(Vatican Radio) Actions speak louder than words, particularly in transmitting the faith to children and young people today, the so-called ‘digital natives’. If we want to help them experience “truth and love” then we adults must lead by example, said Pope Francis at morning Mass.
It was a very special celebration in the Santa Marta Chapel Friday, with the pews filled with children from a local Roman parish. After an initial awkwardness, the children overcame their shyness to engage in a lively question and answer session with the Holy Father. Looking out over them he said that it was like “looking at a promise, looking at the world to come”. Then Pope Francis asked the question: “what will we leave our future?”.
“Do we teach them what we heard in the First Reading: to walk in love and truth? Or do we teach them with words, and then allow our lives to go in another direction? But it is our responsibility to look out for these children! A Christian has to take care of children, little ones and pass on the faith, pass on what he lives, what is in his heart. We cannot ignore the little plants that grow”.
Pope Francis said that everything depends on our having the right attitude towards children. “What is my attitude?” he asked, “is it the attitude of brother, father, mother, sister, that helps them to grow or is it a detached [distant], “they grow up, I have my own life …?”.
“We all have a responsibility to give our very best and the very best that we have is our faith: give it to them, but give it by example! Words are pointless….in today’s world [obsessed with] images, where everyone has these cell phones words are pointless … Example! Example! What should I give them?”.
At this point of his homily, Pope Francis began asking the children why they were at Mass, giving rise to a spontaneous conversation. It took some time before one child took courage and admitted: ‘To see you…” to which Pope Francis replied “I also like to see you all”.
He then began questioning the children as to who had already received First Holy Communion, Confirmation, while pointing out to all of them that it is the Sacrament of Baptism that “opens the door to Christian life” and immediately after which “the journey of a lifetime begins”. The same journey described by the passage from the letter of St. John read out in the First Reading: “Walking in truth and love”. Later in that journey, he said, other Sacraments arrive such as marriage. But Pope Francis repeated, “it is important to know how to live this journey, to know how to live it like Jesus”:
“In these Sacraments – let me ask you a question – is prayer a sacrament? … Out loud now! … No! That’s right it is not! Prayer is not a sacrament, but we must pray. Do you know that you need to pray? Good, good … Yes! Pray to the Lord, pray to Jesus, pray to Our Lady, to help us in this journey of truth and love. Do you understand? You have come to see me, who said that? You. But also to see Jesus. Right? Or do we just leave Jesus out? (the children respond, ‘No!’). Now, Jesus is on the altar. And we will see Him, all of us! Jesus! Right now we have to ask Jesus to teach us to walk in truth and love. Will we all say it together? (all together) ‘Walking in truth and love’”.