S. John Paul II Homil. 152
'Se do bheatha, a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta ...
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, faithful sons and daughters of Mary,
1. Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland : the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock. Since I first learnt of the centenary of this Shrine, which is being celebrated this year, I have felt a strong desire to come here, the desire to make yet another pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church, the Queen of Peace. Do not be surprised at this desire of mine. It has been my custom to make pilgrimages to the shrines of our Lady, starting with my earliest youth and in my own country. I made such pilgrimages also as a Bishop and as a Cardinal. I know very well that every people, every country, indeed every diocese, has its holy places in which the heart of the whole people of God beats, one could say, in more lively fashion: places of special encounter between God and human beings ; places in which Christ dwells in a special way in our midst. If these places are so often dedicated to his Mother, it reveals all the more fully to us the nature of his Church. Since the Second Vatican Council, which concluded its Constitution on the Church with the chapter on "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church", this fact is more evident for us today than ever—yes, for all of us, for all Christians. Do we not confess with all our brethren, even with those with whom we are not linked in full unity, that we are a pilgrim people? As once this people travelled on its pilgrimage under the guidance of Moses, so we, the People of God of the New Covenant, are travelling on our pilgrim way under the guidance of Christ.
I am here then as a pilgrim, a sign of the pilgrim Church throughout the world participating, through my presence as Peter's Successor, in a very special way in the centenary celebration of this Irish Shrine at Knock.
The Liturgy of the Word of today's Mass gives me my pilgrim's salutation to Mary, as now I come before her in Ireland's Marian Shrine at Cnoc Mhuire, the Hill of Mary.
2. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lc 1,42). These are the words with which Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, greeted Mary, her kinswoman from Nazareth.
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" ! This is also my greeting to Muire Máthair Dé, Mary the Mother of God, Queen of Ireland, at this Shrine of Knock. With these words, I want to express the immense joy and gratitude that fills my heart today in this place. I could not have wanted it any differently. Highlights of my recent pastoral journeys have been the visits to the Shrines of Mary : to our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to the Black Madonna of Jasna Góra in my homeland, and three weeks ago to our Lady of Loreto in Italy. Today I come here because I want all of you to know that my devotion to Mary unites me, in a very special way, with the people of Ireland.
3. Yours is a long spiritual tradition of devotion to our Lady. Mary can truly say of Ireland what we have just heard in the first reading: "So I took root in an honoured people" (Si 24,12). Your veneration of Mary is so deeply interwoven in your faith that its origins are lost in the early centuries of the evangelization of your country. I have been told that, in Irish speech, the names of God and Jesus and Mary are linked with one another, and that God is seldom named in prayer or in blessing without Mary's name being mentioned also. I also know that you have an eighth-century Irish poem that calls Mary "Sun of our race", and that a litany from that same period honours her as "Mother of the heavenly and earthly Church". But better than any literary source, it is the constant and deeply rooted devotion to Mary that testifies to the success of evangelization by Saint Patrick, who brought you the Catholic faith in all its fullness.
It is fitting then, and it gives me great happiness to see, that the Irish people maintain this traditional devotion to the Mother of God in their homes and their parishes, and in a special way at this Shrine of Cnoc Mhuire. For a whole century now, you have sanctified this place of pilgrimage through your ?r???rs, through your sacrifice, through your penance. All those who have come here have received blessings through the intercession of Mary. From that day of grace, 21 August 1879, until this very day, the sick and suffering, people handicapped in body or mind, troubled in their faith or their conscience, all have been healed, comforted and confirmed in their faith because they trusted that the Mother of God would lead them to her Son, Jesus. Every time a pilgrim comes up to what was once an obscure bogside village in County Mayo, every time a man, woman or child comes up to the Old Church with the Apparition Gable or to the new Shrine of Mary Queen of Ireland, it is to renew his or her faith in the salvation that comes through Jesus, who made us all children of God and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. By entrusting yourselves to Mary, you receive Christ. In Mary, "the Word was made flesh" ; in her the Son of God became man, so that all of us might know how great our human dignity is. Standing on this hallowed ground, we look up to the Mother of God and say "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb".
The present time is an im??rtant moment in the history of the universal Church, and, in particular, of the Church in Ireland. So many things have changed. So many valuable new insights have been gained in what it means to be Christian. So many new problems have to be faced by the faithful, either because of the increased pace of change in society, or because of the new demands that are made on the People of God—demands to live to the fullest the mission of evangelization. The Second Vatican Council and the Synod of Bishops have brought new pastoral vitality to the whole Church. My revered predecessor Paul VI laid down wise guidelines for renewal and gave the whole people of God inspiration and enthusiasm for the task. In everything he said and did, Paul VI taught the Church to be open to the needs of humanity and at the same time to be unfailingly faithful to the unchanging message of Christ. Loyal to the teaching of the College of Bishops together with the Pope, the Church in Ireland has gratefully accepted the riches of the Council and the Synods. The Irish Catholic people have clung faithfully, sometimes in spite of pressures to the contrary, to the rich expressions of faith, to the fervent sacramental practices, and to that dedication to charity, which have always been a special mark of your Church. But the task of renewal in Christ is never finished. Every generation, with its own mentality and characteristics, is like a new continent to be won for Christ. The Church must constantly look for new ways that will enable her to understand more profoundly and to carry out with renewed vigour the mission received from her Founder. In this ardous task, like so many times before when the Church was faced with a new challenge, we turn to Mary, the Mother of God and the Seat of Wisdom, trusting that she will show us again the way to her Son. A very old Irish homily for the feast of the Epiphany (from the Leabhar Breac) says that, as the Wise Men found Jesus on the lap of his Mother, so we today find Christ on the lap of the Church.
4. Mary was truly united with Jesus. Not many of her own words have been preserved in the Gospels; but those that have been recorded refer us again to her Son and to his word. At Cana in Galilee, she turned from her Son to the servants and said "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5). This same message, she still speaks to us today.
5. "Do whatever he tells you". What Jesus tells us—through his life and by his word—has been preserved for us in the Gospels and in the letters of the Apostles and of Saint Paul and transmitted to us by the Church. We must make ourselves familiar with his words. We do this by listening to the readings from Sacred Scripture in the liturgy of the word, which introduce us to the Eucharistic Sacrifice ; by reading the Scriptures on our own; in the family, or together with friends, by reflecting on what the Lord tells us when we recite the Rosary and combine our devotion to the Mother of God with prayerful meditation on the mysteries of her Son's life. Whenever we have questions, whenever we are burdened, whenever we are faced with the choices that our faith imposes on us, the word of the Lord will comfort and guide us.
Christ has not left his followers without guidance in the task of understanding and living the Gospel. Before returning to his Father, he promised to send his Holy Spirit to the Church: "But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you" (Jn 14,26).
154 This same Spirit guides the Successors of the Apostles, your Bishops, united with the Bishop of Rome, to whom it was entrusted to preserve the faith and to "preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,14). Listen to their voices, for they bring you the word of the Lord.
6. "Do whatever he tells you". So many different voices assail the Christian in today's wonderful but complicated and demanding world. So many false voices are heard that conflict with the word of the Lord. They are the voices that tell you that truth is less important than personal gain ; that comfort, wealth, and pleasure are the true aims of life; that the refusal of new life is better than generosity of spirit and the taking up of responsibility; that justice must be achieved but without any personal involvement by the Christian ; that violence can be a means to a good end ; that unity can be built without giving up hate.
And now let us return in thought from Cana in Galilee to the Shrine of Knock. Do we not hear the Mother of Christ pointing him out to us here too and speaking to us the same words that she used at Cana : "Do whatever he tells you"? She is saying it to all of us. Her voice is heard more expressly by my Brothers in the Episcopate, the pastors of the Church in Ireland, who by inviting me here have asked me to respond to an invitation from the Mother of the Church. And so, Venerable Brothers, I am responding, as I enter in thought into the whole of your country's past and as I feel also the force of its eloquent present, so joyful and yet at the same time so anxious and at times so sorrowful. I am responding, as I did at Guadalupe in Mexico and at Jasna Góra in Poland. In my own name and on your behalf and in the name of all the Catholic People of Ireland, I pronounce, at the close of this homily, the following words of trust and consecration :
Mother, in this shrine you gather the People of God of all Ireland and constantly point out to them Christ in the Eucharist and in the Church. At this solemn moment we listen with particular attention to your words : "Do whatever my Son tells you". And we wish to respond to your words with all our heart. We wish to do what your Son tells us, what he commands us, for he has the words of eternal life. We wish to carry out and fulfil all that comes from him, all that is contained in the Good News, as our forefathers did for many centuries. Their fidelity to Christ and to his Church, and their heroic attachment to the Apostolic See, have in a way stamped on all of us an indelible mark that we all share. Their fidelity has, over the centuries, borne fruit in Christian heroism and in a virtuous tradition of living in accordance with God's law, especially in accordance with the holiest commandment of the Gospel—the commandment of love. We have received this splendid heritage from their hands at the beginning of a new age, as we approach the close of the second millennium since the Son of God was born of you, our alma Mater, and we intend to carry this heritage into the future with the same fidelity with which our forefathers bore witness to it.
Today therefore, on the occasion of the first visit of a Pope to Ireland, we entrust and consecrate to you, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, our hearts, our consciences, and our works, in order that they may be in keeping with the faith we profess. We entrust and consecrate to you each and every one of those who make up both the community of the Irish people and the community of the People of God living in this land.
We entrust and consecrate to you the Bishops of Ireland, the clergy, the religious men and women, the contemplative monks and sisters, the seminarians, the novices. We entrust and consecrate to you the mothers and fathers, the youth, the children. We entrust and consecrate to you the teachers, the catechists, the students ; the writers, the poets, the actors, the artists, the workers and their leaders, the employers and managers, the professional people, the farmers; those engaged in political and public life; those who form public opinion. We entrust and consecrate to you the married and those preparing for marriage ; those called to serve you and their fellowmen in single life; the sick, the aged, the mentally ill, the handicapped and all who nurse and care for them. We entrust and consecrate to you the prisoners and all who feel rejected; the exiled, the homesick and the lonely.
We entrust to your motherly care the land of Ireland, where you have been and are so much loved. Help this land to stay true to you and your Son always. May prosperity never cause Irish men and women to forget God or abandon their faith. Keep them faithful in prosperity to the faith they would not surrender in poverty and persecution. Save them from greed, from envy, from seeking selfish or sectional interest. Help them to work together with a sense of Christian purpose and a common Christian goal, to build a just and peaceful and loving society where the poor are never neglected and the rights of all, especially the weak, are respected. Queen of Ireland, Mary Mother of the heavenly and earthly Church, a Mháthair Dé, keep Ireland true to her spiritual tradition and her Christian heritage. Help her to respond to her historic mission of bringing the light of Christ to the nations, and so making the glory of God be the honour of Ireland.
Mother, can we keep silent about what we find most painful, what leaves us many a time so helpless? In a very special way we entrust to you this great wound now afflicting our people, hoping that your hands will be able to cure and heal it. Great is our concern for those young souls who are caught up in bloody acts of vengeance and hatred. Mother, do not abandon these youthful hearts. Mother, be with them in their most dreadful hours, when we can neither counsel nor assist them. Mother, protect all of us and especially the youth of Ireland from being overcome by hostility and hatred. Teach us to distinguish clearly what proceeds from love for our country from what bears the mark of destruction and the brand of Cain. Teach us that evil means can never lead to a good end; that all human life is sacred; that murder is murder no matter what the motive or end. Save others, those who view these terrible events, from another danger : that of living a life robbed of Christian ideals or in conflict with the principles of morality.
May our ears constantly hear with the proper clarity your motherly voice: "Do whatever my Son tells you". Enable us to persevere with Christ. Enable us, Mother of the Church, to build up his Mystical Body by living with the life that he alone can grant us from his fullness, which is both divine and human.
A Mhuire na ngrás, a Mháthair Mhic Dé, go gcuire tú ar mo leas mé.
* * *
155 At the close of this solemn celebration at the Shrine of Knock in honour of Mary, Queen of Ireland and Mother of the Church, I wish to express a special word of greeting to the President of Ireland, who is here present. In greeting him I greet and thank the entire Irish nation for the demonstration of faith shown to the world during this my visit to Ireland and, in particular, during my pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mary at Knock.
I greet also the Taoiseach and the civil authorities present.
And now it gives me great pleasure to announce that, to honour our Blessed Lady in this her centenary year at Knock, the new Church, recently built in her honour, will, from this day forward, be known under the title of the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland.
And finally I am happy to offer as my personal tribute and gift to the Shrine of Knock a Rose in gold which will remain as my testimony of gratitude to Mary, "the Mother of the heavenly and the earthly Church".
Praised be Jesus Christ !
A phobail dhílis na Mumhan, go mbeannai Dia dhaoibh.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. On this last day of my visit to Ireland I come to you to celebrate with you the Holy Eucharist. I wish to seal once more, in the love of Christ Jesus, the bond that links the Successor of Peter in the See of Rome with the Church that is in Ireland. In you I greet once more all the People of Ireland, who have taken their place in the mystery of the Church through the preaching of Saint Patrick and through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. I invite you to make this last Mass, which I offer with you and for you, into a special hymn of thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for the days that I have been able to spend in your midst.
I come in the name of Christ to preach to you his own message. The liturgy of the word today speaks of a building, of the cornerstone that supports and gives strength to the house, of the city that is built on the hill for security and protection. These images contain an invitation for all of us, for all Christians, to come close to Christ, the cornerstone, so that he may become our support and the unifying principle which gives meaning and coherence to our lives. It is the same Christ who gives dignity to all the members of the Church and who assigns to each one his mission.
2. Today, I would like to speak to you about that special dignity and mission entrusted to the lay people in the Church. Saint Peter says that Christians are "a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1P 2,9). All Christians, incorporated into Christ and his Church by Baptism, are consecrated to God. They are called to profess the faith which they have received. By the sacrament of Confirmation, they are further endowed by the Holy Spirit with special strength to be witnesses of Christ and sharers in his mission of salvation. Every lay Christian is therefore an extraordinary work of God's grace and is called to the heights of holiness. Sometimes, lay men and women do not seem to appreciate to the full the dignity and the vocation that is theirs as lay people. No, there is no such thing as an "ordinary layman", for all of you have been called to conversion through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As God's holy people you are called to fulfil your role in the evangelization of the world.
Yes, the laity are "a chosen race", "a holy priesthood", also called to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world". It is their specific vocation and mission to express the Gospel in their lives and thereby to insert the Gospel as a leaven into the reality of the world in which they live and work. The great forces which shape the world—politics, the mass media, science, technology, culture, education, industry and work—are precisely the areas where lay people are especially competent to exercise their mission. If these forces are guided by people who are true disciples of Christ, and who are, at the same time, fully competent in the relevant secular knowledge and skill, then indeed will the world be transformed from within by Christ's redeeming power.
3. Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment : to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history. The Irish people have to choose today their way forward. Will it be the transformation of all strata of humanity into a new creation, or the way that many nations have gone, giving excessive importance to economic growth and material possessions while neglecting the things of the spirit? The way of substituting a new ethic of temporal enjoyment for the law of God? The way of false freedom which is only slavery to decadence? Will it be the way of subjugating the dignity of the human person to the totalitarian domination of the State? The way of violent struggle between classes? The way of extolling revolution over God?
4. Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus to preserve Ireland's soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the Pope when he repeats the words of Christ: "What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16,26). What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul?
Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the "kingdoms of the world and their splendour" to the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt Mt 4,8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision.
Dear sons and daughters of Ireland, pray, pray not to be led into temptation. I asked in my first Encyclical for a "great, intense and growing prayer for all the Church". I ask you today for a great, intense and growing prayer for all the people of Ireland, for the Church in Ireland, for all the Church which owes so much to Ireland. Pray that Ireland may not fail in the test. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray : "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil".
Above all, have an immense confidence in the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of his death and Resurrection. It is precisely because of the strength of his Paschal Mystery that each of us and all Ireland can say : "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Ph 4,13).
Ireland in the past displayed a remarkable interpenetration of her whole culture, speech and way of life by the things of God and the life of grace. Life was in a sense organized around religious events. The task of this generation of Irish men and women is to transform the more complex world of modern industry and urban life by the same Gospel spirit. Today, you must keep the city and the factory for God, as you have always kept the farm and the village community for him in the past. Material progress has in so many places led to decline of faith and growth in Christ, growth in love and in justice.
To accomplish this you must have, as I said in Phoenix Park, consistency between your faith and your daily life. You cannot be a genuine Christian on Sunday, unless you try to be true to Christ's spirit also in your work, your commercial dealings, at your trade union or your employers' or professional meetings. How can you be a true community in Christ at Mass unless you try to think of the welfare of the whole national community when decisions are being taken by your particular sector or group? How can you be ready to meet Christ in judgment unless you remember how the poor are affected by the behaviour of your group or by your personal life style? For Christ will say to us all: "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40).
I have learned with great and gratitude of the wonderful spirit of work and cooperation with which you all joined in the material preparations as well as the spiritual preparation for my visit. How much more wonderful still it would be if you could have the same spirit of work and cooperation always "for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland" !
5. Here in Limerick, I am in a largely rural area and many of you are people of the land. I feel at home with you as I did with the rural and mountain people of my native Poland, and I repeat here to you what I told them : Love the land; love the work of the fields for it keeps you close to God, the Creator, in a special way.
157 To those who have gone to the cities, here or abroad, I say : Keep in contact with your roots in the soil of Ireland, with your families and your culture. Keep true to the faith, to the prayers and the values you learned here; and pass on that heritage to your children, for it is rich and good.
To all I say, revere and protect your family and your family life, for the family is the primary field of Christian action for the Irish laity, the place where your "royal priesthood" is chiefly exercised. The Christian family has been in the past Ireland's greatest spiritual resource. Modern conditions and social changes have created new patterns and new difficulties for family life and for Christian marriage. I want to say to you : do not be discouraged, do not follow the trends where a close-knit family is seen as outdated ; the Christian family is more important for the Church and for society today than ever before.
It is true that the stability and sanctity of marriage are being threatened by new ideas and by the aspirations of some. Divorce, for whatever reason it is introduced, inevitably becomes easier and easier to obtain and it gradually comes to be accepted as a normal part of life. The very possibility of divorce in the sphere of civil law makes stable and permanent marriages more difficult for everyone. May Ireland always continue to give witness before the modern world to her traditional commitment to the sanctity and the indissolubility of the marriage bond. May the Irish always support marriage, through personal commitment and through positive social and legal action.
Above all, hold high the esteem for the wonderful dignity and grace of the Sacrament of marriage. Prepare earnestly for it. Believe in the spiritual power which this Sacrament of Jesus Christ gives to strengthen the marriage union, and to overcome all the crises and problems of life together. Married people must believe in the power of the Sacrament to make them holy ; they must believe in their vocation to witness through their marriage to the power of Christ's love. True love and the grace of God can never let marriage become a self-centred relationship of two individuals, living side by side for their own interests.
6. And here I want to say a very special word to all Irish parents. Marriage must include openness to the gift of children. Generous openness to accept children from God as the gift to their love is the mark of the Christian couple. Respect the God-given cycle of life, for this respect is part of our respect for God himself, who created male and female, who created them in his own image, reflecting his own life-giving love in the patterns of their sexual being.
And so I say to all, have an absolute and holy respect for the sacredness of human life from the first moment of its conception. Abortion, as the Vatican Council stated, is one of the "abominable crimes" (Gaudium et Spes GS 51). To attack unborn life at any moment from its conception is to undermine the whole moral order which is the true guardian of the well-being of man. The defence of the absolute inviolability of unborn life is part of the defence of human rights and human dignity. May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death.
Dear fathers and mothers of Ireland, believe in your vocation, that beautiful vocation of marriage and parenthood which God has given to you. Believe that God is with you—for all parenthood in heaven and on earth takes its name from him. Do not think that anything you will do in life is more important than to be a good Christian father or mother. May Irish mothers, young women and girls not listen to those who tell them that working at a secular job, succeeding in a secular profession, is more important than the vocation of giving life and caring for this life as a mother. The future of the Church, the future of humanity depend in great part on parents and on the family life that they build in their homes. The family is the true measure of the greatness of a nation, just as the dignity of man is the true measure of civilization.
7. Your homes should always remain homes of prayer. As I leave today this island which is so dear to my heart, this land and its people which is such a consolation and strength to the Pope, may I express a wish : that every home in Ireland may remain, or may begin again to be, a home of daily family prayer. That you would promise me to do this would be the greatest gift you could give me as I leave your hospitable shores.
I know that your Bishops are preparing a pastoral programme designed to encourage greater sharing by parents in the religious education of their children under the motto "handing on the faith in the home". I am confident that you will all join in this programme with enthusiasm and generosity. To hand on to your children the faith you received from your parents is your first duty and your greatest privilege as parents. The home should be the first school of religion, as it must be the first school of prayer. The great spiritual influence of Ireland in the history of the world was due in great degree to the religion of the homes of Ireland, for here is where evangelization begins, here is where vocations are nurtured. I appeal therefore to Irish parents to continue fostering vocations to the priesthood and the religious life in their homes, among their sons and daughters. It was, for generations, the greatest desire of every Irish parent to have a son a priest or religious, to have a daughter consecrated to God. May it continue to be your desire and your prayer. May increased opportunities for boys and girls never lessen your esteem for the privilege of having a son or daughter of yours selected by Christ and called by him to give up all things and follow him.
I entrust all this to Mary, bright "Sun of the Irish race". May her prayers help all Irish homes to be like the holy house of Nazareth. From them may young Christians go forth, as Jesus did from Nazareth. May they go forth in the power of the Spirit to continue Christ's work and to follow in his footsteps towards the end of the millennium, into the twenty-first century. Mary will keep you all close to him, who is "Father of the world to come" (Is 9,6).
Dia agus Muire libh !
May God and Mary be with you and with the families of Ireland, always !
Slán go deo le brón is buairt. Agus beannacht Dé libh go léir.
Dear brothers and sisters, dear young people of America,
1. Earlier today, I set foot on the soil of the United States of America. In the name of Christ I begin a pastoral journey that will take me to several of your cities. At the beginning of this year, I had the occasion to greet this continent and its people from a place where Christopher Columbus landed; today I stand at this gateway to the United States, and again I greet all of America. For its people, wherever they are, have a special place in the love of the Pope.
I come to the United States of America as Successor of Peter and as a pilgrim of faith. It gives me great joy to be able to make this visit. And so, my esteem and affection go out to all the people of this land. I greet all Americans without distinction; I want to meet you and tell you all—men and women of all creeds and ethnic origins, children and youth, fathers and mothers, the sick and the elderly—that God loves you, that he has given you a dignity as human beings that is beyond compare. I want to tell everyone that the Pope is your friend and a servant of your humanity. On this first day of my visit, I wish to express my esteem and love for America itself, for the experience that began two centuries ago and that carries the name "United States of America" ; for the past achievements of this land and for its dedication to a more just and human future; for the generosity with which this country has offered shelter, freedom and a chance for betterment to all who have come to its shores ; and for the human solidarity that impels you to collaborate with all other nations so that freedom may be safeguarded and full human advancement made possible. I greet you, America the beautiful!
2. I am here because I wanted to respond to the invitation which the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization first addressed to me. Tomorrow I shall have the honor, as guest of the United Nations, to go to this supreme international forum of nations, and to deliver an address to the General Assembly: to make a plea to the whole world for justice and peace—a plea in defense of the unique dignity of every human being. I feel highly honored by the invitation of the United Nations Secretary-General. At the same time I am conscious of the greatness and importance of the challenge that this invitation brings with it. I have been convinced from the very first that this invitation by the United Nations should be accepted by me as Bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church of Christ. And so, I express my deep gratitude also to the Hierarchy of the Church in the United States, who joined in the initiative of the United Nations. I have received many invitations from individual dioceses, and from different regions of this country, as well as from Canada. I deeply regret that I am unable to accept all the invitations ; I would willingly make a pastoral visit everywhere, if it were possible. My pilgrimage to Ireland on the occasion of the centenary of the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock constituted a fitting introduction to my visit with you. I sincerely hope that my whole visit in the United States will be seen in the light of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
And tonight I am deeply pleased to be with you on Boston Common. In you I greet the City of Boston and all its people, as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and all its civil authorities. With special warmth, I greet here Cardinal Medeiros and the whole Archdiocese of Boston. A special remembrance links me with the City, for three years ago, at the invitation of its Divinity School, I had the opportunity to speak at the University of Harvard. As I recall this memorable event, I wish to express once again my gratitude to the authorities of Harvard and to the Dean of the Divinity School for that exceptionally valuable opportunity.
3. During my first visit in the United States as Pope, on the eve of my visit to the United Nations Organization, I now wish to speak a special word to the young people that are gathered here.
Tonight, in a very special way, I hold out my hands to the youth of America. In Mexico City and Guadalajara I met the youth of Latin America. In Warsaw and Cracow I met the youth of Poland. In Rome I meet frequently groups of young people from Italy and from all over the world. Yesterday I met the youth of Ireland in Galway. And now with great joy I meet you. For me, each one of these meetings is a new discovery. Again and again I find in young people the joy and enthusiasm of life, a searching for truth and for the deeper meaning of the existence that unfolds before them in all its attraction and potential.
159 4. Tonight, I want to repeat what I keep telling youth : you are the future of the world, and "the day of tomorrow belongs to you". I want to remind you of the encounters that Jesus himself had with the youth of his day. The Gospels preserve for us a striking account of a conversation Jesus had with a young man. We read there that the young man put to Christ one of the fundamental questions that youth everywhere ask: "What must I do ...?" (Mc 10,17), and he received a precise and penetrating answer. "Then, Jesus looked at him with love and told him ... Come and follow me" (Mc 10,21). But see what happens : the young man, who had shown such interest in the fundamental question, "went away sad, for he had many possessions" (Mc 10,22). Yes, he went away, and—as can be deduced from the context—he refused to accept the call of Christ.
This deeply penetrating event, in its concise eloquence, expresses a great lesson in a few words: it touches upon substantial problems and basic questions that have in no way lost their relevance. Everywhere young people are asking important questions—questions on the meaning of life, on the right way to live, on the true scale of values: "What must I do...?" "What must I do to share in everlasting life?" This questioning bears witness to your thoughts, your consciences, your hearts and wills. This questioning tells the world that you, young people, carry within yourselves a special openness with regard to what is good and what is true. This openness is, in a sense, a "revelation" of the human spirit. And in this openness to truth, to goodness and to beauty, each one of you can find yourself ; indeed, in this openness you can all experience in some measure what the young man in the Gospel experienced : "Jesus looked at him with love" (Mc 10,21).
5. To each one of you I say therefore: heed the call of Christ when you hear him saying to you: "Follow me !" Walk in my path ! Stand by my side ! Remain in my love ! There is a choice to be made : a choice for Christ and his way of life, and his commandment of love.
The message of love that Christ brought is always important, always relevant. It is not difficult to see how today's world, despite its beauty and grandeur, despite the conquests of science and technology, despite the refined and abundant material goods that it offers, is yearning for more truth, for more love, for more joy. And all of this is found in Christ and in his way of life.
Do I then make a mistake when I tell you, Catholic youth, that it is part of your task in the world and the Church to reveal the true meaning of life where hatred, neglect or selfishness threaten to take over the world? Faced with problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility : escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. But today, I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape. If you really accept that love from Christ, it will lead you to God. Perhaps in the priesthood or religious life; perhaps in some special service to your brothers and sisters: especially to the needy, the poor, the lonely, the abandoned, those whose rights have been trampled upon, or those whose basic needs have not been provided for. Whatever you make of your life, let it be something that reflects the love of Christ. The whole People of God will be all the richer because of the diversity of your commitments. In whatever you do, remember that Christ is calling you, in one way or another, to the service of love: the love of God and of your neighbor.
6. And now coming back to the story of the young man in the Gospels, we see that he heard the call—"Follow me"—but that he "went away sad, for he had many possessions".
The sadness of the young man makes us reflect. We could be tempted to think that many possessions, many of the goods of this world, can bring happiness. We see instead in the case of the young man in the Gospel that his many possessions had become an obstacle to accepting the call of Jesus to follow him. He was not ready to say yes to Jesus, and no to self, to say yes to love and no to escape.
Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not clearly tell you so. For it was Jesus—our Jesus himself—who said : "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15,14). Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.
Dear young people : do not be afraid of honest effort and honest work; do not be afraid of the truth. With Christ's help, and through prayer, you can answer his call, resisting temptations and fads, and every form of mass manipulation. Open your hearts to the Christ of the Gospels—to his love and his truth and his joy. Do not go away sad!
And, as a last word to all of you who listen to me tonight, I would say this : the reason for my mission, for my journey, through the United States is to tell you, to tell everyone—young and old alike—to say to everyone in the name of Christ: "Come and follow me !"
Follow Christ! You who are married: share your love and your burdens with each other; respect the human dignity of your spouse; accept joyfully the life that God gives through you; make your marriage stable and secure for your children's sake.
Follow Christ! You who are single or who are preparing for marriage. Follow Christ! You who are young or old. Follow Christ ! You who are sick or aging ; who are suffering or in pain. You who feel the need for healing, the need for love, the need for a friend—follow Christ!
To all of you I extend—in the name of Christ—the call, the invitation, the plea : "Come and follow me". This is why I have come to America, and why I have come to Boston tonight: to call you to Christ—to call all of you and each of you to live in his love, today and forever. Amen !
S. John Paul II Homil. 152