S. John Paul II Homil. 464
Monday, 12 September 1988
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
465 to the Temple of God of Jacob
that he may teach us his ways
so that we may walk in his paths" (Is 2,3)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. This invitation of the Prophet Isaiah, an invitation of the Old Covenant, finds its fulfilment with the coming of the New Covenant, the new and eternal Covenant in the Blood of Christ: in his Cross and Resurrection.
Behold, the Apostles “set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them” (Mt 28,16).
Christ will soon go to the Father. Before departing, however, he will say to them:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28,18-20).
2. “Make disciples of all the nations; baptize them”.
This command of Christ has already been carried out, in fact it is constantly being carried out, in the midst of all the nations of the earth. It has happened and is constantly happening in your midst, on the African continent, in this nation which is called “Zimbawe”. In fact, the first efforts of evangelization began here more than four hundred years ago, efforts which were inspired by a great love for the Risen Lord and which yet failed to establish among you a lasting Christian community. It was not until 1879 that a sustained missionary effort by the Catholic Church could be achieved. But from that time forward, your country has witnessed and been blessed by the constant fulfilment of Christ’s command.
Over the past century, the missionary enterprise has experienced numerous changes, changes in the choices of priorities and changes in the methods employed. But at every stage teaching has played a central role. Jesus said: “Make disciples... baptize them... teach them”. And that is what you have done.
466 The prodigious result of evangelization is clearly evident in the Church in modern Zimbabwe, and in this Eucharistic celebration today. I assure you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that it is a great joy for me to be here among you to witness at first hand the marvellous works that Divine Providence is accomplishing in this land, and to celebrate together with you these Sacred Mysteries.
In the Holy Name of Jesus I greet you all: in the first place the Bishop of Bulawayo, Bishop Karlen, and with him all my brother bishops who share with me, the Bishop of Rome, the responsibility of shepherding the flock of Christ and proclaiming the Good News of salvation. In a special way, I greet Bishop Ignatius Prieto on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his episcopal ordination, and also on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Diocese of Hwange. To Bishop Prieto and to all his people I extend my congratulations and prayerful good wishes.
I also offer fraternal greetings to the priests, religious and laity who represent all the parish communities of this vast region of Zimbabwe known as Matabeleland. It is in the local Christian communities that the message of Christ is first received and fostered, and it is there that it must daily be put into practice. In the parish communities, faith and hope and love are the guiding principles of your lives.
I know that there are many who have not been able to come here today, even though they very much wanted to do so. I therefore ask you, my friends in Christ, to take back to your local parishes the warm greetings of the Pope. Assure them of my pastoral love in the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. At this celebration of the Eucharist, I ask you to join me in giving thanks to God for the achievements of evangelization in Zimbabwe and to pray for the continuing success of evangelizing efforts.
What is evangelization?
We could answer with the words of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans:
“If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved” (Rm 10,9). Evangelization means accepting God’s revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. It involves accepting in faith what God has revealed to humanity, accepting the truth about the Crucified and Risen Christ (as we say in the Creed, “He was crucified, suffered death and was buried; on the third day, he rose again”).
It is precisely this Christ who “is the Lord of all”. As Lord, as the one to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given”, Christ distributes to everyone the riches of salvation which he won for us by the sacrifice of his life on the Cross. The riches of salvation are the riches of the love and grace of God. We share in these riches through faith. Saint Paul says: “By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved”.
It is a question then of a faith accepted with the heart (with the intellect and will), a faith rooted in our inmost depths. And then, it is professed with our lips and with our works. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ibid. 10, 13).
4. Such faith helps us to look at the world in a new way, to look at all that surrounds us in a new light. It enables us to see the whole of creation as the handiwork of God, his gift. Then, trough creation we can turn to the Creator and glorify him with our hearts and our lips; we glorify him after the manner of the splendid Psalm of today’s Liturgy:
467 “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing till the ends of the earth revere him” (Ps 67,6-8).
Faith in the Crucified and Risen Christ also inspires us to transform the world in the Spirit of God. But first it means a transformation of the human heart, which has its consequences in society and in relationships between individuals and nations.
Let us return again to the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of Yahweh from Jerusalem. He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. O House of Jacob, come, Let us walk in the light of Yahweh” (Is 2,3-5).
5. Evangelization begins in the human heart, in that intimate dialogue between each of us and God, where we recognize our sins and acknowledge our need for a Saviour, where we come to believe and profess with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord.
But faith can never remain a purely private matter. For the Sacrament of Baptism makes us members of the Christian community, and we are expected to become active members of a local Church; we are expected to listen to God’s word, take part in the Sacred Liturgy, live in fraternal charity. And our faith in Christ opens our eyes to see beyond our own parish community, to the life of the universal Church and the needs of the world around us. The Church is present in the world for the sake of the world. And each member shares a responsibility in bringing God’s love to the world.
Here in Zimbabwe, this means that you are called by Christ to respond to the needs and difficulties of your fellow citizens. We think immediately of the great suffering caused by war. It is only eight years since your struggle for national independence was brought to an end. Even after that, many people in Matabeleland did not find true peace. How the civilian population continued to suffer from guerilla warfare and other forms of violence! As recently as April of this year Brother Killian Knoerl of this diocese was a victim of such violence.
I know that you yourselves have not only suffered but you have also tried to help the many victims of violence: the crippled, the maimed, the bereaved, those unjustly deprived of property and savings. At the same time, you have had to work patiently but continually for reconciliation and peace, a goal not easily achieved after years of conflict. You have been trying to bring about the fulfilment of the Prophecy of Isaiah, where he foretells that the people “will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war”.
Yes, “no more training for war”. But there will be training for peace and development and especially training in the truth. That is why education is so important in both development and evangelization. Training implies commitment to the apostolate of teaching and to schools, particularly for young people. The future of Zimbabwe depends on it. The future of the Church in Zimbabwe will be shaped by it. For education is essential for human development. As Pope Paul VI reminded us: “Between evangelization and human advancement – development and liberation – there are profound links” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 31). Since every person has social and economic needs as well as spiritual ones, the Church can never ignore any aspect of what it means to be fully human. Her educational programmes aim to develop the whole person – body and soul.
The Church has great concern for the family, the family as a whole and its individual members. In your country, as in most countries of the world, the stability of family life is being seriously threatened by problems such as sexual immorality and irregular unions as well as economic insecurity and inadequate housing. Efforts to strengthen family life and to teach the true nature of marriage need to begin in the local parish communities, where individuals and their concrete circumstances are best known. Accordingly, the work of evangelization, which is the very reason for the existence of the Church, must also engage the family, and trough the family make active disciples of every member of the Church.
468 6. It was for the sake of evangelization that Christ sent his Apostles into the whole world, and he wanted every follower of his to take an active share in it. This mission must be carried out in such a way that the lives of all who believe in Christ will always abound in good works, so that they will bring to individuals and nations true development and progress.
But in order that this mission may be really effective, we must keep in mind the words of Saint Paul to the Romans:
“They will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent” (Rm 10,14-15).
But who is to be sent? Who are the evangelizers? Pope Paul VI answered these questions very clearly when he said: “It is the whole Church that receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole... The person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the word and give himself to the Kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 15 EN 24). And so, in your Christian communities in Zimbabwe, those who have themselves suffered are best equipped to console and encourage others. As Saint Paul puts it, “(God) comforts us in all our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we have received from God ourselves” (2Co 1,4).
The best apostles to youth will often be young people themselves, young men and women who rejoice in their faith in Christ and who know the importance of daily prayer. And married couples whose love for one another has been sealed in the Sacrament of Matrimony and built up in daily sacrifice are best able to help other husbands and wives to enter more fully into the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church. Family circles, retreats for married people and marriage enrichment programmes are also suitable means for this marriage and family apostolate.
But our families and small Christian communities, our parishes and dioceses, also need pastors and guardians, servants who devote themselves exclusively to the care of God’s flock. We need, in other words, good priests and men and women religious.Without their prayer and dedicated service, evangelization could lose its sense of direction and, above all, its awareness of the universal dimension of the Church.
7. Today the Bishop of Rome, mindful of his apostolic inheritance from Saints Peter and Paul, joins you in giving thanks for the fruit of evangelization which you have already received.
Truly, “the earth has yielded its fruit”. Indeed, “God, our God, has blessed us”. And yet we know that, “Not everyone... listens to the Good News” (Rm 10,16). So Christ said and continues to say: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations”.
As I stand here in this land, on this continent, I invite you: let us lift our hearts to him who is “the Lord of the harvest” and let us never cease to pray that he “send labourers to his harvest” (Mt 9,38).
To his harvest!
For this harvest is indeed rich!
469 Gaborone, Botswana
Tuesday, 13 September 1988
"Peace be with you... Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained" (Jn 20,21-23).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Friends in Christ,
1. In today's Gospel we read that following the crucifixion, on the first day of the week, Jesus’ disciples gathered behind closed doors because they were afraid. As yet they had little time to ponder the reports of Peter, John and Mary of Magdala that the Lord had risen from the dead. Suddenly, Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them “Peace be with you”, and immediately their fear was turned to joy.
Like those first disciples, we too can experience this transformation.
All our fears can be turned to joy by the presence of the Risen Lord who comes to us in a special way in this Sacred Liturgy. His words to the disciples, “Peace be with you”, are now addressed to us.
His visible presence among them is equally real to us in the celebration of the Eucharist.
2. What are the causes of humanity’s fears? The prayers and readings of today’s Mass express a yearning for justice and peace. It is precisely the absence of justice and peace, in our lives and in the world, that so often troubles us and arouses our fears. We know that the vision of the Prophet Micah remains unfulfilled: Nation still lifts sword against nation. There is much training for war. So many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world long to sit untroubled in the shade of their vine and fig tree, as the Prophet says, but are prevented from doing so.
The Second Vatican Council tells us that the causes of discord in the world are many. These include excessive economic inequalities and a lack of resolve to apply the needed remedies. There is also the desire for power, a disregard for others, and at a deeper level, envy, mistrust, pride and selfish passions (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 83). The Council also speaks of fears that arise from within ourselves, from our self-doubts and questioning, our failures and anxieties, our groping for authentic human development and freedom, and above all from the reality of sin (cfr. ibid.4.10.21).
470 3. The Church does not claim to have a ready answer or a simple solution for every problem or fear that besets the human family. But today, dear brothers and sisters, we gather together in the conviction that “fear is driven out by perfect love” (1 Io 4.18). We proclaim and celebrate the fact that perfect love has been revealed in Jesus Christ. In him God has reconciled the world to himself and has given us the gift of peace through the power of the Holy Spirit. And what is more, God has entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to us, his Church: “The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you'. 'As the Father sent me, so I am sending you'... Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (Jn 20,20-23). Forgiveness, then, is the key that unlocks the door to peace – the forgiveness that Christ won for us on the Cross. As Saint Paul tells us: “God wanted... all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his Death on the Cross” (Col 1,19-20).
In today’s Gospel the Risen Lord appears to his disciples as the Crucified one: “He said to them, 'Peace be with you', and showed them his hands and his side” (Jn 20,19-20). He showed them the marks of his suffering, the marks of his perfect love. It was very fitting then that we began this liturgy with the presentation of the Cross by the youth of Botswana. They have carried it throughout the land as a sign of their willingness to imitate their Lord and to obey him. For those who have faith, the Cross is no longer an instrument of fear and death, but a trophy of life and peace. We are called to take up the Cross every day “so that (God) may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths” in accordance with the vision of the Prophet Micah (Mi 4,2). At the same time we recognize that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, his ways are not our ways (Cfr. Is Is 55,8). The Cross reminds us of our need for conversion, our need to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. True justice and peace depend on conversion, which requires a daily effort on the part of every person to live the Gospel faithfully in the face of temptations and of obstacles.
4. The reconciliation of all human beings with God and with each other which Christ accomplished on the Cross is at the heart of every celebration of the sacraments. As we read in one of our liturgical texts, “From (Christ’s) wounded side flowed blood and water, the fountain of sacramental life in the Church” (Praef. “Sacri Cordis”). Dear brothers and sisters: we cannot emphasize enough the importance of this sacramental life. Sacraments make us sharers in the reconciliation and communion that are essential for our own peace and for the peace of the world. They strengthen us for the daily struggle to turn away from sin and to believe in the Gospel. They nourish us with the very life of God. For the Christian community the forgiveness of Christ comes to us in a special way through Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance.
5. Sacramental life, in its deepest sense, is the very heart of the Church in Botswana, as it is for every local Church. The first missionaries had a burning desire to bring to this land a new life in Christ both by word and sacrament. Their witness to the Gospel was inseparable from their commitment to justice and peace and from their vision of a world reconciled and redeemed. The sacraments not only sustained them, but also made their labours fruitful in the lives of your forebears and in the lives of each of you today, for we know that as actions of Christ, sacraments bring about what they signify; they are alive with the power of God.
Each of you has responded to God’s offer of reconciliation and peace by your faith and baptism and by your commitment to participate in the Church’s sacramental life.
The desire to bring others to full participation in Christ’s saving mysteries has not been limited to the clergy and religious of Botswana. Mention must be made of the first catechists who travelled tirelessly from village to village in order to teach and instruct those preparing to receive the Eucharist, so that they might be fully initiated into the Church. Today many people continue to give of their time to help instruct both children and adults for baptism. Efforts are likewise made to deepen the faith of those who hold responsible positions in the Church and in society. There are also those lay people who, from the very beginning until now, have opened their homes to the community for the celebration of the sacraments so that their brothers and sisters could be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood. In all of these ways, both in the past and in the present, the life of the Church in Botswana has centred on sacramental participation in Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
The Mass which we celebrate today is indeed a very special and historic occasion. It is a great joy for me, the shepherd whom Christ has appointed for the whole Church, to offer his Eucharistic Sacrifice with all of you – the clergy, religious and laity of Botswana. Through communion with your bishop and with the Successor of Saint Peter, you are united with every other local Church in bonds of unity, charity, and peace, as this liturgy so beautifully expresses. At the same time, I know that the deep faith and Christian commitment that fill this stadium today are much more than passing sentiments. They arise from living the Gospel every day, humbly and without fanfare, and are nourished by faithful participation in the Church’s sacramental life.
Dear brothers and sisters: never lose your love for these divine gifts which confer new life in Christ. When you fall into sin, do not fail to seek pardon and peace in the Sacrament of Penance, remembering that “God the Father of Mercies, through the Death and Resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins” (“Ritus Poenitentiae”). You must frequently nourish your heart and soul on Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, for he tells us. “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6,53-54).
6. The world in which we live presents many challenges to those who seek to be ministers of reconciliation, promoters of justice, and builders of peace. The lack of justice and peace is an obstacle to authentic human development; an obstacle that can be overcome only by a firm commitment on the part of Christians and all people of good will to work for a more just and peaceful world, both nationally and internationally. But we must also remember that reconciliation begins with our own conversion, and grows within the intimate circle of those with whom we live and work every day. This applies in a special way to marriage and family life. As I stated in my Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio”: “The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: as a community of love, it finds in selfgiving the law that guides it and makes it grow”... (Familiaris Consortio FC 37). “The spiritual communion between Christian families... constitutes an inner energy that generates, spreads and develops justice, reconciliation, fraternity and peace among human beings” (Ibid.48).
Like many other people in the world today, you are experiencing a weakening in your country of many traditional customs and safeguards surrounding marriage and the extended family. Sometimes there is a clash of ideas between spouses as to their proper relation to each other Young people do not always accept the values of their parents. Economic factors, especially the need to find work, also take their toll on family life. Among Catholics there is an increased acceptance of divorce. Those in mixed marriages are sometimes tempted to abandon their faith.
In the face of these difficulties we must not be timid or afraid, like the disciples in the Gospel who at first remained locked behind closed doors. Remember how their fear was turned to joy by the presence of the Risen Lord. “Peace be with you” he told them. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (Jn 20,21). If the Risen Lord is with you, you need not be afraid. Do not be afraid, then, of the demands of love, especially the demands of married love. For the love which makes demands is the same love which leads to life and to the fullness of joy in the Lord. Confident of God’s help, we must seek to preserve the dignity of marriage by upholding its sacredness and indissolubility in accordance with the Church’s teaching, which is the teaching of Christ.
471 There are many dimensions to our Christian witness concerning marriage. The whole Church in Botswana must work to prepare couples before marriage, and to encourage and help them afterwards through prayer, retreats and other efforts which deepen their appreciation of this sacrament. A special effort must be made to help those couples and families who are experiencing difficulties. Young people, in particular, need encouragement to act responsibly and to show true Christian love for one another based on self-control and mutual respect.
7. I appeal to all the young men and women of Botswana: Do not allow yourselves to be misled by a false permissiveness that appears to be freedom, but is really slavery. Always remember that true freedom means being able to choose what is right and good, and not what is one’s pleasure. It is freedom from selfishness and sin. Do not allow materialism and consumerism to impoverish your souls to the detriment of married love and family life, Remember, too, that you are not just individuals, in competition for selfish aims. As part of the human family and as members of God’s holy people, you are called to work with others for the good of all. Only in this way can you fulfil your mission as followers of Christ, “who did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Marc 10, 45).
This call to service also includes the priesthood and religious life, vocations of vital importance to the life and mission of the Church. As you think of your future, do not exclude the possibility that God may be calling you to serve his people as a priest, or as a Brother or Sister I ask all the Catholic people, and parents in particular, to pray for an increase in these vocations among your sons and daughters, your neighbours and friends. Be generous in encouraging them to follow the Lord along these paths in accordance with his will.
8. In today’s liturgy we have heard the Psalmist proclaim: “I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends and those who turn to him in their hearts... Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps” (Ps 85 , 13).
My brothers and sisters of Botswana: through Baptism you became members of God’s holy people. By turning your hearts to him in Christian living and the sacraments, you grow in his grace, his friendship.
In your search for justice and peace, listen to “what the Lord God has to say”. Follow in Christ’s footsteps without fear: Christ who is our reconciliation; Christ who is God the Father’s word of peace to us: Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead.
“Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps” (Ibid. 18). Amen.
Holy Mother, Mother of the Church, Mother of all humanity: I, John Paul the Second, entrust the land and people of Botswana to your loving care.
Through your maternal intercession, may this local Church grow in holiness and grace, and may its benefactors be blessed for their kindness and generosity.
I entrust to you Bishop Setlalekgosi and all the clergy and religious of the Diocese of Gaborone. May they be filled with apostolic zeal and compassion, and may they grow in their love of what is unseen, so that their witness to God’s kingdom will be strong and fruitful. Intercede for this Church, Blessed Lady, that it may be enriched by an increase of vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. Help all those who aspire to these special vocations to persevere if God has truly called them.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I entrust to you all the laity of Botswana. You know how they desire to be faithful to their baptismal promises to turn away from sin and to believe in the Gospel. Lead them to an ever greater love for your Son, Jesus Chist. Sustain them in their daily efforts to be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Cfr. Mt 5,13-14) so that they may lead others to salvation.
472 Be present to the catechists of Botswana. May they learn knowledge and understanding from you as they seek to deepen the faith of others. Turn your loving glance to all who teach in the Catholic schools, to all who minister to the sick in Catholic health care facilities, to all the laity in every walk of life who seek to build up God’s kingdom in this country and throughout the world.
Immaculate Virgin Mary, I entrust to you in a special way all husbands and wives. May their marriage and family life be for them a path to holiness and joy. May their sons and daughters, the young people, who are the future of the Church and of Botswana, be delivered from all temptation and harm, and always remain faithful to Christ.
Holy Mother of our Redeemer, inspire the hearts of all the faithful with an ever greater love for the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Lead back those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith to full participation in your Son’s Paschal Mystery.
O Mary, Mother of Compassion, I entrust to you all those who have experienced trial and suffering in their lives, whether moral, spiritual or physical. May their patient endurance help to further the redemptive work of your Son. Give help and fresh courage to the homeless and unemployed, to those whose family life is troubled, and to the men, women and children who have known the sorrow of broken homes. I entrust to you all those whose lives demand special respect and care: the unborn, the handicapped, the sick, the elderly and the dying.
Look with kindness, Holy Mother, upon all the people of Botswana, whom I entrust to you today. Help them to work for that development which is truly human and at the service of the dignity and rights of every person. May they never lose their respect for religion and religious freedom.
Queen of Peace, preserve this land in domestic peace. Give wisdom to leaders in society and government, so that all the citizens of Botswana may live in freedom, justice, peace and true prosperity, now and in the days to come. Amen.
Feast of the Triumph of the Cross
Wednesday, 14 September 1988
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today it is my great joy to be together with you, the faithful of the Church in Lesotho, on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy which in the Cross of Christ has its beginning and source.
I give thanks to God for the privilege of being here in Roma where Father Joseph Gérard served Christ for many years. In the love of Jesus, I offer cordial greetings to my brother bishop and to the priests and religious of this beloved country, as well as to those from other lands. In a special way, I greet the parents and their children, the families of Lesotho who form the primary communities of society and of the Church. I welcome the catechists and teachers who perform such a vital role in the work of evangelization in this mountainous and rugged land, and I offer warm greetings to the various Lay Associations: to the members of the Legion of Mary, the Saint Cecilia Association, the Ladies of Saint Ann and the Men of the Sacred Heart.
S. John Paul II Homil. 464