VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While the church listens to young people in preparation for this year’s synod, the church must not forget to also help them listen to Jesus and discover what he has to offer, said the preacher of the papal household.
“On the cross, Jesus not only gave us an example of self-giving love carried to the extreme, he also merited the grace for us to be able to bring it to pass, to some extent, in our lives,” Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said during a service commemorating Christ’s death on the cross.
Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, which began with a silent, solemn procession down the central nave of St. Peter’s Basilica March 30.
Two aides then helped the 81-year-old pope down onto his knees as he stretched himself prostrate on the floor before the main altar of the basilica. His bare head rested on a red pillow, in silent prayer, in a sign of adoration and penance. As is customary, the papal household’s preacher gave the homily.
Father Cantalamessa said it was appropriate that, given this year’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and discernment, the church “make an effort to discover together with young people what Christ expects from them, what they can offer the church and society.”
“The most important thing, however, is something else; it is to help young people understand what Jesus has to offer them” — fullness of joy and abundant life, he said.
Repeating the pope’s call for all Christians to renew their relationship with Jesus or at least be open to letting him encounter them each day, the Capuchin priest said God has a special mission for young people.
Their task, he said, is “to rescue human love from the tragic drift it had ended up — love that is no longer a gift of self but only the possession, often violent and tyrannical, of another.”
The ability to be totally giving and welcoming of love requires long preparation, whether it be for the vocation of marriage, religious life or service, he said.
Jesus on the cross is an example of giving himself for others carried to the extreme, and
Christians are called to be courageous in going against the current cultural stream of selfishness and going against the crowd that chases after worldly things, he said.
There is a world out there that has nothing to do with God’s plan, he said; it is a world that has come “under the dominion of Satan and sin” and plays a “decisive role in public opinion,” which is then spread in infinite ways “electronically, through airwaves.”
These mistaken ways are then seen as “the norm” so that when people “act, think or speak against this spirit (it) is regarded as nonsensical or even as wrong and criminal,” he said.
He encouraged young people to go the opposite direction where Jesus, “our God and savior,” awaits.
After the homily, the assembly venerated the cross, which was carried down the central nave and held before the pope. The pope had removed his red chasuble and, in a sign of penance, placed a red stole over his shoulders. He kissed and leaned his head against the cross.
Pope Francis was scheduled to speak briefly later that night at the end of the Stations of the Cross in Rome’s Colosseum. At his request, the meditations on the stations were written by young people.