Christus Vivit – Christ is Alive
“GOD LOVES YOU… Christ saves you… He is alive.” This proclamation of the timeless Gospel truth lies at the heart of Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation – Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive). The exhortation, addressed to “young people and to the entire people of God,” seeks to respond to the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocation Discernment.
The exhortation is not a papal pronouncement, but synthesises and summarises the Synod as he proclaims that “Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world… Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!”.
Here are three key takeaways from Christus Vivit that relate to the Archdiocesan approach to Youth Ministry: Belong, Believe and Become.
Belong: young people are the now of God.
Pope Francis speaks of a Church marked by “hearts that are ever young” given to us by the eternally young Jesus. (13) Young people have a place in the Church, that follows Christ with a childlike faith. Following Christ does mean “isolating young people” but “strengthening them, accompanying them and impelling them to encounter others.” (30)
The Church to which young people belong is herself young, to which young people play an essential role. (37) The youthfulness of the Church, however, has nothing to do with the demographic of the congregation, but in its reflection of the ever-young Christ. To remain young, the Church must constantly seek “the strength born of God’s word, the Eucharist, and the daily presence of Christ and the power of his Spirit in our lives.” (35)
The youthful Church is a community that dares to be different. A Church where young people, and all people, can make their own – in other words, places of belonging. (218) Pope Francis invites us to be a “Church with open doors” where faith is not a prerequisite for admittance. Rather, the Church should seek out “all those who have other visions of life, who belong to other religions or who distance themselves from religion altogether.” (235)
This is the work of a missionary Church which includes young people. The youth are not “the future of our world” but rather “they are its present; even now, they are helping to enrich it.” (64)
Believe: ever young Jesus to an ever young Church.
Pope Francis says that Jesus “does not teach you from afar or from without, but from within your very youth, a youth he shares with you.” (31) The teaching of Christ is found in the proclamation of the Kerygma: God loves you; Christ saves you; He is alive and wants you to be alive.
Believing in a Father of love and the Son of salvation brings forth the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis speaks of the importance of “invoking the Holy Spirit each day… He can change your life, fill it with life and lead it along a better path.” (131)
To find these better paths, you must become “protagonists of change” (174) and “courageous missionaries” who witness everywhere to the Gospel by not just “speaking about the truth, but living it.” (175) Expressing your belief is not limited by borders, but is “for everyone.” (177)
Become: young people are called into the life and mission of the Church.
To truly proclaim the Gospel to everyone and recapture the youthfulness of the Church, Pope Francis seeks a new way of looking at youth ministry. Young people “are agents of youth ministry.” (203) We need to help young people “to “use their insight, ingenuity and knowledge to address the issues and concerns of other young people in their own language” (203). This requires a peer-to-peer ministry that focuses on an encounter with the living God (204), an announcement of the kerygma and support in growing in “fraternal love, community life and service (213). He says, youth ministry “should always include occasions for renewing and deepening our personal experience of the love of God and the living Christ” (214).
At the heart of this process of becoming is the fundamental aspect of ‘accompaniment’ which includes a deepened understanding of vocation and discernment.
The first thing to discern and discover is that “Jesus wants to be a friend to every young person” (250). To respond to our vocation, we need to “foster and develop all that we are… It has to do with finding our true selves in the light of God and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit” (257).
What does a flourishing life look like for a young person? The answer may be seen in the concluding wish of Pope Francis to “keep running… attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much. “The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith… And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us”.
You can read the whole Apostolic Exhortation “Christus vivit” online at http://w2.vatican. va/content/francesco/en/ apost_exhortations/documents/ papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20190325_christus-vivit.html