HAEMI, South Korea — Pope Francis urged a throng of Asian youth to spread Christ’s love throughout the continent, pointing to the martyrs as examples.
“Asian youth, wake up!” the Pope exclaimed.
“As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present!” he said.
The Pope delivered the homily at the Aug. 17 closing Mass of the Sixth Asian Youth Day, which took place at Haemi Castle, a fortress that was used to imprison Christians during the 19th century. The Mass was held during the Pope’s historic trip to South Korea, which concludes Monday.
Pope Francis invited the young people of Asia to imitate the martyrs of the continent, including the 124 Korean martyrs he beatified the previous day.
These men and women, he said, “handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us, they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant.”
The Pope pointed to the theme of the event — “Asian youth, wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!” — describing these words as being both a consolation and a responsibility for those who hear them.
The diverse Asian countries from which attendees had gathered each offer a unique context for the reflection of Christ’s love, he said.
“The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ,” he explained. “As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!”
Asian Christians are called to see the beautiful and true elements of their cultural heritage and how the Gospel can purify and perfect it, the Holy Father said.
At the same time, he observed, there is a need “to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in baptism and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death.”
Reflecting on the particular call of the youth, Pope Francis encouraged those present to offer their natural enthusiasm as a gift to the Lord.
“Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your goodwill into genuine self-sacrificing love,” he said. “This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way, your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.”
In union with God and each other, young people are called to aid the clergy in building a holy, missionary Church, which worships God by serving the poor and marginalized, he explained.
The Pope warned of temptations that will arise to ignore the cry of those in need.
“It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus,” he said, adding that this cry for love and friendship with Christ can often be found in our own hearts as well.
“Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.”
Finally, the Pope emphasized, the phrase “Wake up!” in the Asian Youth Day theme offers a reminder of the “duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel.”
Aware of God’s love and saving mercy in our lives, we must go out and share these gifts with others, he charged, adding that while embracing this path will bring trials and temptations, it will also bring great joy.
“Young people of Asia: You are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives!” Pope Francis said.
Certain of Christ’s victory over death, “we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.”