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Beware paralysis of shame

KRAKÓW (SE): As over one million people pressed around the altar set up at Campus Misericordiae (Field of Mercy) for the closing Mass of World Youth Day on July 31, in stark contrast to the opening Mass on July 26 the sun shone its warmth on the grassy field and the heavens smiled on the cherished memories held in each heart.

Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day, to be held in Panama in 2019, had already begun, as he bade the gathering to remember that the week-long festival “ends today, but begins tomorrow in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on.”

In stressing that World Youth Day is not an event isolated from life, he encouraged the gathering not to leave its memories in the beautiful Polish city, but take them into their studies, first years of work, friendships, affections, hopes and dreams.

Pope Francis said that each and every person at World Youth Day has been given a breath of spiritual fresh air, which is to be taken home and breathed again and again in daily life.

The pope said that he knows that living the peace and gentility of the Christian life can be difficult, as in almost every culture today they are not the flavour of the month.

But he encouraged young people not to be driven into shame by the prevailing culture around them and not to allow the ridicule of others to paralyse their values or corral them inside their hearts.

He used the example of Zacchaeus, whom he described as a shy little man before Jesus and before the local community, as although he was powerful, his reputation for honesty was not that good.

The pope said that his tree climbing stunt was only one of the obstacles that he faced in meeting Jesus, as he had to face down the whole town in his confession.

But he had fallen hopelessly in love with Jesus and Pope Francis explained, “You know what happens when someone is so attractive that we fall in love with them, we end up ready to do things we would never have thought of doing.”

Pope Francis told the massive crowd, “Even today, we can risk not getting close to Jesus, because we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy. This is a great temptation; it has to do not only with self-esteem, but faith itself.”

He described the paralysis of shame as akin to walking away when God wants to look at us, or spoiling God’s dream for ourselves.

He encouraged the young people to aim high in life, by realising that they are precious in the eyes of God, who does not look for style, but accepts everyone for who they are.

“At times in our lives, we aim lower rather than higher. At those times, it is good to realise that God remains faithful, even obstinate, in his love for us,” Pope Francis said. “He is our biggest fan.”

He explained that God is hopelessly hopeful. “He believes that we can always get up and he hates to see us glum or gloomy. Because we are always his sons and daughters, so let us be mindful of this at the beginning of every day.”

Pope Francis explained that in making his public confession, Zacchaeus took a great risk and he then encouraged those present not to be afraid to take the same risk in confession.

“Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weakness, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and peace,” he concluded.

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