The theme for World Youth Day, Lisbon 2023 came from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke: “Mary arose and went with haste”
(1:39). As I arrived in Lisbon, I was prepared to frame my whole experience as a reflection on those verbs: “to arise” and “go with haste.” However, I was struck by all the other words that jumped out at me. This has truly been a WYD of words. I heard many, but would like to share my top ten. Here are the first five, not just for our WYD experience, but for our path as Christians on our way to Heaven.
In the Pilgrim Program
, the Organizing Committee offered a different word with a daily challenge for each day of the week to help the pilgrims focus their day. For day 1, they offered the word “go.” After we arise, we have to go. Mary went. Jesus sent his apostles to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew
28:19).We are sent, and so we go. Getting off of our couches and out of our comfort zones may not seem
necessary in order to go, but I am a big believer in the importance of constantly challenging ourselves. Perhaps that is why WYD is a pilgrimage: it’s meant to be uncomfortable, and I think we are better when we are not as comfortable. The Holy Spirit is always surprising us and taking us out of our comfort zones. At the Papal Welcome Ceremony
, the Pope reminded us of something he first said at the Shrine of Aparecida during WYD 2013 in Rio de Janeiro
: “God loves surprises. He is not a robot; his love is always surprising. He loves to surprise. He always keeps us alert and he keeps us surprised.”
Going means being ready. Let’s be ready to be surprised and go, always remembering that Jesus goes with us. At the Stations of the Cross
on Friday, Pope Francis reminded us that “Jesus’ journey is this: God going out of himself in order to walk by our side.”
We are called to do the same. Remember, we are called to be saints, not to be comfortable. At any rate, comfortable or not, in order to set out on a pilgrimage, we have to, first, go. In order to get to Heaven, we have to get up and go.
In Portuguese the word is CAMINHO
. In English we can say, “road,” “walking,” “path,” or “way.” We go on the path, on our journey, on our walking along the way towards Heaven. This “path” is highlighted in the logo for Lisbon 2023. The logo features a path in gold and white with red rosary beads, because as Mary went on the road to visit her cousin Elizabeth, we also are called to go along this path. Sometimes it’s a difficult path, but we must know that Jesus and Mary go along the road with us. At the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis reminded us of this: “Today we are going to journey with Jesus along the path of his suffering, along the path of our worries, the path of our loneliness.” And Jesus’ path is that of love. At the Closing Mass, the Holy Father said that “He shows us the way of love. Listen to Jesus; otherwise, even if we set out with good intentions along paths that seem to be of love, in the end those paths will be seen as selfishness disguised as love. Be careful of selfishness disguised as love! Listen to Jesus, for he will show you which paths are those of love.”
As you go along the path, never forget that you are not alone.
This is also not a new message for Pope Francis. At the Papal Welcome Ceremony
, he said,
In the Church, there is room for everyone. Everyone. In the Church, no one is left out or left over. There is room for everyone. Just the way we are. Everyone. Jesus says this clearly. When he sends the apostles to invite people to the banquet which a man had prepared, he tells them: “Go out and bring in everyone,” young and old, healthy and infirm, righteous and sinners. Everyone, everyone, everyone! In the Church there is room for everyone. “Father, but I am a wretch, is there room for me?" There is room for everyone! That is the Church, the Mother of all. There is room for everyone. The Lord does not point a finger, but opens his arms.
, the Pope said,
This Chapel of the Apparitions is a beautiful image of the Church: welcoming and without doors. Indeed, the Church has no doors in order that everyone may enter. Here, in this place, we must insist that everyone can enter, because this is the Mother’s house, and a mother’s heart is always open to all her children, everyone, everyone, everyone, excluding no one.
Let’s remember that as we arise and set out along the path, we are called to bring others with us. This includes everyone.
This was the word for the third day. It is no coincidence that the place where Lisbon 2023 hosted both the Vocations Fair and Reconciliation park
was called the City of Joy
. Finding our vocation and being reconciled with God should fill us with joy. Being a Christian should fill us with joy. At the Vigil
on Saturday, the Holy Father said,
Joy is missionary: Mary’s joy is twofold: she had just received the angel’s message that she would welcome the Redeemer of the world, and she was also given the news that her cousin was pregnant. This is interesting: instead of thinking about herself, she thinks of the other. Why? Because joy is missionary, joy is not just for one person, it is for sharing something with others. Let me ask you: those of you here, who have come to meet others, to find Christ’s message, to find life’s beautiful meaning, will you keep all this for yourselves or will you share it with others? What do you think? Surely it is for sharing with others, because joy is missionary! Let us all repeat that, together: joy is missionary! And so we share this joy with others.
That is perhaps the official quote of Lisbon 2023: “Joy is missionary!” Why do we go along the path? Because we are filled with joy!
At the Closing Mass
, the Pope responded to the Gospel reading of the Transfiguration (Matthew
17:1-9) with three verbs: to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid. The first two I will address here. The third one was a message that came up over and over again throughout the week and so it deserves a more prominent place.
To shine is related to having joy. If we are seeking holiness, filled with the Spirit, and in relation with Christ, we will have joy and that will shine. At the Mass, Pope Francis said: “Jesus is transfigured […] Through this brilliant burst of light, Jesus prepares the disciples for the dark night of the Passion. Dear young friends, today we too need something of this burst of light, so that it can fill us with hope as we face the many failures of each day and the darkness that assails us in life, and respond to them with the light of the resurrection of Jesus.”
He continued by being clear about what that shining means for our relationships:
Yet, I would like to tell you that we do not radiate light by putting ourselves in the spotlight, for that type of light is blinding. No, we cannot illumine others by projecting a perfect, well-ordered, refined image of ourselves, or by appearing to be powerful and successful, strong but without light. No, we radiate light – we shine – by welcoming Jesus into our hearts and learning to love as he does. To love like Jesus: that is what makes us shine… whenever you do works of love, you become light.
The traditional hymn tells us that they will know we are Christians by our love. They will also know we are Christians by the way we shine.
And so, we go, on a path, welcoming others along the way, letting our joy shine. We do this because we are going with haste to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Come back next week
to find out what the next five words of WYD 2023 are.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org