The final day of reflecting on the memories of World Youth Day:
I realize why I didn’t have pictures yesterday to share: I remembered the march, but I forgot that I didn’t have WiFi that night to upload the pictures! Silly me….
But one year ago today, Pope Francis, along with 2 million pilgrims from around the world, celebrated the final WYD Mass. In his homily, Pope Francis focused on Zacchaeus, who really wanted to see Jesus. However, poor Zacchaeus, as the Holy Father explained, was blocked by 3 obstacles: his smallness of stature, the paralysis of shame, and the grumbling of the crowd.
I’m sure all 3 of these block our vision of Jesus all the time: We often don’t feel holy enough to love Jesus or do xyz; we know we are guilty of something and are shameful of it; and/or we’re afraid of what our peers think of us if we appear “too churchy” or “too religious.”
But this guy, Zacchaeus, overcomes all of that: He wants to love Jesus so much that he’s willing to do stupid things–much like we do stupid things when we crush on someone–like climbing a tree, admitting his faults out loud, and exposing himself to his peers. And how wonderful is Jesus’s reaction to Zacchaeus: He calls him down the tree, he calls him by name, and he makes him feel so special by telling him that he wishes to dine in Zacchaeus’s house.
From this, the Holy Father pointed out that we can learn several things about God: 1) You are important! You’re so important that God is willing to be your constant cheerleader, and He cheers for you and calls on you by name! While we may shut doors on ourselves, God “is hopelessly hopeful” that “we can always get up…”
2) We must take a risk for Jesus! Zacchaeus put himself out there and exposed his shame to the crowd, but he also ran eagerly to Jesus. Sometimes, we just have to face the crowds and our own fears because Jesus offers us life–what a precious gift! And this gift is not something that we can receive or respond to in 140 characters or less; it is a deep and profound call and response, a true awareness of our guilt, and an inexhaustible love. I’ve certainly learned this these last couple of days!
3) It begins with you! People will try and block you, perhaps by convincing you that you aren’t good enough or that you’re just a hopeless, naive millennial with no understanding of the world. But it is not the world in which Jesus wishes to dine: He wishes to dine in your home! We even say this at Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you UNDER MY ROOF….” And yet, we do because Jesus gazes upon us and our dreams so lovingly with an unmatched constancy. And, thus, we must always try to push towards Him, no matter how hopeless trying to grasp Him may seem!
When I read the transcript of the homily, I noticed the name of the camp we stayed that night: Campus Misericordiae. I had never noticed how special that Latin word for mercy is….misericordiae. Well, I know that the Latin word for “heart” is cor/cordis, so I figured it was “something heart.” So I looked up the first half, “miser,” and I discovered that, as an adjective, it can mean “tormenting,” and, as a verb, it can mean “I lament/bewail.”
Wow….so mercy in Latin literally means “lamenting heart,” “tormenting heart.” Though I could totally be wrong here, the implications of this is significant for me: God loves us so much that His heart is being tormented for us. That’s why He is willing to be our constant cheerleader, why He calls to us by name, why He gazes upon us with such a loving face.
To echo Pope Francis’s words, I wish to pray for three things today:
1) That we realize that, even if we hate on ourselves, even if we shut our own doors, God always loves us even in these times. I hope that we can pray every day for the strength and courage to love ourselves and be in love with our own lives just as God loves us and is in love with our lives.
2) That we may bring everything to God, always, especially in confession; that we may be continuously surprised at God’s patience at forgiveness; that we may not “keep our souls numb” by saying “Yes!” to God and “No!” to the comfort the world offers us.
3) That we recognize that living a life of Christ doesn’t just end at the doors of the church building or at the retreat center, but that it follows us everywhere all the time should we choose to live that life. We often get annoyed at our parents’ incessant nagging and presence at home; oh, how I hope we can even get a mile close to that point with God!
In these prayers and in the prayers from the last 5 reflections, I hope that we inch forwards toward a world of mercy, of love.
Thanks for sticking with me these last 6 days! May God continue to bless you all, and I pray for your success in being the light of Christ that the world so desperately needs today.