By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service
PANAMA CITY (CNS) — The path walked by Jesus to his passion and death on the cross is the same path of indifference and marginalization taken by those who suffer in the world today, Pope Francis said.
Addressing young men and women participating in the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day in Panama Jan. 25, the pope said the road to Calvary is “a way of suffering and solitude” that is “prolonged in a society that has lost the ability to weep and to be moved by suffering.”
Jesus “walks and suffers in all those faces hurt by the complacent and anesthetizing indifference of our society that consumes and is consumed, that ignores and is ignorant, blind to the pain of our brothers and sisters,” he said.
While the youthful participants expressed their joy with cheers when Pope Francis arrived, prayerful silence overcame the thousands of young people gathered as the solemn celebration began. Groups of pilgrims from different countries took turns carrying the World Youth Day cross throughout the stage at every station.
Each significant event of Jesus’ crucifixion was linked to a current theme or issue affecting young people, particularly in Latin America.
Two young pilgrims from Guatemala read the reflection and prayer that connected the station — Jesus denied by Peter — to the suffering and marginalization of indigenous people.
“Our indigenous people represent Jesus in centuries-old pain that marks their lives,” a young man prayed. “Denied and forgotten, they found in their Lord Jesus the image of their pain, the portrait of so many forgotten.”
The reflection and prayer on Jesus being scourged and crowned with thorns was read by two pilgrims from Venezuela, where political and economic instability continues, causing countless men, women and children to flee the country as refugees.
Just like those migrants and refugees, said the male pilgrim, Christ, too, heard “the footsteps of those who yesterday and today, persecute with brutality those who have not only lost everything, but also those who have seen how borders and doors are closed.”
He added that the boundaries separating countries today are “crowned with sharp thorns that threaten, despise and reject so many brothers and sisters.”
The Venezuelan pilgrims prayed that the world may see the face of Christ in the migrants and refugees of the country and “care, heal and fill with hope the scourged and thorn-crowned hearts of many who have lost even their homeland.”
After the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis, who had watched from the stage, began his meditation by reflecting on the arduous path taken by Christ and the paralyzing temptation of indifference that causes many to look away or actively hurt those who suffer.
“How easy it is to fall into a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation. It is not like that for you, Lord: On the cross, you identified yourself with all those who suffer, with all those who feel forgotten,” the pope said.
With arms outstretched on the cross, Jesus wished to “embrace all those unworthy of an embrace, a caress, a blessing or, worse yet, do not even realize that they need it.”
The pope then identified the ways in which Christ’s Way of the Cross continues, praying for women who are “mistreated, exploited, abandoned, and stripped of their dignity” as well as children “kept from being born” and denied the right to a childhood.
He also related the suffering path taken by Christ to the suffering of those who have been exploited and abused, especially by members of the clergy.
The suffering Christ, he said, can be seen “in the anguish of young faces, our friends, who fall into the snares of unscrupulous people — including people who claim to be serving you, Lord — snares of exploitation, criminal activity, and abuse which feed on their lives.”
Reflecting also on the suffering of indigenous people, the abandoned, the elderly and creation, which has been profoundly wounded by many, the pope encouraged the young pilgrims to look to Mary, who stood beneath the cross and accompanied the suffering of her son.
“She shared his suffering, yet was not overwhelmed by it. She was the woman of strength who uttered her ‘yes,’ who supports and accompanies, protects and embraces. She is the great guardian of hope,” the pope said.
“Lord, teach us to stand, at the foot of the cross, at the foot of every cross,” Pope Francis prayed. “Open our eyes and hearts this night, and rescue us from paralysis and uncertainty, from fear and desperation.”
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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.