Choosing Demands Firm Commitment
In preparation for the Synod on the Youth, Pope Francis held a personal dialogue with the youth, including a question-and-answer exchange. During this lively session, the Pope shared his reflections on the life choices that young people are asked to make. He noted: “Choosing, being able to decide for yourself, seems to be the highest expression of freedom…. And, in a certain sense it is. But, the idea of choice that is often expressed today is an idea of unfettered freedom, without commitments, and always with an escape route.” Can a person make a lifetime choice of love?
For Pope Francis, the words “I choose, but” actually “take away our freedom.” Indeed, “freedom [and choice] does not allow for half measures.” It is important that young people realize that “the freedom of each of us is a great gift, a gift that has been given to you and that you must safeguard in order to make it grow, to make freedom grow, to make it develop.” True freedom means making clear—and permanent—choices based on authentic love. Indeed, Pope Francis’ advice is not only for the youth; it is a challenge for all of us!
Taking a Risk on Love. The conversation between Pope Francis and the youth also explored the meaning of authentic love. Francis asked: “Is it a little dangerous to speak to young people about love?” He answered his own question, saying: “It is not dangerous, because young people know very well when there is true love…. And, for this reason, we have the courage to speak about love.”
“Love is life” for Pope Francis. “Love is not a profession…. In life we must always put love in first place, but real love…. Love’s greatest enemy is the double life…. Love does not allow for half measures: all or nothing…. Love must be sincere, open and brave…. Jesus speaks of a man who sold everything he owned in order to buy a precious pearl of great value. This is love: to sell everything…. Selling everything for one thing alone. Think carefully about love. Think about it seriously. Do not be afraid to think about love, but about the love that takes risks, faithful love…. Think about fruitful love…. Take a risk on love!”
Witnessing to the Choice to Love. In several of the questions posed to Pope Francis by the youth, the word “why” emerged rather frequently. Francis openly admitted: “Not all ‘whys’ have an answer.” Sometimes we only find a response by “looking to Christ crucified and his Mother. There, we will find a path to feel something in our hearts that may be an answer.”
A concrete and positive answer to the many “whys” of life emerges when a Christian accompanies another, listens carefully, and bears witness. “If we Christians do not learn to listen to the suffering, to listen to problems, to be silent and let others speak and listen, we will never be able to give a positive response. And, many times, positive answers cannot be given in words. They must be given by risking oneself in bearing witness.” “I invite all of you … to come out of oneself, to bear witness.”
Conclusion. Finally, Pope Francis ended his lengthy sharing: “Dear young people … without witness [in life and deeds], the Church, Jesus’ message, is just smoke.” How true are Pope Francis’ straightforward words!