RIO DE JANEIRO — Faith “accomplishes a revolution” in the lives of believers, changing them by bringing their thinking and acting into line with Godʼs, Pope Francis told World Youth Day pilgrims in Rio de Janeiro.
“Faith immerses us in his love and gives us security, strength and hope,” Francis taught during his homily for a Liturgy of the Word held as part of the eventʼs welcoming ceremony on Thursday, July 25.
“To all appearances, nothing has changed; yet, in the depths of our being, everything is different,” he said to the million-plus estimated youth gathered at Copacabana beach.
The Pope arrived at the ceremony after visiting a slum and meeting with Argentinian pilgrims. Archbishop Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro welcomed Pope Francis and said the “challenging task” of World Youth Day is to bring “the hope of Christ” to the “many youth saddened in a world of consumerism, egoism, inequalities and false joys.”
The archbishop called the assembled pilgrims “protagonists of a new world,” but also reminded them of Pope Francisʼ emphasis at his pontificateʼs beginning that the Church must “always confess Jesus Christ in our journey of faith and mission, so as to not fall into the temptation of being a sociocharitable NGO [non-governmental organization].”
Pope Francis then offered a quick greeting to the pilgrims and invited them to join him in a minute of silent prayer for the soul of Sophie Morinière, a French World Youth Day pilgrim, who lost her life in an automobile accident the previous week in French Guiana.
Francis told the pilgrims, “I have come today to confirm you in [the] faith … but I have also come to be confirmed by the enthusiasm of your faith.”
He was then welcomed by five youths, each representing one of the five continents. The pilgrim from the Americas said, “We wish to manifest our joy and to say that it is very good to be here.”
Put on Faith, Hope, and Charity
After the Gospel proclaimed at the Liturgy of the Word told of the transfiguration of Jesus, Pope Francis began his homily by declaring, “Here, today, it is good for all of us to be gathered together around Jesus! It is he who welcomes us and who is present in our midst here in Rio.”
Francis said Christians are called to welcome Jesus in return, by “putting on” the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
“To put on,” he said, is “to pour over,” and he compared ”putting on faith” with placing salt or oil atop a plate of food. “Put on faith, and your life will take on a new flavor; it will have a compass to show you the way."
By putting on hope, Francis said oneʼs days and horizon will be “enlightened.” He added that “putting on love” builds a solid foundation for oneʼs life and makes lifeʼs journey “joyful, because you will find many friends to journey with you.”
Faith, hope and love are Christʼs gift, Pope Francis said, and Christ is “the one who brings God to us and us to God.”
“With him, our life is transformed and renewed, and we can see reality with new eyes, from Jesus’
standpoint,” he said.
“I would like each of us to ask sincerely: In whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things or in Jesus?”
Faithʼs Copernican Revolution
The Pope acknowledged the temptation to “put ourselves at the center, to think that we alone build our lives or that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money or power.”
“But it is not so,” he said. Instead, the Pope said that possessions, money and power “end up possessing us,” leaving people unsatisfied and always wanting more, with only an “illusion of being happy.”
Pope Francis contrasted the pursuit of fleeting pleasures with the willingness to be pursued by Jesus.
“Put on Christ in your life, place your trust in him, and you will never be disappointed,” he said.
Faith, he said, “accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican, because it removes us from the center and restores it to God.”
Francis said the fruits of the Holy Spirit “find a home in our heart” through faith, “and our very being is transformed.” The gift of faith also renews “our way of thinking and acting” and transforms it into “Jesusʼ own [and] Godʼs own” way of acting and thinking, he said.
Confession and the Sacraments
The Pope also remarked that the World Youth Day being held during the Year of Faith is “truly a gift to draw us closer to the Lord, to be his disciples and his missionaries, to let him renew our lives.”
He told the young pilgrims that Christ awaits them in his sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist.
“Do not be afraid to ask God’s forgiveness,” he said. “He never tires of forgiving us, like a father who loves us. God is pure mercy!”
And the Pope said the youth should not neglect meeting Jesus in holy Communion either.
“He is waiting for you in his flesh in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his presence and his sacrifice of love,” Francis said.
The Pope also encouraged the youth to seek Jesus in their fellow pilgrims, who will “teach you the language of charity, goodness and service.”
“You too, dear young people, can be joyful witnesses of his love, courageous witnesses of his Gospel, carrying to this world a ray of his light,” he assured them.
“It is good for us to be here,” he concluded, “putting on Christ in our lives, putting on the faith, hope and love which he gives us.”
Pope Francis revisited his emerging World Youth Day theme of being “disciples and missionaries” with the Mother of God, adding, “Like her, may we say Yes to God.”
“Let us ask that her maternal heart intercede for us, so that our hearts may be open to loving Jesus and making others love him,” he said. “He is waiting for us, and he is counting on us. Amen.”