It had always been a lifelong dream and prayer of mine to attend the World Youth Day. I’ve been passionate about encountering Christ through various people, and the World Youth Day in Lisbon provided me with the opportunity to experience this through individuals from all corners of the world.
As I entered the World Youth Day in Portugal, I was grappling with numerous challenges while preparing for the event. I had to juggle responsibilities at my workplace, my role as an MFC HIGH Program coordinator, my duties at home, and my position as program head for the recent World Youth Congress.
Furthermore, I was personally undergoing some struggles. Turning 25 this year, I found myself struggling with the so-called “quarter-life crisis,” which significantly impacted my emotional and mental well-being. Over the past few months, I’ve questioned various aspects of my life – my past decisions, mistakes, regrets, and my self-perception. This led me to one of the lowest points in my life, where I began to feel undeserving of the love I receive, especially from God, due to my past mistakes. I’ve been constantly having negative thoughts, anxiety, and fear, leaving me in a state of despair and hopelessness. Sadly, I’ve kept these emotions to myself, avoiding seeking help and even pushing others away.
There were moments when I contemplated not attending the WYD due to feelings of unworthiness. However, I still held onto the belief that this pilgrimage could lead to transformation by God. Little did I know that God would do much more than that. Throughout the Days in the Diocese and the World Youth Day itself, I was continually reminded of God’s unconditional love through our activities and the people I encountered. The messages of God’s presence, knowledge of us, and love for us resonated throughout the conferences and sessions we participated in.
God doesn’t merely look at us; He truly sees us. His perception goes beyond our physical appearances and what we have done our lives. He does not only see our bodies, He sees our soul. To God, we aren’t just something- we are somebody, we are someone. Someone who has experienced life and its triumphs and hardships, God sees it all.
He doesn’t look solely on our mistakes but sees the entirety of our lives, including our experiences and challenges. He sees through the lies the world has told us and understands who we truly are. He sees all of these things, acknowledges all of these things, and respects all of these things.
As God sees us, God also knows us. God knows our passions, the sources of our happiness, our pains, struggles, and suffering. He knows what motivates us each morning and what frustrates us. Even the aspects of our lives we’ve hidden from everyone else are known to Him. He recognizes the truth of our being, which is that we are His beloved children.
God sees us, He knows us, and He loves us unconditionally. He cherishes us as His own, as if there is only one of us to love. This love persists regardless of our flaws, unworthiness, and wounds. It persists despite the aspects we’ve tried to keep hidden from Him. He extends His unconditional love to us and invites us to reciprocate that love. It’s through loving God that we can fully experience the love He yearns to bestow upon us.
The World Youth Day solidified my understanding that I am wholly seen, known, and loved by God, and this truth cannot be taken away. I recognized that there were parts of my life I had kept from God—the painful, the ugly, and the darkest part of my life. Despite my tendency to hide these from God, His love still prevailed. I now realize that amidst these darkest moments, God’s love remains unwavering, and I came to discover His love through my family and friends, who love and accept me for who I am, no matter the scars that my past left me.
The World Youth Day calls us to emulate Mother Mary, urging us to hasten towards God. We are called to share God’s love for His children with the world, conveying that He loves each and every one of us and accepts us as we are. The youth of today are also encouraged to fall in love with God, enabling us all to experience His love to the fullest. Pope Francis challenges us to approach God fearlessly during times of anxiety, fear, and doubt. He also urges us to hasten in our mission to share God’s love and His call to holiness with all the youth we encounter, despite our imperfections.
Fully seen, fully known, and fully loved, we are entrusted with sharing the truth of His love with the world. Let us not be afraid from sharing this truth to everyone we meet, every day of our lives.