Pope Francis on Tuesday evening met with more than 50,000 altar servers from Germany.
The young people are on their annual pilgrimage to Rome, which this year has a motto from Matthew 12:12: “Freedom! Because it is lawful to do good.”
The Holy Father arrived in Saint Peter’s Square at 6 pm Rome time, greeted by lively modern music. After being driven around the Square in the pope-mobile, Pope Francis greeted several of the pilgrims personally. He then presided at the celebration of Vespers (Evening Prayer), and delivered a homily, in German, on the reading from Letter to the Galatians. “The words of St. Paul that we have just heard … attract our attention. The time is fulfilled, says Paul.” Pope Francis said that now is the time when God has accomplished His decisive work, showing us that He is the “Good Father” through the Incarnation of the Son, who becomes one of us.”. “Through this concrete man by the name of Jesus, we can understand what God really meant. He wants to free human beings, so that they might always feel protected as children of a good father.”
But, the Pope said, to realize this plan, God needs a human person, “a woman, a mother, who brings the Son into the world. She is the Virgin Mary, whom we honor in this evening’s celebration. Mary was totally free. In her freedom she said ‘yes.’ She always did good. So she served God and human beings. Let us imitate her example, if we want to know what God expects of us as His children.”
After the liturgical ceremony, Pope Francis responded to questions from several of the young altar servers. He said the world “needs people who will testify to others that God loves us, that He is our Father.” Young people have a special role to play in this mission, the Pope said: “You are called to speak of Jesus to your contemporaries, not only those within your parishes or associations, but especially to those outside.”
Pope Francis said he understood the difficulties many young people experience in balancing their commitment to serving at church with various other activities “necessary for human and cultural growth.” This takes some organizing, he said… “But you are Germans, and you do this well!” But among the many demands in one’s daily routine, the Pope said, one of our priorities must be remembering our Creator, Who gives us life, Who loves us, and Who accompanies us on our journey.
Finally, referring to the theme of the year’s pilgrimage, Pope Francis said we have received from God the gift of freedom because we are created in His image. If freedom is misused, however, it “can lead us away from God, can make us lose the dignity with which He has clothed us.” This, he said, is why we need guidelines and rules, both in society and in the Church: to help us to do the will of God, and so live according to our dignity as human beings and children of God. “Dear boys and girls,” the Holy Father said, “do not misuse your freedom! Do not lose the great dignity of children of God that has been given to you! If you follow Jesus and His Gospel, your freedom will blossom like a plant in flower, and bring abundant good fruit! You will find authentic joy, because He wants us to be men and women who are perfectly happy and fulfilled. Only by adhering to the will of God can we do what is good and be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.”