ROME – With the global World Youth Day gathering in Panama just two months away, Pope Francis has sent a special message to young people, urging them to be open and to commit themselves in service to others.

Set to take place in Panama Jan. 22-27, 2019, the 34th global World Youth Day gathering will focus on the theme, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” words spoken by Mary after the Annunciation in Lk 1:38.

In his message, Francis described Mary’s words in the event’s theme as a “brave and generous ‘yes’” to God.

“It is the positive reply of one who understands the secret of vocation: to go beyond oneself and place oneself at the service of others,” he said, adding that humanity only finds meaning if their lives are lived in service to God and to other people.

Francis noted how many young people, both believers and nonbelievers, come to a point in their lives, usually at the end of their studies, when they want to do something to help those who are suffering.

“This is a strong point in young people, a strength that all of you possess. It is a strength that can change the world,” he said, calling it a “revolution” capable of overcoming “the strong forces at work in our world.”

“It is the revolution of service,” he said, explaining that to serve others “does not only mean to be ready for action. It also means to be in conversation with God with an attitude of listening, just like Mary. She listened to what the angel was saying to her and then she responded.”

Speaking of the importance of silence, the pope said it is only in quiet, internal conversation with God that a person discovers their own identity and the vocation God is calling them to, whether it be a vocation to marriage, the priesthood or consecrated life.

“All of these are ways of following Jesus. The important thing is to discover what God wants from us and to be brave enough to say ‘yes,’” he said. However, he cautioned against falling into egoism, saying the “vocation to be an egoist does not exist.”

Francis then pointed to Mary, saying she was a happy woman because she opened her heart and “replied generously” to what God asked of her.

When God reveals his plan to each person, as he did with Mary, these plans “are not intended to extinguish our dreams, but to ignite aspirations,” Francis said, adding that these plans are ultimately meant to produce “many smiles and happy hearts.”

“To respond to God positively is to make a first step towards being happy and towards making many people happy,” he said, and urged young people to ask themselves what God wants from them, and to allow him to answer. “Then you will see how your life is transformed and filled with joy.”

Francis closed his message inviting young people to participate in the events leading up to the January gathering, and asking for Mary to accompany and encourage them “to be brave and generous in your response” to God.

The pope’s message, published to coincide with the Church’s Nov. 21 Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was released as a video rather than in print, so a greater number of young people would have access to it, in keeping with the request of the recent Synod of Bishops on youth for ecclesial leaders to speak “their language.”