Under the theme of Mary’s assent, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), more than 200,000 pilgrims flocked to Panama City, Panama. Pilgrims represented many Latin American countries from Mexico to Argentina. The level of energy was sky high, especially when Pope Francis arrived in the country. The days leading up to the pontiff’s arrival were booked with singers, bands, commentators, religious vocation booths, and pilgrims walking the shoreline, and weaving in and out of the old city and the new city.
Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta presided the opening Mass for the JMJ2019 Panama. In his homily, he credited the youth with a restless spirit that searches for truth, the presence of God, and a passion to serve the Lord through the ministries they serve back home. He affirmed their presence as agents of change, growth, and active participants for the Church on the move, never being satisfied with the status quo. The archbishop made a personal commitment to listen to their needs, to be their shepherd who walks with them always, and to see them take their rightful place in the Church.
On Friday, January 25, the Stations of the Cross provided a powerful backdrop for the sufferings that Latin Americans have been subjected to during their history which paralleled the sufferings of Christ. Some South American countries, many central American countries, Mexico and the United States were the subject of beautiful reflections while invoking the country’s principal image of Mary, the servant of God.
Most pilgrims participated in an all-day vigil beginning Saturday afternoon with prayer, praise and worship music, bands, video clips on “Laudato ‘Si” and so many other activities for the pilgrims. The vigil extended into the evening, the night, overnight, and all over a moonlit sky. They waited for the Sunday 10:30 am closing Mass with Pope Francis.
Under the umbrella of color and heat (de color y calor), the Pope’s homily reflected on God’s dream as fulfilled in Jesus, the Master, who incarnated and verbalized the Father’s dream of bringing glad tidings to the poor, of proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, of letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord. This dream is the “now of God.” Transformed people don’t sit around as in a waiting room to be given order, they are sent to fulfill their vocations, to complete their mission, to grab this promise and make it theirs. He tenderly invokes the young people and says, “You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God.”
The next World Youth Day will be in Portugal. See you there!