S. John Paul II Homil. 137
Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
1. Let my words be brief today. Let the feast itself, the Eucharist itself, speak to us, instead, in the fullness of its liturgical expression.
We are about to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of Mass on the parvis of the Basilica of St John Lateran, cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. After this we will proceed in procession to the Basilica of St Mary Major on the Esquiline.
In this way we wish to put together, in one liturgical act, the worship of the Sacrifice and the worship of adoration, as today's solemnity and the centuries-old tradition of the Church demand of us.
2. We wish to proclaim to Rome and the world the Eucharist, that is, Gratitude. This Sacrament is the sign of the gratitude of the whole of creation for the Creator's visit. This Sacrament is the sign of man's gratitude because the Creator became a creature; because God became man; because he took a human body from his Mother Mary Immaculate" to raise us men again to the Father; to make us Sons of God.
138 We wish, therefore, to proclaim and sing with our mouths, and still more avow with our human hearts, gratitude for the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of God, with which he nourishes our souls and renews our human hearts.
3. We wish furthermore to proclaim the Eucharist to Rome and the world as the sign of the covenant that God concluded irreversibly with man by means of the Body and Blood of his Son.
This Body was exposed to the Passion and death. It shared the earthly fate of man after original sin. This Blood was shed to seal God's New Covenant with man: the covenant of grace and love, the covenant of holiness and truth. We are participants in this covenant even more than the People of God of the Old Law. Today, therefore, we wish to bear witness before all men.
Yet God became man for all men. Christ died and rose again for everyone. Everyone, finally, has been called to the Banquet of eternity. And here on earth the Lord God invites each one saying: "Take and eat... Take and drink!... in order not to stop on the way!"
4. Finally, we wish to proclaim the Eucharist to Rome and the world as a Sign of the worship due to God alone. How admirable is our God! He whom no intellect is able to embrace and worship in accordance with his holiness. He whom no heart is able to love in accordance with his love.
How wondrous he is when he wishes us to embrace him, love him and worship him, according to the human dimension of our faith, under the species of Bread and Wine!
5. Christ in the Eucharist, accept this expression of adoration and love which the Church renders to you by means of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Peter's successor. Be worshipped through the memory of all my Predecessors who worshipped you before the eyes of Rome and the world.
At the end of today's liturgy, let your Holy Mother who gave you, Eternal Son of the Father, a human body receive you from our hands on the parvis of her temple:
-"Ave, verum corpus, / natum ex / Maria Virgine, / Vere passum immolatum / in cruce pro homine; / esto nobis praegustatum / mortis in examine!"
Hail, oh true Body, / born of the Virgin Mary, / which really suffered and was sacrificed / on the Cross for Mankind; / may you be foretasted by us / when the test of death arrives!
1. I express cordial and sincere joy at our meeting. Joy in particular because the meeting takes place in the framework of the Symposium on the subject: "The young and faith".
I remember the preceding Symposium, in 1975, in which I had the fortune to participate actively as one of the speakers. At the same time I wish to express my happiness at meeting you today, concelebrating the Holy Eucharist. I hope that in this communion, in which our priestly and episcopal unity is expressed in the fullest and deepest way, we will receive greater light and strength of the Holy Spirit from Christ—the Prince of Pastors, who as the one Eternal Priest is also the one source and foundation of this unity, which we manifest and live in the eucharistic concelebration.
We need so much this light and strength of the Spirit of Christ for all the tasks that derive from our mission—for example, in the sphere of the subject of your Symposium: Youth—but not exclusively. Those tasks as a whole, our whole mission, call for some particular grace in order that we may be able to meet with exact and full correspondence the signs of the times, which are the salvific "kairos" of Europeans and of the continent we represent, and to which "we are sent" as successors of those Apostles, those messengers of the Gospel, from whom the history of Europe in the Christian era begins.
2. Your meeting—and therefore also our eucharistic concelebration today—has its roots in that happy thought of Vatican II which reminds the Bishops of the whole Church of the collegial character of the ministry they exercise. Precisely from this thought, expressed with the greatest doctrinal precision in the dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium", there have sprung a series of pastoral institutions and initiatives which already bear witness today to the new vitality of the Church, and will certainly constitute in the future the foundation of the further renewal of her salvific mission in a variety of dimensions and spheres of action.
Saying so, I have still before my eyes the marvellous assembly of bishops of the Church of Latin America, which I had the fortune to inaugurate at Puebla in Mexico on 28 January of the current year. The assembly itself was the fruit of a systematic collaboration of all the Episcopal conferences of that immense continent, in which nearly half of the Catholics of the whole world now live. They are Episcopates of varying numerical importance, some very numerous, particularly such as that of Brazil which alone has over 300 Bishops. The methodical collaboration of all the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America has its support in the Council commonly known as "CELAM", which makes it possible for these Conferences to re-read together the tasks that await Pastors of the Church in that great continent, so important for the future of the world.
The very title of the Conference held at Puebla from 27 January to 13 February 1979 already very clearly bears witness to this. It was: Evangelization in the present and the future of Latin America. It is, therefore, already easy to understand from the title how useful at Puebla was the providential subject of the ordinary session of the 1974 Synod of Bishops, namely: evangelization.
3. In connection with this fundamental subject every bishop in the world, as the pastor of his particular Church, of his diocese, could and should consider his Church from the contemporary point of view. And as evangelization expresses the mission of the Church, this look must be connected with the past and open up the perspective of the future: yesterday, today and tomorrow. And not only every single bishop in his diocese, but also the different communities of bishops and above all the National Episcopal Conferences can and must make that "key subject" of the 1974 Synod an object of reflection about society, with regard to which they have pastoral responsibility for the work of evangelization. The subject proposed by Paul VI for the Synod, five years ago, has multiform possibilities of application in various spheres.
At the same time, this subject induces us to reflect, in a fundamental way, if it is a question of realizing the Council itself and of carrying out its doctrine. The basic realization of Vatican II is nothing but a new awareness of the divine mission transmitted to the Church "among all nations" and "to the end of the world". The basic realization of Vatican II is nothing but a new sense of responsibility for the Gospel; for the Word, for the Sacrament, for the work of salvation, which the whole People of God must assume in the way suited to it. The task of the bishops is to direct this great process. Their dignity and pastoral responsibility lies in this.
3. It is of great weight and fundamental importance to reflect on the problem of evangelization with regard to the European continent. I consider it a complex, extremely complex, subject. Moreover, as also for any other contest, it is necessary to bring out from an analysis of the present situation a vision of the future, since this situation is a consequence of the past, ancient as the Church herself is and the whole of Christianity. In the analysis we should reach every single country, every single nation of our continent, but also understand every situation of theirs, having before our eyes the great movements of history which—especially in the second millennium—divided the Church and Christianity on the European continent.
I think that, at present, in time of ecumenism. the moment has come to look at these questions in the light of the criteria drawn up by the Council; to look at them in a spirit of brotherly collaboration with the representatives of the Churches and communities with which we do not have full unity; and, at the same time, it is necessary to look in a spirit of responsibility for the Gospel. And this not only in our continent, but also outside it. Europe is still the cradle of creative thought, of pastoral initiatives, of organizational structures, the influence of which goes beyond its frontiers. At the same time, Europe, with its grand missionary past, is questioning itself at the various points of its present "ecclesial geography" and wondering if it is not about to become a missionary continent.
There exists therefore for Europe the problem that was defined in "Evangelii Nuntiandi" as "self-evangelization". The Church must always evangelize herself. Catholic and Christian Europe needs this evangelization. It must evangelize itself. Nowhere, perhaps, so much as in our continent do the movements of the negation of religion, the movements of the "death of God", of programmed secularization, of organized militant atheism, take shape so clearly. The 1974 Synod provided a great deal of material in this connection.
140 It is possible to examine all this according to historico-social criteria. The Council, however, indicated to us another criterion: that of the "signs of the times", that is, of a special challenge of Providence, of him who is "the Lord of the harvest" (Lc 10,2).
Next year we will celebrate the fifteenth centenary of the birth of St Benedict, whom Paul VI proclaimed Patron Saint of Europe. This might be, perhaps, the right moment for such a deep reflection on the problem of the "yesterday and today" of the evangelization of our continent—or rather, for reflection on this challenge of Providence, which, in its rich and varied historical complex, constitutes the Christian "today" of Europe as regards its responsibility for the Gospel—and also in the perspective of the future.
Our mission is always and everywhere turned towards the future. Either towards the future of which we are certain in faith: the eschatological future; or towards the future about which we can humanly be uncertain. Let us think of those who were the first to come to the European continent as messengers of the Good News, such as Peter and Paul. Let us think of those who, throughout the history of Europe, have opened the ways towards new peoples, such as Augustine or Boniface, or the brothers of Thessalonica, Cyril and Methodius. Not even they were certain of the human future of their mission or even of their own fate. Faith and hope were more powerful than this human uncertainty. The love of Christ that "drove" them (cf. 2Co 5,14) was more powerful. In this faith, hope, and charity was manifested the operating Spirit. We, too, must become docile and effective instruments of his action in our age.
6. The subject of your Symposium is: "The young and faith".
It is well that it is. I think it is deeply and organically integrated in the great subject of reflection of the whole post-conciliar Church, which can never be far from our attention, the subject of evangelization. If we think of evangelization in terms of the future, it is necessary to turn our minds to the young: we must meet the intellects, the hearts, the characters of the young. This is the problem chosen, through which we arrive at the global problem.
The exchange of your experiences and suggestions must be a wide one, it cannot remain "particular". All practice of collegiality serves the cause of the universality of the Church. You, too, dear Brothers, through this practice of collegial collaboration which forms your Symposium, must, so to speak, "expand the spaces of love" (S. Aug. de Ep. Ioan. ad Parthos, X, 5: P.L. XXXV, 2060). This expansion never takes you away from the responsibility entrusted directly to each of you, on the contrary it makes it keener. The Bishops and Episcopal Conferences of every country and nation in Europe must live the interests of all the countries and nations of our continent. And let those of you who are absent be present—I would say—even more intensely. It is necessary to work out special, effective methods to make those who are "absent" "intensely present". Their absence cannot be ignored or be justified with commonplaces.
Remember that just as all the Episcopal Conferences of Europe take part in this symposium, through their representatives, so, too, all the Episcopates, all the bishops stand around this altar in the eucharistic communion of love, sacrifice, and prayer. And in a certain way those who are missing, those who have not been able to attend, are present even more vividly.
Through everyone, the Church, as the people of God of our whole continent, "works out" her Christian future in union with Christ the Prince of Pastors, with Christ the Eternal Priest.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
141 1. Today I wish, together with you, to contemplate the Church fully "subject to Christ" (cf. Eph Ep 5,24) as a faithful Bride. The last few days, which we have lived meditating together on the sacrifice of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, commit us to seek the manifestation of the mystery realized in their vocation, through the witness of faith and love, borne to the point of death. A manifestation, which we find throughout the history of the Church, throughout the centuries and the generations of her faithful sons and daughters, servants and pastors, going back in this way to that sublime love, with which Our Redeemer and Lord "loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water... that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ep 5,25-27).
To that sublime love, to that Heart pierced on the Cross and open to the Church, his Bride, I wish today, together with you, to go on a spiritual pilgrimage, from which we ourselves must return "purified, strengthened and sanctified" in accordance with these days.
Here is the Church! The fruit of the inscrutable love of God in the Heart of his Son!
Here is the Church! Bringing the fruits of the love of the holy Apostles, of the Martyrs, of the Confessors and Virgins! Of the love of whole generations!
Here is the Church: our Mother and Bride at the same time! The goal of our love, our testimony and our sacrifice. The goal of our service and indefatigable work. The Church, for which we live in order to unite ourselves with Christ in a unique love. The Church, for which you, Revered and Dear Brothers, created Cardinals in the Consistory yesterday, must now live even more intensely from now on uniting yourselves with Christ in a unique love for her.
2. The Church is in the world. You all constitute her living testimony in the world, arriving here from so many places distant in space, but, at the same time, close spiritually.
The Church is in the world as a sign of the salvific will of God himself. Is she not the Body of him whom the Father anointed and sent into the world "to bring good tidings to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound... to comfort all who mourn... to give them a garland instead of ashes... the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit" (Is 61,1-5)?
Should not the Church be all this? Should she not live by all this, if she is to respond to the salvific mission of him who is her Bridegroom and Head?
You know very well, Revered and Dear Brothers—and all the Churches from which you come know it too— into what language of facts, experiences, aspirations, sadness, suffering, persecution and hopes it would be necessary to translate that ancient prophetic text of Isaiah, in order that it might express, in the language of our time, how the Church is rooted in the world; how much she desires to be, in the world, a living sign of the salvific will of the Eternal Father with regard to every man and all humanity! The Church of our difficult age—of the second millennium that is drawing to a close—a period of extreme tensions and threats or of great fears and great expectations!
3. At all times this Church is simple with the same simplicity that our Lord and Master inspired in her with the word of the Gospel. How little is necessary for the Church "to begin to exist" among Men! "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18,20); and "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven" (Mt 18,19).
How little is necessary for this Church to exist, multiply and spread! That is decided by those two or three gathered in Christ's name and united through him, in prayer, with the Father. How little is necessary for this Church to exist everywhere, even in those places where, according to human "laws" she does not exist and cannot exist and where she is condemned to death! How little is necessary for her to exist, and realize her deepest substance!
142 For her to live her perennial youth! The same youth that the first Christians lived, who "devoted. themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers... Breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people". (Ac 2,42), as we read today in the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles. On reading this there reawaken not only the memories, but also the desires of simplicity on the part of the Bride, who has just experienced the sacrifice of love of her Crucified Bridegroom and rejoices in her generating fertility in the Holy Spirit when—as we read —"the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Ac 2,48).
This Church is simple with the simplicity that is characteristic of her.
And she is strong with that unique strength which she received from the Lord: that unique strength! No other! "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 18,18).
Here is the specific quality of this strength of the Church. Neither man nor humanity knows such a strength, in any other dimension of this individual or social existence. She does not draw this strength from any field of her own temporariness or from any reserve of nature... This strength comes only from God. Directly from God. This strength is redeemed by the Blood of her Redeemer and Bridegroom. It is the strength of the Holy Spirit.
It forms an alliance with what is deepest in man: by means of faith, hope and charity it seeks—immutably seeks—the solutions in Heaven of what cannot be fully solved on earth.
4. Revered and Dear Brothers! How much we rejoice at the fact that you, newly created Cardinals, wed this Church today following the example of Christ! The sign of this wedding is the ring, which I will shortly put on your finger.
How we rejoice at these nuptials of yours, which bring into the life of the People of God, all over the earth, a new inflow of love and a new certainty of love! A new—we hope—efficacy of love. Of that love with which we have been loved and with which we must love one another. Love which comes from the Bridegroom and is for the Bridegroom.
Love, by means of which the Church must be loved with renewed fervour by each of you.
Love, by means of which she must express herself again in all the simplicity and the strength that she .received from the Lord.
Love by means of which the Church must become again "sine ruga et macula" for the Bridegroom.
I wish you this love, together with the whole People of God in Rome and in the world. I lay my wish in the hands of the mother of the Church, the Bride of the Holy Spirit.
A phobail dhilis na hÉir??nn, go mbeannaí Dia dhaoibh!
Your Excellency, the President of Ireland,
Your Eminence, the Cardinal Primate,
Your Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin,
My Brothers in the Episcopate: Bishops of Ireland, Visiting Bishops,
Your Excellency, the Taois???h, and Members of the Irish Government,
My Lord Mayor and Corporation of Dublin,
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
1. Like Saint Patrick, I too have heard "the voice of the Irish" calling to me, and so I have come to you, to all of you in Ireland.
From the very beginning of its faith, Ireland has been linked with the Apostolic See of Rome. The early records attest that your first Bishop, Palladius, was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine; and that Saint Patrick, who succeeded Palladius, was "confirmed in the faith" by Pope Leo the Great. Among the sayings attributed to Patrick is the famous one addressed to the "Church of the Irish, nay of the Romans", showing them how they must pray in order to be "Christians as the Romans are".
144 This union of charity between Ireland and the Holy Roman Church has remained inviolable and unbreakable down all the centuries. You Irish Catholics have kept and loved the unity and peace of the Catholic Church, treasuring it above all earthly treasures. Your people have spread this love for the Catholic Church everywhere they went, in every century of your history. This has been done by the earliest monks and the missionaries of Europe's Dark Ages, by the refugees from persecution, by the exiles and by the missionaries—men and women—of the last century and this one.
I have come to you as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the whole Church, in order to celebrate this union with you in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, here in Ireland's capital city of Dublin, for the first time in Irish history. As I stand at this moment, a pilgrim for Christ to the land from which so many pilgrims for Christ, peregrini pro Christo, went out over Europe, the Americas, Australia, Africa, Asia, I am living a moment of intense emotion. As I stand here, in the company of so many hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women, I am thinking of how many times, across how many centuries, the Eucharist has been celebrated in this land. How many and how varied the places where Mass has been offered—in stately mediaeval and in splendid modern cathedrals ; in early monastic and in modern churches; at Mass rocks in the glens and forests by "hunted priests", and in poor thatch-covered chapels, for a people poor in worldly goods but rich in the things of the spirit, in "wake-houses" or "station houses", or at great open-air hostings of faithful—on the top of Croagh Patrick and at Lough Derg. Small matter where the Mass was offered ; for the Irish, it was always the Mass that mattered. How many have found in it the spiritual strength to live, even through the times of greatest hardship and poverty, through days of persecution and vexations. Dear brothers and sisters, dear sons and daughters of Ireland, permit me, together with you, to glance back over your history, in the light of the Eucharist celebrated here for so many centuries.
2. From the Upper Room in Jerusalem, from the Last Supper, in a certain sense, the Eucharist writes the history of human hearts and of human communities. Let us reflect on all those who, being nourished on the Body and Blood of the Lord, have lived and died on this island, bearing in themselves, because of the Eucharist, the pledge of eternal life. Let us think of so many generations of sons and daughters of this country, and, at the same time, sons and daughters of the Church. May this Eucharist of ours be celebrated in the atmosphere of the great communion of the Saints. We form a spiritual union in this Mass with all the generations who have done God's will throughout the ages up to the present day. We are one in faith and spirit with the vast throng which filled this Phoenix Park on the occasion of the last great Eucharistic hosting held on this spot, at the Eucharistic Congress in 1932.
Faith in Christ has profoundly penetrated into the consciousness and life of your ancestors. The Eucharist transformed their souls for eternal life, in union with the living God. May this exceptional Eucharistic encounter of today be at the same time a prayer for the dead, for your ancestors and forebears. With their help, may it become more fruitfully a prayer for the living, for the present generation of sons and daughters of today's Ireland, preparing for the end of the twentieth century, so that they can meet the challenges that will be put before them.
3. Yes, Ireland, that has overcome so many difficult moments in her history, is being challenged in a new way today, for she is not immune from the influence of ideologies and trends which present-day civilization and progress carry with them. The very capability of mass media to bring the whole world into your homes produces a new kind of confrontation with values and trends that up until now have been alien to Irish society. Pervading materialism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The most sacred principles, which were the sure guides for the behaviour of individuals and society, are being hollowed out by false pretences concerning freedom, the sacredness of life, the indissolubility of marriage, the true sense of human sexuality, the right attitude towards the material goods that progress has to offer. Many people now are tempted to self-indulgence and consumerism, and human identity is often defined by what one owns. Prosperity and affluence, even when they are only beginning to be available to larger strata of society, tend to make people assume that they have a right to all that prosperity can bring, and thus they can become more selfish in their demands. Everybody wants a full freedom in all the areas of human behaviour and new models of morality are being proposed in the name of would-be freedom. When the moral fibre of a nation is weakened, when the sense of personal responsibility is diminished, then the door is open for the justification of injustices, for violence in all its forms, and for the manipulation of the many by the few. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery.
4. And so, it becomes all the more urgent to steep ourselves in the truth that comes from Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14,6), and in the strength that he himself offers us through his Spirit. It is especially in the Eucharist that the power and the love of the Lord are given to us.
The Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ offered up for us is an act of supreme love on the part of the Saviour. It is his great victory over sin and death—a victory that he communicates to us. The Eucharist is a promise of eternal life, since Jesus himself tells us : "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6,54).
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is meant to be the festive celebration of our salvation. In the Mass we give thanks and praise to God our Father for having given us Redemption through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is also the centre of the Church's unity, as well as her greatest treasure. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, the Eucharist contains "the Church's entire spiritual wealth" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5).
Today I wish to express the gratitude of Jesus Christ and his Church for the devotion that Ireland has shown to the Holy Eucharist. As Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, I assure you that the Mass is indeed the source and summit of your Christian life.
On Sunday mornings in Ireland, no one seeing the great crowds making their way to and from Mass could have any doubt about Ireland's devotion to the Mass. For them a whole Catholic people is seen to be faithful to the Lord's command : Do this in memory of me. May the Irish Sunday continue always to be the day when the whole people of God—the pobal Dé—makes its way to the House of God, which the Irish call the House of the People—the teach an phobail—. I have learned with great joy that large numbers also come to Mass several times each week and even every day. This practice is a great source of grace and of growth in holiness.
5. Yes, it is from the Eucharist that all of us receive the grace and strength for daily living to live real Christian lives, in the joy of knowing that God loves us, that Christ died for us, and that the Holy Spirit lives in us.
145 Our full participation in the Eucharist is the real source of the Christian spirit that we wish to see in our personal lives and in all aspects of society. Whether we serve in politics, in the economic, cultural, social or scientific fields—no matter what our occupation is—the Eucharist is a challenge to our daily lives.
Dear brothers and sisters: there must always be consistency between what we believe and what we do. We cannot live on the glories of our past Christian history. Our union with Christ in the Eucharist must be expressed in the truth of our lives today—in our actions, in our behaviour, in our life-style, and in our relationships with others. For each one of us the Eucharist is a call to ever greater effort, so that we may live as true followers of Jesus : truthful in our speech, generous in our deeds, concerned, respectful of the dignity and rights of all persons, whatever their rank or income, self-sacrificing, fair and just, kind, considerate, compassionate and self-controlled—looking to the well-being of our families, our young people, our country, Europe and the world. The truth of our union with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is tested by whether or not we really love our fellow men and women; it is tested by how we treat others, especially our families : husbands and wives, children and parents, brothers and sisters. It is tested by whether or not we try to be reconciled with our enemies, by whether or not we forgive those who hurt us or offend us. It is tested by whether we practise in life what our faith teaches us. We must always remember what Jesus said: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15,14).
6. The Eucharist is also a great call to conversion.We know that it is an invitation to the Banquet ; that, by nourishing ourselves on the Eucharist, we receive in it the Body and Blood of Christ, under the appearances of bread and wine. Precisely because of this invitation, the Eucharist is and remains the call to conversion. If we receive it as such a call, such an invitation, it brings forth in us its proper fruits. It transforms our lives. It makes us a "new man", a "new creature" (cf. Gal Ga 6,15 Ep 2,15 2Co 5,17). It helps us not to be overcome by evil, but to "overcome evil with good" (Rm 12,21). The Eucharist helps love to triumph in us—love over hatred, zeal over indifference.
The call to conversion in the Eucharist links the Eucharist with that other great Sacrament of God's love, which is Penance. Every time that we receive the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, we receive the forgiveness of Christ, and we know that this forgiveness comes to us through the merits of his death—the very death that we celebrate in the Eucharist. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are all invited to meet Christ personally in this way, and to do so frequently. This encounter with Jesus is so very important that I wrote in my first Encyclical Letter these words: "In faithfully observing the centuries-old practice of the Sacrament of Penance—the practice of individual confession with a personal act of sorrow and the intention to amend and make satisfaction—the Church is therefore defending the human soul's individual right : man's right to a more personal encounter with the crucified forgiving Christ, with Christ saying, through the minister of the sacrament of Reconciliation : 'Your sins are forgiven' ; 'Go, and do not sin again'". Because of Christ's love and mercy, there is no sin that is too great to be forgiven ; there is no sinner who will be rejected. Every person who repents will be received by Jesus Christ with forgiveness and immense love.
It was with great joy that I received the news that the Irish Bishops had asked all the faithful to go to Confession as part of a great spiritual preparation for my visit to Ireland. You could not have given me a greater joy or a greater gift. And if today there is someone who is still hesitating, for one reason or another, please remember this : the person who knows how to acknowledge the truth of guilt, and asks Christ for forgiveness, enhances his own human dignity and manifests spiritual greatness.
I take this occasion to ask all of you to continue to hold this Sacrament of Penance in special honour, for ever. Let all of us remember the words of Pius XII in regard to frequent Confession : " Not without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was this practice introduced into the Church " (AAS 35, 1943, p. 235).
Dear brothers and sisters: the call to conversion and repentance comes from Christ, and always leads us back to Christ in the Eucharist.
7. I wish also at this time to recall to you an important truth affirmed by the Second Vatican Council, namely: "The spiritual life, nevertheless, is not confined to participation in the liturgy" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 12). And so I also encourage you in the other exercises of devotion that you have lovingly preserved for centuries, especially those in regard to the Blessed Sacrament. These acts of piety honour God and are useful for our Christian lives ; they give joy to our hearts, and help us to appreciate more the liturgical worship of the Church.
The visit to the Blessed Sacrament—so much a part of Ireland, so much a part of your piety, so much a part of your pilgrimage to Knock—is a great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours and Eucharistic processions are likewise precious elements of your henitage—in full accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
At this time, it is also my joy to reaffirm before Ireland and the whole world the wonderful teaching of the Catholic Church regarding Christ's consoling presence in the Blessed Sacrament : his real presence in the fullest sense : the substantial presence by which the whole and complete Christ, God and man, is present (cf. Mysterium Fidei MF 39). The Eucharist, in the Mass and outside of the Mass, is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and is therefore deserving of the worship that is given to the living God, and to him alone (cf. Mysterium Fidei MF 55 Paolo VI, Address of 15 June 1978).
And so, dear brothers and sisters, every act of reverence, every genuflection that you make before the Blessed Sacrament, is important because it is an act of faith in Christ, an act of love for Christ. And every sign of the Cross and gesture of respect made each time you pass a church is also an act of faith.
May God preserve you in this faith this holy Catholic faith—this faith in the Blessed Sacrament.
I end, dear brothers and sisters, beloved sons and daughters of Ireland, by recalling how Divine Providence has used this Island on the edge of Europe for the conversion of the European continent, that continent which has been for two thousand years the continent of the first evangelization. I myself am a son of that nation which received the Gospel more than a thousand years ago, many centuries later than your homeland. When in 1966, we solemnly recalled the millennium of the Baptism of Poland, we recalled with gratitude also those Irish missionaries who, among others, participated in the work of the first evangelization of the country that extends East and West from the Vistula.
One of my closest friends, a famous Professor of History in Cracow, having learned of my intention to visit Ireland, said : "What a blessing that the Pope goes to Ireland. This country deserves it in a special way". I too have always thought like this. Thus I thought that the centenary of the Sanctuary of the Mother of God at Knock constitutes, this year, a providential occasion for the Pope's visit to Ireland. So, by this visit, I am expressing my sense of what Ireland "deserves", and also satisfying deep needs of my own heart. I am paying a great debt to Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of history and the author of our salvation.
Hence I express my joy that I can be with you today, 29 September 1979, Feast of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, Archangels, and that I can celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and give witness before you to Christ and to his Paschal Mystery. Thus I can proclaim the vivifying reality of conversion through the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance, in the midst of the present generation of the sons and daughters of Ireland. Metanoeite, "Be converted" ! (Mc 1,15). Be converted continually. Be converted every day; because constantly, every day, the Kingdom of God draws closer. On the road of this temporal world, let Christ be the Lord of your souls, for eternal life. Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 137