine times in this, Jesus’ first great sermon (cf Mt 5, 1-12). It is like a chorus that reminds us of the Lord’s call to walk with Him along a pathway that, despite all the difficulties, leads to true happiness.

Dear young people, all people of all times and of all ages seek happiness. God has placed in the heart of man and woman a profound longing for happiness, for fulness/fulfillment. Do you not perceive that your hearts are restless and in continual search for a good that can sate their thirst for the infinite?

The first chapters of the Book of Genesis present us with the splendid beatitude to which we are called and which consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, with ourselves. Free access to God, to his presence and intimacy, formed part of God's plan for humanity from its origins and meant that the divine light permeated all human relationships with truth and transparency. In this state of original purity, there were no masks, no subterfuge, no reasons to hide from each other. Everything was limpid and clear.

When man and woman gave in to temptation and broke the relationship of communion and trust with God, sin entered into human history (cf Gen 3). The consequences were felt immediately both in their relationships with themselves, with each other and with nature. And they were dramatic! The purity of the origins was as contaminated. From that moment, direct access to the presence of God was no longer possible. There appears the tendency to hide oneself, man and woman must cover their own nakedness. Without the light which comes from the vision of the Lord, they saw the reality surrounding them in a distorted, myopic way. The interior 'compass' which had guided them in their search for happiness lost its point of orientation, and the temptation of power, of having, and the desire for pleasure at all costs leads them to the abyss of sadness and of anguish.

In the Psalms we find the cry of humanity which, from the depths of its soul, calls out to God: “Who will show us the good, O Lord, if the light of your face is hidden from us?” (Ps 4, 7). The Father, in his infinite goodness, responds to this supplication by sending his Son. In Jesus, God assumes a human face. With his incarnation, life, death and resurrection, He redeems us from sin and reveals to us new and hitherto unthinkable horizons.

And so, in Christ, dear young people, is found the fulfillment of your dreams for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your expectations, so often frustrated by false worldly promises. As St John Paul II said: “It is He the beauty that attracts you so much; it is He who provokes you with that thirst for radicalness that will not let/allow you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks that falsify life; it is He who reads in your hearts your truest decisions that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to make of your lives something great” (Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata, 19 August 2000, GMG).

2. Blessed are the pure in heart…

Now let us seek to delve into why this beatitude passes through purity of heart. First, we must understand the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Semitic culture the heart is the centre of the feelings, thoughts and intentions of the human person. If the Bible teaches us that God does not look at appearances, but the heart (cf 1 Sam 16,7), we can also say that it is starting from our hearts that we can see God. This is because the heart summarises the human being in his (or her) totality and unity of body and soul, in his (or her) capacity to love and be loved.

As regards the definition of pure, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which essentially means clean, limpid, pure, free from contaminants. In the Gospel we see that Jesus rejects a particular conception of ritual purity linked to exteriority, which prohibited any contact with things and persons (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, did not eat without having performed ablutions and observed numerous traditions related to the washing of objects, Jesus tells them categorically: “Nothing that enters from the outside can make a man impure; it is what comes from within that makes man impure. For from within, from the heart of man, come evil thoughts: impurity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mk 7, 15 & 21-22).

In what then consists the happiness that springs from a pure heart? Starting from the list of evils which render man impure, enumerated by Jesus, we see that the question above all touches upon the field of our relationships. Each of us must learn to discern that which can “pollute” ones heart, to form a right and sensible conscience, capable of “discerning the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12, 2). If healthy attention is needed for the protection of creation, for the purity of air, water and food, how much more must we protect the purity of that which we hold most precious: our hearts and our relationships. This “human ecology” will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beautiful things, from true love, from holiness.

Once I asked you the question: “Where is your treasure? On what does your heart rest?” (cf Interview with young people from Belgium, 31 March 2014). Yes, our hearts can cling to true or false treasures, where they can find an authentic rest or simply slumber, becoming lazy and insensitive. The most precious good that we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Are you aware of the inestimable value that you have in the eyes of God? Do you know that He appreciates you and loves you unconditionally? When this perception disappears, the human being becomes an incomprehensible enigma, because it is precisely the knowledge of  being loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Remember Jesus' conversation with the rich young man (cf Mk 10, 17-22)? The evangelist Mark says that Jesus gazed upon him with affection (cf v 21), and then invited him to follow him so as to find the true treasure. Dear young people, I wish that this gaze of Christ, full of love, accompanies you throughout your whole life.

Youth is a period in which emerges the great affective wealth in your hearts, the profound/deep desire for a love that is true, beautiful and great. How much energy is in this capacity to love and be loved! Do not allow this most precious value to be falsified, destroyed or defaced. This happens when our relationships are marked by the instrumentalization of one's neighbour for ones own selfish ends, sometimes as mere objects of pleasure. The heart is wounded and sad following these negative experiences. I beg you: do not be afraid of true love, the one that Jesus teaches us and that Saint Paul describes thus “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous, it does not boast, it is not puffed up with pride, it is not rude or selfish, it is not angry, nor does it take into account a wrong suffered / resentful; it is not glad in injustice but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love will never end.” (1 Cor 13, 4-8).

While inviting you to discover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to trivialize love, above all when it seeks to reduce love only to its sexual aspect, thus depriving it of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young people, “in a culture of the provisional, of the relative, many preach that the important thing is 'to enjoy' the moment, that it is not worth committing oneself for the whole of life, making definitive choices, ‘forever’, because one does not know what will happen tomorrow. I, however, ask you to be revolutionaries, I ask you to go against the current; yes, in this I ask you to rebel against this culture of the provisional, which, at its base, believes that you are not capable of assuming responsibility, believes that you are not capable of loving truly. I have confidence in you, young people, and I pray for you. Dare to go against the current. And dare also to be happy” (Meeting with the volunteers at WYD Rio, 28 July 2013).

You young people are expert explorers! If you decide to discover the rich magisterium of the Church in this field, you will see that Christianity does not consist in a series of prohibitions that smother our desires for happiness, but rather in a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.

3. …for they shall see God

In the heart of every man and woman, continuously resounds the invitation of the Lord: “Seek my face!” (Ps 27, 8). At the same time, we must always confront ourselves with our poor condition as sinners. It is what we read, for example, in the Book of Psalms: “Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? The man with innocent hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24, 3-4). But we must not be afraid or discouraged: in the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that God always takes the first step. It is He who purifies us so that we are worthy of being in his presence.

The prophet Isaiah, when he received the call of the Lord to speak in his name, was frightened: “Woe is me, I am lost, for I am a man of impure lips” (Is 6, 5). But the Lord purified him through an angel who touched his lips and said: “Your guilt has disappeared/gone, your sin is forgiven” (v 7). In the New Testament, when Jesus called his first disciples at lake Genessaret and performed the marvel of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at his feet saying: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinner” (Lk 5, 8). The response was immediate: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fishers of men” (v 10). And when one Jesus' disciples asked him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, the Master replied: “He who has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14, 8-9).

The invitation of the Lord to encounter Him is addressed to each one of you, in whatever place or situation you might be. It suffices "to take the decision to let oneself be encountered by Him, to seek Him every day without ceasing. There is no reason for anyone to think that this invitation is not for him” (cf Evangelii Gaudium, 3). We are all sinners, in need of being purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a little step towards Jesus to discover that He is always waiting for us with open arms, above all in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the privileged occasion to encounter divine mercy which purifies and recreates our hearts.

Yes, dear young people, the Lord wants to encounter us, he wants to let us “see” his face. You may ask me: “But how?” Also St Teresa of Avila, who was born now precisely 500 years ago in Spain, as a little girl said to her parents: “I want to see God”. Then she discovered the path of prayer, which she described as “an intimate rapport of friendship, being often alone with the One we know loves us” (Book of Life, 8,5). Thus I ask you: Do you pray? Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but your best friend, you most trusted friend! Try to do it, with simplicity. You will discover what a peasant of Ars said to his holy Curé: when I am praying before the tabernacle, ‘I look at Him and He looks at me’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715).

I also invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading Sacred Scripture. If you not yet used to it, begin with the Gospels. Read a passage every day. Let the Word of God speak to your hearts, which is light for your steps (cf Ps 119, 105). Discover that you can also “see” God in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, prisoners (cf Mt 25, 31-46). Have you ever had such an experience? Dear young people, so as to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of God it is necessary to recognize oneself poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily also a heart stripped which knows how to stoop down and share its life with those most in need.

The encounter with God in prayer, through the reading of the Bible and in fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. As happened to the disciples of Emmaus (cf Lk 24, 13-35), the voice of Jesus will burn your hearts and will open your eyes so as to recognize his presence in the personal history of each one of you, discovering thus the project of love that He has for your lives.

Some of you hear or will hear the Lord’s call to marriage, to form a family. Many today think that this vocation is “out of fashion”, but it is not true! Precisely for this reason, the entire ecclesial Community is living a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world. Also, I invite you to consider the call to the consecrated life and the priesthood. How wonderful it is to see young people who embrace the vocation of giving themselves fully to Christ and to the service of his Church! Ask yourselves the question with a pure soul and do not be afraid of what God asks you! Starting from your “yes” to the Lord’s call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Do not forget: the will of God is our happiness!

4. On the way to Krakow

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8). Dear young people, as you see, this Beatitude touches very closely your existence and is a guarantee of your happiness. Hence I repeat to you once more: have the courage to be happy!

With this year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage of the pathway of preparation towards the next great global gathering of young people in Krakow in 2016. It is now 30 years since St John Paul II instituted in the Church the World Youth Days. This youthful pilgrimage from every continent, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the abundant fruits that have been given in the lives of so many young people from around the world! How many important discoveries, above all that of Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life, and of the Church as a big and welcoming family! How many conversions of life, how many vocational choices have taken place these gatherings! May the holy Pontiff, Patron of World Youth Day, intercede for our pilgrimage towards his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all beautiful and all pure, accompany us on this pathway.

From the Vatican, 31 January 2015, Memorial of Saint John Bosco