Pope Francis: Get Up Off the Sofa and Build a Better World

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via Pope Francis’ address at the World Youth Day Prayer Vigil with young people:

But in life there is another, even more dangerous, kind of paralysis.  It is not easy to put our finger on it.  I like to describe it as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa.  In other words, to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa.  A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe.  A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep.  A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of videogames and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen.  A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear.  A sofa that allows us to stay home without needing to work at, or worry about, anything.  “Sofa-happiness”!  That is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, which can cause the greatest harm to young people.  And why does this happen Father?  Because, little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull.  The other day, I spoke about young people who go into retirement at the age of 20; today I speak about young persons who nod off, grow drowsy and dull, while others – perhaps more alert than we are, but not necessarily better – decide our future for us.  For many people in fact, it is much easier and better to have drowsy and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa.  For many people, that is more convenient than having young people who are alert and searching, trying to respond to God’s dream and to all the restlessness present in the human heart….

Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on.  No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.  It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark.  But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.  We are not free to leave a mark.  We lose our freedom.  This is the high price we pay.  There are so many people who do not want the young to be free; there are so many people who do not wish you well, who want you to be drowsy and dull, and never free!  No, this must not be so!  We must defend our freedom!

This is itself a great form of paralysis, whenever we start thinking that happiness is the same as comfort and convenience, that being happy means going through life asleep or on tranquillizers, that the only way to be happy is to live in a haze.  Certainly, drugs are bad, but there are plenty of other socially acceptable drugs, that can end up enslaving us just the same.  One way or the other, they rob us of our greatest treasure: our freedom.  They strip us of our freedom.

My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal “more”.  Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease.  Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.  To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.  To take the path of the “craziness” of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned.  To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists.  The God who encourages us to devise an economy marked by greater solidarity than our own.  In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others.  This means being courageous, this means being free!…

The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced.  The times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the bench.  Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark.  History today calls us to defend our dignity and not to let others decide our future.  No!  We must decide our future, you must decide your future!  As he did on Pentecost, the Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience; he wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands, into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation.  He wants your hands to continue building the world of today.  And he wants to build that world with you.  And what is your response?  Yes or no?  [Yes!]