Pope Francis is asking young people to wake up from the deadening static of staring at a phone to encounter Christ in their neighbor.
“Today, we are often ‘connected’ but not communicating. The indiscriminate use of electronic devices can keep us constantly glued to the screen,” Pope Francis said in his message to young people published March 5.
“When I look at things, do I look carefully, or is it more like when I quickly scroll through the thousands of photos or social profiles on my cell phone?” Francis asked.
The Pope warned that he sees a “growing digital narcissism” among young people and adults alike.
“How often do we end up being eyewitnesses of events without ever experiencing them in real time! Sometimes our first reaction is to take a picture with our cell phone, without even bothering to look into the eyes of the persons involved,” Francis said.
Pope Francis encouraged young people to “wake up.” He said that if someone realizes that he is “dead inside,” he can trust that Christ can give them new life to “arise,” as he did with the young man in Luke 7:14.
“When we are ‘dead,’ we remain closed in on ourselves. Our relationships break up, or become superficial, false and hypocritical. When Jesus restores us to life, he ‘gives’ us to others,” he said.
The Pope called upon young people to bring about “cultural change” that will allow those “isolated and withdrawn into virtual worlds” to arise.
“Let us spread Jesus’ invitation: ‘Arise!’ He calls us to embrace a reality that is so much more than virtual,” he said.
“This does not involve rejecting technology, but rather using it as a means and not as an end,” the Pope added.
Pope Francis said that a person who is alive in Christ encounters reality, even tragedy, that leads him to suffer with his neighbor.
“How many situations are there where apathy reigns, where people plunge into an abyss of anguish and remorse! How many young people cry out with no one to hear their plea! Instead, they meet with looks of distraction and indifference,” Francis said.
“I think too of all those negative situations that people of your age are experiencing,” he said. “One young woman told me: ‘Among my friends I see less desire to get involved, less courage to get up.’ Sadly, depression is spreading among young people too, and in some cases even leads to the temptation to take one’s own life.”
With Christ, who brings new life, a young person can become more aware of those who are suffering draw near to them, he said.
“You too, as young people, are able to draw near to the realities of pain and death that you encounter. You too can touch them and, like Jesus, bring new life, thanks to the Holy Spirit,” he said. “You will be able to touch them as he does, and to bring his life to those of your friends who are inwardly dead, who suffer or have lost faith and hope.”
“Perhaps, in times of difficulty, many of you have heard people repeat those ‘magic’ formulas so fashionable nowadays, formulas that are supposed to take care of everything: ‘You have to believe in yourself’, ‘You have to discover your inner resources’, ‘You have to become conscious of your positive energy’ … But these are mere words; they do not work for someone who is truly ‘dead inside,’” he said.
“Jesus’ word has a deeper resonance; it goes infinitely deeper. It is a divine and creative word, which alone can bring the dead to life,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis addressed this message to the young people throughout the world who will celebrate local diocesan World Youth Day gatherings on Palm Sunday this year.
The Pope reminded young people that the next international World Youth Day will take place in Lisbon in 2022: “From Lisbon, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, great numbers of young people, including many missionaries, set out for unknown lands, to share their experience of Jesus with other peoples and nations.”
“As young people, you are experts in this! You like to take trips, to discover new places and people, and to have new experiences,” he said.
“If you have lost your vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection he urges you: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’” Pope Francis said.
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