During the Jan. 27 closing Mass for the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama City, Panama, Pope Francis told the young people that they must not wait until the future to start living their mission, because they are “the now of God.”

“You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God,” said Pope Francis. “He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.”

Jesus also reveals the “now” of God, as He becomes flesh, but like the people in Nazareth who were not always prepared to believe in someone whom they had watched grow up, sometimes “we prefer a distant God: nice, good, generous but far-off, a God who does not inconvenience us,” said Pope Francis.

“Because a close and everyday God, a friend and brother, demands that we be concerned with our surroundings, everyday affairs and above all fraternity,” he continued. “God chose not to reveal himself as an angel or in some spectacular way, but to give us a face that is fraternal and friendly, concrete and familiar. God is real because love is real; God is concrete because love is concrete.”

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass for World Youth Day Jan. 27 in Panama. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

The pope cautioned the young people against thinking that they need to treat being young as a type of “waiting room,” as if their vocation is far off in the future and “having nothing to do with the present.”

“For Jesus, there is no ‘meantime,’ but only a merciful love that wants to enter into and win over our hearts,” he said. “He wants to be our treasure, because He is not a ‘meantime,’ an interval in life or a passing fad; He is generous love that invites us to entrust ourselves.”

Throughout World Youth Day, the pilgrims have been reflecting on the words of Mary’s Fiat, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” In Mary, the young people can find a model of how to live in the “now” of the Lord, the pope said.

Young people from Poland pray during the closing Mass. (CS photo/ Jaclyn Lippelmann)

“She not only believed in God and in His promises as something possible; she believed God Himself and dared to say ‘yes’ to taking part in this now of the Lord,” said Pope Francis.

As the hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world received Communion, they joined in singing, “We are one body, one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Pope Francis thanked the president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, and Panama City Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta for their hard work in hosting World Youth Day. He also thanked all the young people who attended, saying, “Your faith and joy have made Panama, America and the entire world shake!”

Pilgrims pray during the World Youth Day closing Mass. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

He once again reminded them, “Do not forget that you are not the tomorrow, you are not the ‘meantime’; you are the now of God,” and asked them all to pray for him.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect for the Vatican's Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022. As he made the announcement, young people from Portugal jumped up and down on the stage waving the Portuguese flag.

Before the Mass began, the emcee for the event noted that it was the final World Youth Day event before the young people dispersed across the globe to be missionaries in their own homes. And as the Mass concluded, several young people reflected on how they would bring their experience in Panama City back home with them.

Ana Clara Macedo Gonçahies, a 20-year-old from Brazil, said she planned to try to express her faith more with her friends, colleagues and family.

“At first, I was very afraid [of going to World Youth Day], because I was coming alone,” she said, but she was able to join a group and meet new people. “I see that God provided…and for that I am very grateful,” she said.

Marīa Angēlica Mó, a 29 year-old from Guatemala, said she plans to try to share what she learned during World Youth Day with the people at her church at home who were unable to attend.

“The experience was wonderful and being next to the pope was a miracle for me,” she said.

A World Youth Day pilgrim receives communion during the closing Mass. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Estevan Perez, a 28-year-old from Modesto, California, said he came to World Youth Day hoping to discover his vocation, and after getting a lot of information, he said, “I can’t wait to go home and start calling some priests.”

“I’m on fire,” Perez said.

Christin Rottmann, who attended World Youth Day with a group of German Catholic Scouts, said one of the most meaningful experiences for her was going to Mass on the first Sunday that they were in Panama, and giving the sign of peace to people from all over the world.

“The feeling I had in this moment, to be in the Church, getting the sign of peace…that feeling lasted the whole World Youth Day,” she said. “That could only come from God.”