S. John Paul II Homil. 68
1. During next week, the liturgy wishes to be strictly obedient to the succession of events. Precisely the events which took place in Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago decide that this is Holy Week, the Week of the Lord's Passion.
This Sunday remains closely linked with the event that took place when Jesus approached Jerusalem in order to carry out there everything that had been announced by the prophets. Just on this day the disciples, by order of the Master, brought a donkey to him, after having asked to borrow it for a certain time. And Jesus sat upon it, in order that also that detail of the prophetic writings should be accomplished in him. In fact, the prophet Zechariah says:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
69 Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass" (9:9).
Then also the people who were going to Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast days—the people who looked at the acts carried out by Jesus and listened to his words—manifesting the messianic faith that he had aroused, shouted: "Hosanna! Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest! (Mc 11,9-10).
We repeat these words at every Mass when the moment of transubstantiation approaches.
2. In this way, then, on the way to the Holy City, near the entrance to Jerusalem, a scene of stirring triumph rises up before us.
"And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields" (Mc 11,8).
The people of Israel look to Jesus with the eyes of their own history; this is the history that brought the elect people, through all the ways of their spirituality, their tradition, their worship, precisely towards the Messiah. At the same time this history is a difficult one. The reign of David represents the peak point of the prosperity and earthly glory of the people which, from the time of Abraham, had found again several times their covenant with God-Yahweh, but had also broken it more than once.
And now will they form this covenant definitively? Or will they, perhaps, lose again this thread of the vocation which has marked the meaning of their history from the beginning?
Jesus enters Jerusalem on the donkey lent to him. The crowd seems nearer to the fulfilment of the promise for which so many generations had lived. The shouts, "Hosanna... Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord!", seem to want to express the meeting, now near, of human hearts with the eternal Choice. In the midst of this joy which precedes the Passover solemnities, Jesus is meditative and silent. He is fully aware that that meeting of human hearts with the eternal Choice will not take place by means of the "Hosannas", but by means of the cross.
Before he came to Jerusalem, accompanied by the crowd of people from his region, pilgrims for the feasts of the Passover, another had introduced him and had defined his place in the midst of Israel. It was precisely John the Baptist at the Jordan. But when John had seen Jesus, who was wailing, he had not cried "Hosanna", but pointing at him had said: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1,29).
Jesus hears the cry of the crowd on the day he enters Jerusalem, but his thought is fixed on John's words at the Jordan: "Behold him who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1,29).
70 3. Today we read the narration of the Passion of the Lord according to Mark. There is a complete description of the events which will follow one another in the course of this week. And it is, in a certain sense, the programme of the week.
We stop in absorption before this narration. It is difficult to know these events in a different way. Although we know them all by heart, we always listen to them again with the same absorption. I remember when I was still a young priest and was narrating the Passion of the Lord to children, with what attention they used to listen! This was always a catechesis completely different from others. The Church, therefore, does not stop re-reading the narration of the Passion of Christ—and she wishes this description to remain in our consciences and in our hearts.
In this week we are called to a special solidarity with Jesus Christ: "a man of sorrows" (Is 53,3).
4. And so together with the image of this Messiah, for whom the Israel of the Old Covenant was waiting, and whom, in fact, it now seemed to have almost reached with its own faith at the moment of the entrance into Jerusalem, today's liturgy presents to us another image at the same time. It is the image described by the Prophets, particularly Isaiah:
"I gave my back to the smiters... ...and I know that I shall not be put to shame" (Is 50,6).
Christ comes to Jerusalem in order that these words may be fulfilled in him, to realize the figure of the "Servant of Yahweh", by means of which the Prophet, eight centuries before, had revealed God's intention. The "Servant of Yahweh": the Messiah, the descendent of David but the one in whom the "Hosanna” of the people is accomplished, the one who undergoes the most terrible ordeal:
"Those who see me mock me… …Let him deliver him, if he is his friend" (Ps 21,8-9).
On the contrary, the eternal plan of love was to be realized not by means of "liberation" from infamy but just by means of obedience unto death. And now it is no longer the prophet that is speaking, but the Apostle, Paul, in whom "the word of the cross" found a particular way. Paul, aware of the Mystery of the Redemption, bears witness to him who "though he was in the form of God… emptied himself, taking the form of a servant… humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Ph 2,6-8).
This is the true image of the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, the Servant of Yahweh. With this image Jesus entered Jerusalem, when the pilgrims, who were accompanying him along the way sang: "Hosanna". And they spread the garments and branches of trees on the road along which he was walking.
5. And today we hold olive branches in our hands. We know that these branches will then dry up. With their ashes we will sprinkle our heads, next year, to recall that the Son of God, becoming man, accepted human death in order to earn Life for us.
1. Today, on the threshold of his Holy Triduum, we wish in a particular way to profess our faith in Christ, in him whose passion we must renew in the spirit of the Church, so that all “shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19,37), and the present generation of the earth's inhabitants bewail and lament him (cf. Lk Lc 23,27). This is the Christ: he in whom God comes to mankind as Lord of history: "I am the Alpha and the Omega... who is and who was and who is to come” (Ap 1,8).
This is the Christ "who loved me and gave himself for me" (Ga 2,20), Christ, who came to obtain for us "with his own blood… an eternal redemption" (He 9,12). Christ: the "Anointed", the Messiah. Once Israel, on the eve of her liberation from slavery in Egypt, marked the doors of the houses with the blood of the lamb (cf. Ex Ex 12,1-14). Behold, the Lamb of God is among us, he whom the Father himself anointed with power and with the Holy Spirit, and sent into the world (cf. Jn Jn 1,29 Ac 10,36-38).
Christ: the Anointed, the Messiah. During these days, with the power of the Holy Spirit's anointing, with the power of the fullness of the sanctity which is in him, and in him alone, he will cry to God "with a loud voice" (Lc 23,46), the voice of humiliation, of annihilation, of the cross: "O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Ps 17,2).
Thus he will cry for himself and for us.
2. Today we celebrate the liturgy of the Chrism, through which the Church, on the threshold of these holy days, wants to renew the sign of that power of the Spirit which she has received from her Redeemer and Bridegroom.
This power of the Spirit—grace and sanctity, which is in him—is imparted, at the price of the passion and death, to mankind through the sacraments of the faith. Thus the People of God is continuously built up, as the Second Vatican Council Teaches: "The faithful, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation and active charity" (Lumen Gentium LG 10).
With this holy oil, Oil of the Catechumens, the catechumens will be anointed during baptism, to be able to be then anointed with the Holy Chrism. They will receive this anointing a second time in the sacrament of Confirmation. They will also receive it—if called—during ordinations: deacons, priests, and bishops. In the sacrament of the sick, all invalids will receive the anointing with the oil of the sick (cf. James Jc 5,14).
Today we wish to prepare the Church for the new year of grace, for the administration of the sacraments of the faith, which have their centre in the Eucharist. All the sacraments, both those whose sign is anointing, and those administered without this sign, such as penance and matrimony, signify an effective participation in the power of him whom the Father himself anointed and sent into the world (cf. Lk Lc 4,18).
Today, Holy Thursday, we celebrate the liturgy of this power, which reached its fullness in the weaknesses of Good Friday, in the torments of his passion and agony, because it was through all that suffering that Christ procured grace for us: "Grace to you and peace... from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth" (Ap 1,4-5).
3. Through his abandonment to the Father, through his obedience until death, he also made us a "kingdom of priests" (Ap 1,6).
72 He proclaimed it on the solemn day on which he shared bread and wine with the apostles, as his Body and Blood for the world's salvation. And it is just today that we are called to live this day: the feast of priests. Today our hearts newly respond to the mysteries of the Supper table, at which Christ, with the first Eucharist, said: "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lc 22,19), thus instituting the Sacrament of the priesthood. And thus what the prophet Isaiah had said centuries before came to pass: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God" (Is 61,6).
Today we feel the warmest desire to be present at the altar for this eucharistic concelebration and to render thanks for the particular gift which the Lord has conferred on us. Conscious of the greatness of this grace, we further wish to renew the vows which each one of us, on the day of his own ordination, made to Christ and to the Church, depositing them in the hands of the Bishop. In renewing them, we ask for the grace of fidelity and perseverance. We also ask that the grace of the priestly vocation may fall on the ground of many young souls, and that it may take root in them as seeds which yield a hundredfold (cf. Lk Lc 8,8).
Today, bishops in their cathedrals throughout the world do likewise, as is required of them. Together with priests they renew the vows made on the day of their ordination. Let us join with them with yet more ardour through brotherhood in the faith and in the vocation that we attained at the Supper table as the particular legacy bequeathed us by the Apostles.
Let us persevere in this great priestly community, as servants of the People of God, and as disciples and lovers of him who was made obedient unto death, and who came into the world not to be served, but to serve! (cf. Mt Mt 20,28).
1. The "hour" of Jesus has come. The hour of his passage from this world to the Father. The beginning of the Holy Triduum. The Easter mystery is again clothed, as every year, by its liturgical aspect, beginning with this mass which—alone during the year—bears the name of "Coena Domini".
Having loved his own who were in the world, "he loved them to the end" (Jn 13,1). The Last Supper is precisely the witness of this love with which Christ, the Lamb of God, loved us to the end.
On that evening, the children of Israel, according to the old prescription, ate the lamb given by Moses on the eve of their exodus from slavery in Egypt. Jesus does the same with the disciples, faithful to the tradition which was only the "shadow of the good things to come" (He 10,1), only the symbol of the New Covenant and of the new Law.
2. What does it mean: "He loved them to the end"? It means: until that fulfilment which was to take place the following day, on Good Friday. On that day, God was to reveal how much he loved the world, and how, in that love, he had come to the extreme limit of giving, to the point, that is of "giving his only Son" (Jn 3,16). On that day, Christ showed that "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15,13). The love of the Father was revealed in the giving of the Son. In the giving through death.
Holy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, is in some sense the prologue of this giving, and the last preparation for it. And, in some sense, what was accomplished on that day goes beyond such a giving. It was just on Holy Thursday, during the Last Supper, that the meaning of: "He loved to the end", was revealed.
Rightly, in fact, we believe that loving to the end means until death, until the last breath. The last Supper teaches us, however, that, for Jesus, "to the end" means beyond the last breath. Beyond death.
3. This is, indeed, precisely the significance of the Eucharist. Death is not its end, but its beginning. The Eucharist begins with death, as St Paul teaches: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (Cor. 11:26).
The Eucharist is the fruit of this death. It recalls it constantly. It continually renews it. It always signifies it. It proclaims it. The death which has become the beginning of the new Coming: from the Resurrection to the Parousia, "until he comes”. The death which is the foundation of a new life.
Loving "to the end" means therefore, for Christ, loving through death and beyond the barrier of death: loving as far as the extremes of the Eucharist!
4. It was just in this manner that Jesus loved on that last evening. He loved his "own"—those who were then with him—and all those who were to inherit the mystery from them.
— The words he pronounced over the bread,
— the words he pronounced over the cup full of wine,
— the words we repeat today with particular emotion, and always repeat when we celebrate the Eucharist,
are precisely the revelation of this love through which, once and for all, for all time and until the end of the ages, he shared himself! Even before giving himself on the cross, as the "Lamb who takes away the sins of the world", he shared himself as food and drink: bread and wine, so that "they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10).
It was thus that he "loved to the end".
5. Therefore, Jesus did not hesitate to kneel before the Apostles to wash their feet. When Simon Peter opposed it, he persuaded him to let him do so. It was, in fact, a particular need of the moment's greatness. This washing of the feet, this purification before the Communion in which they were henceforth to participate, was necessary.
74 It was necessary. Christ himself felt the need to humble himself at the feet of his disciples: a humbling which tells us so much of him at the moment. From that time onwards, by sharing himself in the eucharistic communion, would he not continually lower himself to the level of so many human hearts? Would he not always serve them in this way?
“Eucharist" means "thanksgiving”.
"Eucharist" also means "service", the reaching out towards man: the serving of so many human hearts.
I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13,15).
We cannot be dispensers of the Eucharist unless by serving!
6. Now is the Last Supper. Christ prepares himself to depart through death, and through death itself prepares to remain.
Thus, death has become the fulfilment of love: he loved us "to the end".
Would not the context of the Last Supper in itself be enough to give Jesus the "right" to say to us all: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15,12)?
Holy Saturday, 14 April 1979
1. The word "death" sticks in one's throat. Although humanity has, during so many generations, become accustomed in a way to the reality of death and to its inevitability, it is, however, something overwhelming every time.
75 Christ's death had entered deeply the hearts of those closest to him, and the consciousness of the whole of Jerusalem. The silence that followed it filled the Friday evening and the whole of the following Saturday. On this day, in accordance with Jewish regulations, no one had gone to the place of his burial. The three women, of whom today's Gospel speaks, well remember the heavy stone with which the entrance to the sepulchre had been closed. This stone, of which they were thinking and about which they would speak the next day on their way to the sepulchre, also symbolizes the weight that had crushed their hearts. The stone that had separated the Dead One from the living, the stone that marked the limit of life, the weight of death. The women, who go to the sepulchre in the early morning of the day after the Sabbath, will not speak of death, but of the stone.
When they arrive at the spot, they will see that the stone no longer blocks the entrance to the sepulchre. It has been rolled back. They will not find Jesus in the sepulchre. They looked for him in vain! "He is not here; for he has risen, as he said" (Mt 28,6). They are to go back to the city and announce to the disciples that he has risen again and that they will see him in Galilee. The women are not able to utter a word. The news of death is spoken in a low voice. The words of the resurrection were even difficult for them to grasp. Difficult to repeat, so much has the reality of death influenced man's thought and heart.
2. Since that night and even more so since that morning which followed it, Christ's disciples have learned to utter the word "resurrection". And it has become the most important word, the central word, the fundamental word in their language. Everything takes its origin again from it. Everything is confirmed and is constructed again: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps 117,22-24).
It is for this very reason that the paschal vigil—the day following Good Friday—is no longer only the day on which the word "death" is spoken in a low voice, on which the last moments of the life of the Dead Man are remembered: it is the day of a great Awaiting.It is the Easter Vigil: the day and the night of waiting for the Day which the Lord has made.
The liturgical content of the Vigil is expressed by means of the various hours of the breviary and is then concentrated with all its riches in this liturgy of the night, which reaches its climax, after the period of Lent, in the first "Alleluia".
Alleluia: the cry that expresses paschal joy!
The exclamation that rings out again in the middle of the night of waiting and brings with it already the joy of the morning. It brings with it the certainty of resurrection. That which, at the first moment, the lips of the women in front of the sepulchre or the mouths of the apostles did not have the courage to utter, now the Church, thanks to their testimony, expresses with her Alleluia.
This song of joy, sung about midnight, announces to us the Great Day. (In some Slav languages, Easter is called the "Great Night" after the Great Night there arrives the Great Day: "the day which the Lord has made").
3. And now we are about to meet this Great Day with the paschal fire lit; we have lit the candle—Christ's light—from this fire and proclaimed beside it the glory of his Resurrection in the song of the Exsultet.Then we entered, by means of a series of readings, the process of the great announcement of creation, of the world, of man, of the People of God; we entered the preparation of the whole of creation for this Great Day, the day of the victory of good over evil, of Life over death. It is not possible to grasp the mystery of the Resurrection except by returning to the origins and following, thereafter, the whole development of the history of the economy of salvation up to that Moment! To the moment in which the three women of Jerusalem, stopping at the threshold of the empty sepulchre, heard the message of a young man dressed in a white robe "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here" (Mc 16,5-6).
4. That great Moment does not allow us to remain outside ourselves; it compels us to enter our own humanity. Christ not only revealed to us the victory of life over death, but brought us, with his Resurrection, the New Life. He gave us this new life.
Here is how St Paul puts it: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rm 6,3-4).
76 The words: "(we) were baptized into his death" say a great deal. Death is the water in which Life is won back: the water "welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4,14). It is necessary to "immerse oneself" in this water, in this Death, in order then to emerge from it as a New Man, as a New Creature, as a new being, that is, vivified by the Power of the Resurrection of Christ!
This is the mystery of the Water, which we bless tonight, which we cause to be penetrated with the "light of Christ, with the New Life; it is the symbol of the power of the Resurrection!
This Water becomes, in the Sacrament of Baptism, the sign of the victory over Satan, over sin; the sign of the victory that Christ won by means of the cross, by means of Death and which he then brings to each of us: "Our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rm 6,6).
5. This is the night of the Great Awaiting. Let us wait in Faith, let us wait with all our human being for him who at dawn broke the tyranny of death and revealed the Divine Power of Life: He is our Hope.
Saturday, 21 April 1979
Dearly beloved Deacons,
IN THE LONG HISTORY of the Church in Rome, it is not uncommon to see deacons associated with the Pope in his ministry, to see deacons at his side. And this morning it is a special joy for me to be surrounded by deacons, as our relationship – our ecclesial communion – reaches its highest expression in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Our joy is enhanced – yours and mine – to have some of your parents and loved ones here. All of us have come to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and to experience the love of Jesus. His is a sacrifical love – a love that moved him to lay down his life for his people and to take it up again. And his sacrifical love has been manifested with great generosity in your parents’ lives, and today it is very fitting that they should have an exceptional moment of serenity, satisfaction and wholesome pride.
As we commemorate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we reflect on his various appearances, as recorded in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles: his appearance to Mary Magdalen, to the two disciples, to the Eleven Apostles. We renew our faith – our holy Catholic faith – and we rejoice and exult because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia! Today more than ever before we are conscious of what it means to be an Easter people and to have the alleluia as our song.
The Easter event – the bodily Resurrection of Christ – pervades the life of the whole Church. It gives to Christians everywhere strength at every turn in life. It makes us sensitive to humanity with all its limitations, sufferings and needs. The Resurrection has immense power to liberate, to uplift, to bring about justice, to effect holiness, to cause joy.
77 But for you, Deacons, there is a particular message this morning. By your sacred ordination you have been associated in a special way with the Gospel of the Risen Christ. You have been commissioned to render a special type of service, diaconia, in the name of the Risen Lord. During the ordination ceremony the Bishop told each of you: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach". And so you are called to take the words of the Acts of the Apostles to heart. In the rank of deacons you have come to be associated with Peter and John and all the apostles. You support the apostolic ministry and share in its proclamation. Like the Apostles you too must feel impelled to proclaim by word and deed the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. You too must experience the need to do good, to render service in the name of the crucified and Risen Jesus – to bring God’s word into the lives of his holy people.
In today’s first reading we hear the Apostles saying: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard". And you are called, in the obedience of faith, to proclaim on the basis of their testimony – on the basis of what has been hanted down in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the great mystery of the Risen Lord, who hin his very act of Resurrection communicates eternal life to all his brethren because he communicates his victory over sin and death. Remember that the Apostles by their proclamation of Resurrection were a challenge and reproof to many. And they were warned never to speak again in the name of the Risen Jesus. But their response was immediate and clear: "You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God".
And in this obedience to God they found the supreme measure of paschal joy.
It is the same for you, the new deacons of this Easter season. As the associates of the Bishops and priests of the Church, your discipleship will be marked by these two characteristics: obedience and joy. Each, in this own way, will show the authenticity of your lives. Your ability to communicate the Gospel will depend on your adherence to the faith of the Apostles. The effectiveness of your diaconia will be measured by fidelity of your obedience to the mandate of the Church. It is the Risen Christ who has called your, and it is his Church that sends you forth to proclaim the message transmitted by the Apostles. And it is the Church that authenticates your ministry. Be confident that the very power of the Gospel you proclaim will fill you with the most sublime joy: sacrifical joy, yes, but the transforming joy of being intimately associated with the Risen Jesus in his triumphant mission of salvation. All the disciples of Jesus and you Deacons by a special title, are called to share the immense Easter joy experienced by Blessed Mother. At the Resurrection of her Son, we see Mary as Mater plena sanctae laetitiae, becoming for all us Causa nostrae laetitiae.
Obedience and joy are then true expression of your discipleship. But they are also conditions for your effective ministry, and at the same time gifts of God’s grace – effects of the very mystery of the Resurrection that you proclaim.
Dear Deacons, I speak to you as sons and brothers and friends. This is a day of special joy. But let it also be a day of special resolve. In the presence of the Pope, under the gaze of the Apostles Peter and Paul, in the company of Stephen, before the vitness of your parents, and in the communion of the universal Church, renew again your ecclesial consecration to Jesus Christ, whom you serve and whose life-giving message you are called to transmit in all its purity and integrity, with all its exigencies and in all its power. And know that it is with immense love that I repeat to you and to your brother deacons throughout the Church the words of this morning’s Gospel, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation".
This is the meaning of your ministry. This will be your greatest service to humanity. This is your response to God’s love. Amen.
1. Today we are following in the footsteps of a very ancient tradition of the Church, that of the second Sunday of Easter, called "in Albis", which is bound up with the liturgy of Easter and particularly with the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. This Vigil, as its modern form also testifies, represented a great day for catechumens, who, during the night of Easter, by means of baptism, were buried together with Christ in death in order to be able to walk in a new life, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (cf. Rom Rm 6,4).
In this inspiring image St Paul presented the mystery of baptism. Catechumens received baptism precisely during the Easter Vigil, as we had the fortune to have also this year, when I conferred baptism on children and adults of Europe, Asia and Africa.
In this way the night that precedes Easter. Sunday really became for them the "Passover", that is, the Passing from sin, that is from the death of the spirit, to Grace, that is to the life of the Holy Spirit. It was the night of a real Resurrection in the Spirit. As a sign of sanctifying grace, the newly baptized received during baptism a white garment, which distinguished them for the whole octave of Easter. On this day of the second Sunday of Easter, they took off this garment; hence the very ancient name of this day: Sunday "in Albis depositis".
78 In Rome this tradition is linked with the church of San Pancrazio. Today the liturgical station is precisely here. We have, therefore, the fortune to unite the pastoral visit to the parish with the Roman tradition of the station of Sunday in Albis.
2. Today, therefore, we wish to sing together here the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord, as the liturgy of this Sunday announces:
O give thanks to the Lord, / for he is good; / his steadfast love endures for ever!... / This is the day which the Lord has made; / let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps 117,1).
We wish also to give thanks for the indescribable gift of faith, which descended into our hearts and is constantly strengthened by means of the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord. Today St John speaks to us of the greatness of this gift in the powerful words of his letter: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1Jn 5,4-5).
So we thank the Risen Christ with great joy in our hearts, since he lets us participate in his victory. At the same time, we humbly beseech him that we may never cease being participants, through faith, in this victory: particularly in difficult and critical moments, in moments of disappointment and suffering, when we are exposed to temptation and ordeals. Yet we know what St Paul writes: "Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2Tm 3,12). And here, furthermore, are St Peter's words: "... you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1P 1,6-7).
3. The Christians of the first generations of the Church prepared for baptism for a long time and thoroughly. This was the period of the catechumenate, the traditions of which are still reflected today in the liturgy of Lent. These traditions were alive when adults prepared for baptism. To the extent to which the tradition of the baptism of children developed, the catechumenate in this form was to disappear. Children received baptism in the faith of the Church, for which the whole Christian community (which today is called the "parish") vouched, and in the first place their own family. The renewed liturgy of the baptism of children highlights this aspect even more. The parents with the godfathers and godmothers profess the faith, make the baptismal promises and assume responsibility for the Christian education of their child.
In this way, the catechumenate is transferred in a way to a later period, to the time of gradual growth to adulthood; then the baptized person must acquire, from those closest to him and in the parish community of the Church, a living awareness of that faith, in which he has already become a participant, by means of the grace of baptism. It is difficult to call this process "catechumenate" in the original and proper sense of the word. Nevertheless it is the equivalent of the authentic catechumenate and must take place with the same earnestness and zeal as the one that once preceded baptism. The duties of the Christian family and of the parish converge on this point. On this occasion today, we must realize this with special clarity and strength.
4. The parish, as the fundamental community of the People of God and as an organic part of the Church, has its origin, in a certain sense, in the sacrament of baptism. It is, in fact, the community of the baptized. Through every baptism, the parish participates in a special way in the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Its whole pastoral and apostolic effort aims at making all parishioners aware of baptism, so that they may persevere in Grace, that is, in the state of Sons of God and enjoy the fruits of baptism in personal life as well as in family and social life. Therefore renewal of the awareness of baptism is particularly necessary. It is a fundamental value in the life of the parish to undertake this catechumenate—which is now lacking in preparation for baptism—and carry it out the various stages of life.
The function of catechesis consists precisely of this. It must extend not only to the period of the elementary school but also to higher education and to later periods of life.
In particular sacramental catechesis is indispensable as preparation for first communion and confirmation; preparation for the sacrament of marriage is of great importance.
Furthermore the baptized man, if he wishes to be a Christian "in works and in truth", must constantly remain faithful, during life, to the catechesis received. It tells him, in fact, how he must understand his Christianity and put it into practice in the various phases and environments of professional, social and cultural life. This is the vast task of catechesis for adults.
79 God be thanked, this activity is developing widely in the life of the diocese of Rome and in your parish.
5. I am informed, indeed, of the many initiatives of catechesis and associative life, which the parish institutions are carrying out with the help of many Religious Families, male and female, and various ecclesial movements. Special mention should be made of the well-deserving Discalced Carmelite Fathers, who dedicate their energies to the spiritual progress of this parish of San Pancrazio. The large population concentrated here is just another stimulus for an indefatigable apostolic commitment. My word, therefore, becomes exhortation and encouragement both to the parish leaders that they may continue joyfully in their service to the Body of Christ, and to all the members of the Community, that they may always and consciously find in it the best place for their growth in the faith, hope and love which they are to testify to the world.
6. On Sunday "In Albis", the liturgy of the Church makes us witnesses of the meeting of the Risen Christ with the apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The figure of the Apostle Thomas and Christ's talk with him always attracts our particular attention. The Risen Master allows him in a unique way to recognize the signs of his passion and thus convince himself of the reality of the Resurrection. Then St Thomas, who at first did not want to believe, expresses his faith in the words: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20,28). Jesus replies: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20,29).
May the experience of Lent, touching in a certain sense the signs of Christ's Passion, and the solemnity of his Resurrection, renew and strengthen our faith—and also the faith of those who are mistrustful, half-hearted, indifferent and distant.
And may the blessing that the Risen Christ uttered in his conversation with Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe", remain with us all!
S. John Paul II Homil. 68