PANAMA CITY -- As the Friday of World Youth Day drew to an end, its sunset glow reaching the masses of hundreds of thousands of young people gathered in Santa Maria la Antigua Field on the Cinta Costera, Pope Francis meditated on the risks of saying yes to Christ during the Way of the Cross ceremony on Jan. 25.
On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Pope Francis reflected on the Stations of the Cross by telling the youth to not give into the temptations of “apathy and inaction” and “anesthetizing indifference of society.”
"Walking with Jesus will always be a grace and a risk,” he said at the opening of the event. The commitment to Christ is a grace because it is a choice to "enter into the depths of His heart," and know "his tender nearness" as the "Suffering Servant" seen on the cross.>br/>
And it is a risk, Pope Francis said, as the call to faithfulness goes "against the spirit of the world" and the temptations of a "throw-away" and "indifferent culture."
In his reflection after the Via Crucis, the pope challenged the youth to not give into the ease of taking “refuge in noise in order not to hear,” but to be like Mary who chose to remain “at the foot of the cross.”
Calling Mary, a “woman of strength,” Pope Francis said she teaches us how to “say ‘yes’ to those who have refused to remain silent in the face of a culture of mistreatment and abuse.”
The pope said Jesus’ Way of the Cross continues today, in the “muffled cry of children kept from being born” and “those denied the right to a childhood,” as well as women who are “exploited and abandoned, stripped of their dignity and treated as nothing.”
Mary shows us how to stand at the foot of the cross, “and the foot of every cross,” with hearts not “tightly shut,” but rather ones that “accompany” and “feel tenderness and devotion,” he said. (The underlined section sounds a bit strange..)
Following a morning spent with youth incarcerated at Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center, the pope then called for an effort to “create spaces, homes and centres of care” that are an “outstretched hand” to those in difficulty. He also called for the protection of an earth “trampled” by “disregard,” and the “fury of consumption beyond all reason.”
Society “has lost the ability to weep and be moved by suffering,” he said.
The evening’s Stations of the Cross were based on meditations by Pope St. John Paul II, written when he was still a Polish cardinal in Krakow, Poland in 1976. They focused on a wide range of topics, including violence, women and women as mothers, care for creation, migrants and refugees, martyrdom, corruption, and abortion.
The stations were also presented by young people from different countries in the Americas -- South, Central and North -- such as Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, the United States of America, and Colombia; and the Caribbean, like Cuba and Haiti, the representative youth carrying the World Youth Day cross which had made a pilgrim journey throughout the world prior to World Youth Day. The cross was processed throughout the multi-tiered stage, accompanied by dancers and music, both with dramatic flourishes mirroring the realities in focus.
The individual stations concluded with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking her intercession under unique names and title as patroness of the 15 countries represented.
The ceremony, marked with periods of silence and meditation, concluded with the call to hope and action seen in The Great Commission. A reflection saw the cross move into the light physically and spiritually as the Cross became “a banner of life and light of the Resurrected One,” calling the faithful to be “joyful messengers.”
At the conclusion of his message, donning a red stole, he gave his papal blessing and thanked the estimated 400,000 in attendance for joining him in this journey with the cross.
“You have lived the Passion of the Lord with Mary at the foot of the Cross,” he said, “and we go now with hearts filled with silence and at peace, along with Jesus who accompanies us. May the Virgin protect you.”
World Youth Day continues on Saturday, Jan. 26 with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua, a lunch with young people and then the vigil of the young people with the pope in Saint John Paul II Field in Metro Park.