Editors’ note: The Archbishop’s column is a personal message to the young people in the Church. It is adapted from his homily at the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass, held this year at Bishop Garcia Diego High School in Santa Barbara on Jan. 31.
I don’t usually read Rolling Stone magazine. But in the current issue the cover story is about our Holy Father, Pope Francis. So I guess the Pope is officially “cool.” Because Rolling Stone says so.
I think the Pope is great, too. I’ve had the blessing to meet with him and celebrate Mass with him. He is a holy man — a man who knows Jesus and wants to serve him with all his life. And there is nothing greater than that!
And since he was elected last year, Pope Francis has the whole world talking about God and religion and the relation of faith to life. That’s not easy to do in this culture, which is so secular and so concerned with things like entertainment and money. But Pope Francis has found a way to do it.
And our Pope has a special love for young people. At World Youth Day last summer, he said to all the young people in the Church:
“The Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. … Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. The Lord is calling you today! … You are the ones who hold the future! I ask you to be builders of the world, to work for a better world. … Don’t be observers of life, but get involved. … Immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did.”
That’s what a Catholic education prepares you for — whether in our schools or in religious education in the parish. It’s all about getting young people ready. So that you can listen to what God is saying to you in your heart. So that you can answer his call and follow Jesus — generously and with courage.
My young friends, God has made you. You are children of God! That’s something amazing.
You didn’t just appear on this earth out of nowhere. The Creator of the universe made you. He wanted you — each one of you — for a reason. God thought about you before you were born. And he’s still thinking about you. He knows your name. God is still deeply interested in your life.
Each one of you has a part to play in God’s plan of love. That’s what Pope Francis is talking about. You are called to be friends with Jesus. To follow him and to be a witness to his Gospel.
Your Catholic formation — in your schools, in your parishes, in your homes — is getting you ready to be involved in the realities of this world — in our culture, in our neighborhoods, in our economy and government.
Jesus wants us to change the world. Every day. Little by little. He wants us to make the world a better place, more like the Kingdom of God. More caring, more compassionate, more peaceful, more just.
God is sending us out to other people. To the people in our homes, in our classes, in our neighborhoods. To the people we work with. To everybody we meet in our daily life. He wants us to share the love of God with everyone.
We change the world by our love, by our holiness. By trying to be saints and missionaries in our everyday lives. It’s not about words. Our words don’t mean anything without the witness of our lives. Just be kind. Be gentle. Just live your faith — in simple ways, with joy. With happiness. Try to be good sons, good daughters. Good brothers and sisters. And good friends.
If we have love in our hearts, then those around us will feel that love. Because love is like a fire. All it takes is a little spark, and you can set others on fire with your love.
The Pope is right, my young friends. You are the future — the future of the Church and the future of the world.
So let’s keep trusting in Jesus. Let’s keep praying and reading the Gospels. Jesus will never let you down. Even in your toughest times, he is with you. Go to him. Talk to him. Ask Jesus every day, all the time: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
I am praying for you every day. Please pray for me in my ministry. I need your prayers.
And I ask our Blessed Mother Mary to watch over you and your families. May she intercede for all of us. May she teach us to say “yes” to the call of Jesus — that we may follow him always as disciples and missionaries.