S. John Paul II Homil. 473
473 I also extend a warm welcome to our brothers and sisters in Christ from other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and to all those of good will who have wished to join us today in prayer.
2. In the Gospel of this feast we are witnesses of an unusual conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The conversation takes place at night because Nicodemus, a prominent Jew, went to talk with Christ under the cover of darkness. Christ leads this man, a teacher, to the very heart of the mystery revealed by God. It is the mystery of the Son of God who descended from heaven and, as the Son of Man, accomplished the messianic mission among the people of Israel.
This mission was directed towards “the lifting up” of Christ on the Cross. Jesus says to Nicodemus: “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert” (Jn 3,14). Nicodemus knows the Scriptures well; he knows the inspired message of the Old Testament. He can recall the event that took place during the journey of the chosen people in the desert. At the command of Yahweh, “Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard” (Nu. 21, 9).
This bronze serpent would restore to health and save the lives of the Israelites who had been bitten by the serpents. They were serpents with a poisonous venom; after being bitten by them many Israelites died. But the serpent made of bronze and placed on a high standard would become a means of salvation: whoever looked at it would live.
3. Jesus continues: “The Son of Man must be lifted up... so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn 3,14-15). The human family had received at the very beginning of earthly history a deadly bite from the “ancient serpent”. He had injected a satanic venom – the venom of original sin – into the souls of the first man and woman. And from that time onward, man’s history on earth has been burdened by sin. A tendency towards sin has generated many evils in the lives of individual persons and the communities to which they belong, in families, in entire peoples and nations.
“The Son of Man must be lifted up”, says Jesus to Nicodemus. And he says this with a view to his crucifixion: The Son of Man must be lifted up on the Cross. Whoever believes in him, whoever sees in this Cross and in the Crucified One the Redeemer of the world, whoever looks with faith on the redemptive death of Jesus on the Cross, finds in him the power of eternal life. By this power, sin is overcome. People receive forgiveness of their sins at the price of the Sacrifice of Christ. They find again the life of God which had been lost by sin.
4. This is the meaning of the Cross of Christ. This is its power. “God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3,17).
The feast that we celebrate today speaks of a marvellous and ceaseless action of God in human history, in the history of every man, woman and child. The Cross of Christ on Golgotha has become for all time the centre of this saving work of God. Christ is the Saviour of the world, because in him and through him the love with which God so loved the world is continuously revealed: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” (Ibid. 3, 16).
– The Father gave him so that this Son, who is one in substance with him, would become man by being conceived of the Virgin Mary.
– The Father gave him so that as the Son of Man he would proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of salvation.
– The Father gave him so that this Son, by responding with his own infinite love to the love of the Father, might offer himself on the Cross.
474 5. From a human point of view, Christ’s offering of himself on the Cross was a sign of contradiction, an unthinkable disgrace. It was, in fact, the most profound humiliation possible.
In today’s liturgy, the Apostle Paul speaks to us in words that capture the mystery of the Cross of Christ: “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a Cross. But God raised him high” (Ph 2,6-9).
Through his self-emptying on Golgotha, in the disgrace of the Cross and the crucifixion (at least in the human way of understanding these events) Christ receives the highest exaltation. In God’s eyes, the Cross is the greatest triumph. The way of human judgement is very different from God’s. God’s judgement far surpasses ours. What seems to us to be failure is, in God’s eyes, the victory of sacrificial love.
It is precisely this Cross of human disgrace that bears within itself the source of the exaltation of Christ in God.
“God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Ibid. 2, 9-11).
To the eyes of the Apostles this was revealed through the Resurrection of Christ. At that moment they understood that Christ is the Lord, that he has been given all power in heaven and on earth. At that moment their eyes and their hearts were opened, so that the lips of Thomas could profess: “My Lord and My God”! (Jn 20,28). And once they had come to believe, through the power of the Spirit of Truth, they were ready to go forth into the whole world to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Cfr. Mt 28,19).
6. Yes, it is through the Cross that Christ is exalted. Today’s feast of the Church speaks to us of this mystery. At the same time, it speaks of Christ who by means of the Cross lifts up humanity, lifts up all humanity and indeed all creation.“For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3,17).
Being “saved” means that every man and woman can be healed of the sin that poisoned the human family and all history. Jesus says to his Apostles after his Resurrection: “Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven”. And as he says it he shows them the wounds of his crucifixion, to let them know that it is precisely in the Cross that the power to forgive sins is hidden, the power to heal consciences and human hearts.
Generation after generation passes. And in the midst of this passing, the Cross of Christ remains. Through the Cross, God continuously proclaims to the world the infinite love which no created evil is able to overcome. Yes, the Cross remains, so that in it the world, indeed every human person, may find the way of salvation. For it is by this Cross that the world is saved!
7. By this one holy Cross the people of Lesotho are saved. For more than a hundred years, the message of the Cross has been proclaimed here in your land. The power of the Cross has been uplifting and enriching your culture, enhancing human dignity, overcoming sin and division, touching your own lives as it did the lives of your forebears, with the healing mercy of God.
The Cross of Christ has indeed triumphed among the Basotho people. The Christian faith has taken root and brought forth abundant fruit. And yet evangelization must continue. The Good News of Christ’s Death and Resurrection must be constantly proclaimed anew, for the Church always needs to be built up in faith and charity. In a particular way, marriage and family life must be strengthened, first by preaching the real nature of Christian marriage, and then by working to overcome the false ideas and practices of society which damage human dignity and hinder the fidelity of husband and wife. This is especially urgent in a community which has to bear the strains and stresses of the absence of many fathers of families who are compelled by economic circumstances to seek employment outside the borders of Lesotho.
475 Educators and Catholic lay associations can make an invaluable contribution in the task of evangelization. Precisely as lay people, under the guidance of, and in collaboration with, the clergy and religious, they fulfil a vital role of handing on the Church’s great patrimony of doctrinal and moral truths. They bear witness to the Gospel of Christ by serving the poor and working for justice. And given the special role of the Church in the field of education in this Kingdom, teachers have a unique opportunity of forming their pupils in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is why the University of Roma, which was founded by the Catholic Church, has been such a blessing in this country. May those of you who have attended this University and benefited from higher education always use this precious gift to serve your brothers and sisters and build up the Body of Christ.
8. The Church in Lesotho today meditates on this wondrous mystery of the Triumph of the Cross and proclaims to all people in the words of the Psalmist: “Give heed, my people, to my teaching; turn your ear to the words of my mouth” (Ps 78,1).
And the greatest word that God has ever spoken to humanity through his only-begotten Son is the Cross, the word of the Cross. It was in this sign that the faith came to this land; it is a sign that one meets along mountain roads and the deepest valleys.
People of Lesotho, my brothers and sisters in Christ: Let us never forget the Cross, the triumphant Cross.
Let us never forget the works of the Lord! (Cfr. Ps Ps 78,7). Amen.
God our Father,
all creation praises you,
all people delight in your presence.
You guide the course of history,
you govern all nations with order and mercy.
In your loving providence,
476 you called your servant, Joseph Gérard,
to imitate your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
to follow him more closely in chastity, poverty and obedience,
and to proclaim the Good News of salvation
in South Africa and in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
O Father of tenderness and love,
at this tomb of Joseph Gérard, we recall with gratitude
how you blessed your servant with a faithful spirit of prayer
that he might constantly walk in your gentle presence
and pour out his life in generous service of others.
You filled him with wisdom and apostolic zeal
477 that he might enlighten minds with the truth of the Gospel.
You gave your chosen one the gift of compassion
that, he might offer comfort to the sick, hope to the dying,
and charity to all.
On this vigil of his beatification
we thank you, heavenly Father, Source of all holiness,
for the Gospel witness of Father Joseph Gérard.
By the help of his prayers
give us purity of heart,
strengthen us in faith,
keep us firm in hope,
478 inspire us to imitate his example of love.
Bless the Church in this land
with renewed vigour in serving you,
with fresh enthusiasm for evangelization,
so that always and in everything
your Name may be blessed and adored.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Maseru Race Course (Lesotho)
479 Thursday, 15 September 1988
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord" (Lc 1,46).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. On the day after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross of Christ the liturgy of the Church directs our attention towards her who is found at the foot of the Cross, to the Mother of Christ, Mary.
She stood at the foot of the Cross together with three other women and with John, the disciple whom Christ loved. The Second Vatican Council teaches us that Mary is found there, at the foot of the Cross, “in keeping with the divine plan” (Lumen Gentium LG 58).
Indeed in a certain sense this was the climax in her life’s pilgrimage, the moment for which the Holy Spirit had been preparing her throughout her entire existence and especially from the time of the Annunciation. It was the culmination of her pilgrimage of faith, of hope and of that special union with Jesus, her Son, the Redeemer of the world.
At the beginning of this pilgrimage, we hear Mary say in the house of her kinswoman Elizabeth, when she speaks of the great things the Almighty has done for her: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. At the foot of the Cross, “a sword pierces Mary’s soul”, fulfilling the words of Simeon (Cfr. Luc Lc 2,35).
And yet, Mary does not cease to believe. The great works of God are accomplished precisely through this Cross, through the Sacrifice of the life of her Son. And united to the redemptive Sacrifice of her Son is the maternal sacrifice of her heart.
2. The Church leads us today into the very centre of the Heart of Mary, into the intimate mystery of her union with her Son, a union which here, at the foot of the Cross, reaches its particular fullness.
In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that Christ, while being Son of God, one in being with the Father, “learned to obey through suffering” (Hebr 5, 8). And precisely through this obedience even to death on the Cross “he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation” (Ibid 5, 9).
At the moment of the Annunciation Mary first spoke her “fiat”.
480 She said: “Let what you have said be done to me”. And with new strength of faith and trust in God she repeated this “fiat” at the foot of the Cross! This was her maternal sharing in the redemptive obedience of her Son as he offered his life on the Cross for the sins of the world.
At the foot of the Cross Mary never ceased to praise the wondrous mercy of God, the mercy which endures “from generation to generation”. And she did not cease to proclaim the saving “power of his arm”, which puts down the proud and raises the lowly. Like no other person on earth, Mary was able to penetrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ; she understood it with her heart.
3. And therefore the Church sees the Mother of God as the one who “preceded in the pilgrimage of faith” all the People of God on earth. In this faith she became a true daughter of Abraham; indeed she even surpassed him whom Saint Paul calls “the Father of all believers” (Rm 4,11). Her pilgrimage of faith has done something even greater: it has enabled us to enter ever more profoundly into the inscrutable mysteries of God.
The Church in your country, in Lesotho, here in Maseru, as does the Church throughout the earth, goes forward on this same pilgrimage of faith, the pilgrimage on which the Mother of God has gone before us. Today the Bishop of Rome meets you on this pilgrimage. He stands in your midst and celebrates with you the Eucharistic Sacrifice on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
4. It is with great joy that I join you in prayer today, my brothers and sisters of the Church in Lesotho. I know that many of you have had to make many sacrifices in order to be here, and I assure you of my happiness and gratitude that you have come. Your presence at this Liturgy is a sign of your love for the Church and an expression of your willingness to bear witness to the Kingdom of Christ.
I am also aware that many people would have liked to be with us, but have been unable to do so: the sick and suffering, those who live too far away, those who are too young or too old. To all of them I say with deep affection: the Pope embraces you and loves you in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
My fraternal greetings go to Archbishop Morapeli of Maseru and to the bishops of the other dioceses of Lesotho. With them, I greet all your dedicated priests and religious, your catechists, and all the members of your Christian families.
I greet our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ and all people of good will, and I thank you for joining us on this historic occasion. I offer very cordial greetings to those who have come from beyond the borders of this country.
In a very special way, I greet the people of South Africa where Blessed Joseph Gérard laboured in Natal and the eastern Free State.
As members of one family, united in the love of Jesus, we rejoice today in the everlasting mercy of God who has granted us the gift of faith and made us a people of hope, a people on pilgrimage to the eternal Kingdom of God.
5. This day has a particular significance for the journey of faith which the Church in Lesotho is making. For today we celebrate the Beatification of the Servant of God, Joseph Gérard.
481 In the First Reading of the Liturgy, taken from the book of Genesis, we hear God calling Abraham to set out on a journey of faith, to set out on a road that will take him away from all that he has ever known and loved, to put all his trust in the promise of the Lord.
Father Gérard heard God addressing to him a similar call of faith. As in the case of Abraham, the Lord said to the young Frenchman named Joseph, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you” (Gn 12,1). And he went promptly, as the Lord told him. He followed God’s call. He placed all his trust in the promise he had heard from on high.
The land that God showed Blessed Joseph was Africa, more precisely the land of South Africa, and then some years laser the land of the Basotho people. To this land, this Kingdom of Lesotho, he came as a man of faith. He came because he had been called and sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
6. From an early age, Joseph Gérard had been convinced that God was calling him to be a missionary.His heart overflowed with gratitude for the gift of the Christian life, and he longed to share with others this treasure, this priceless pearl, the infinite riches of knowing Jesus Christ. And it was this constant zeal for evangelization that shaped every stage of his long life.
Upon his arrival in Lesotho together with Bishop Allard and Brother Bernard he at once set about learning the language and customs of the Basotho people. He tried to understand their way of thinking, their sensitivities, their hopes and desires. He was eager to understand their very souls, so that he could decide on the best methods to use in preaching to them the Good News of salvation.
Father Gérard and his companions began their apostolic work at the mission called Roma. They gave themselves wholeheartedly and sacrificially to the task, relying completely on the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit of God soon brought forth fruit. Only a few years later, in 1866, a second mission at Korokoro was established. And in 1868 yet a third mission dedicated to Saint Michael was begun.
In obedience to his superior, Father Gérard went to the northern part of the country in 1876, where he founded the mission of Saint Monica. For the next twenty years and more he laboured there untiringly, establishing a convent and school, and building other missions in the surrounding area. In all his pastoral endeavours and plans, he placed all his hope in God, remembering the words spoken at his priestly ordination, namely that God who began the good work in him would bring it to completion.
Wherever Blessed Joseph Gérard went, he lived his missionary vocation with extraordinary apostolic fervour. His love for God, which burned ever more ardently in his heart, showed itself in practical love of neighbour. Above all he is remembered for his special care for the sick and suffering. Through frequent visits and his gentle manner, he always seemed to bring them fresh courage and hope. For those near the hour of death he found the right words to prepare them to meet God peacefully, face to face.
The secret of his holiness, the key to his joy and zeal, was the simple fact that he lived continually in the presence of God. Blessed Joseph’s whole life was caught up in the love of the Holy Trinity. People wanted to be near to Father Gérard because he always seemed near to God. He was filled with a spirit of prayer, nourished daily by the Liturgy of the Hours and by frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He had a fervent devotion to the Mother of God and the Saints. During his long and difficult journeys to outlying missions and the homes of the sick, he conversed continually with his beloved Lord. It is undoubtedly this vivid sense of being always in the presence of God that explains his lifelong fidelity to his religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and to his obligations as a priest.
God blessed Father Gérard with a long life of apostolic service. He granted him the grace to see over half a century of the unfolding evangelization of Lesotho. Father Gérard is certainly rejoicing today at the vitality of the Church in this country which was so dear to his heart: its bishops are native sons, there is an increasing number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the active laity numbers more than six hundred thousand people, including a hundred and forty thousand studying in Catholic schools. But with his missionary spirit, would he not still encourage us today to carry on with fresh enthusiasm the many-sided task of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ?
7. Here in Lesotho you have a traditional greeting: Khotso, Pula, Nala, – peace, rain and abundance. Blessed Joseph Gérard must have often prayed for these same blessings, he must have often uttered this same greeting in this land. Above all, he always tried to be a servant of reconciliation and peace, for this is an essential part of evangelization.
482 To evangelize means to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, to tell the story of how “God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, by his death on the Cross” (Col 1,19-20). The first step of evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God. We must first experience God’s gracious mercy, the love of Christ which has “reconciled us to himself” and given us “the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2Co 5-18).
As the twentieth century draws to a close and as your country looks to the future, this is the special gift and the greatest responsibility which the members of the Church offer to their fellow citizens, to be servants of reconciliation and peace, after the example of Blessed Joseph Gérard.
Always believe in the power of love and truth: the love of neighbour which is rooted in the love of God and the truth which sets people free. Reject violence as a solution to any situation, no matter how unjust it may be. Put your trust in the methods that respect the rights of all and that are fully in accordance with the Gospel. Above all, trust in the God of justice, who created all things, who sees all human events, who holds in his hands the destiny of every person and of every nation.
8. Dear brothers and sisters: I rejoice with you on this solemn day of celebration. It is a day of great importance in your pilgrimage of faith and hope, a day of jubilation on the journey to union with Christ which the People of God in this land are making. Let us give thanks to the most holy God for this day. Let us sing, together with Mary: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour” (Lc 1,46-47).
Together with Mary and with Blessed Joseph Gérard, let all the people of Lesotho exult in God our Saviour. Yes, all of you: young and old, children and parents, workers and teachers, priests and religious, the handicapped and the sick. Let us all praise the Lord with grateful voices, for the Almighty has done great things for us. Holy is his name!
9. Yet, at the same time, let the eyes of our faith never wander from the Cross of Calvary.
We read in the Gospel: “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son’. Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother'. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home” (Jn 19,26-27).
My fervent wish for all of you, dear brothers and sisters, is that the word of John’s Gospel may be fulfilled in you.
May each of you discover Mary as your Mother.
May each of you seek to be a son, a daughter, of Mary, who at the foot of the Cross becomes in a particular way for us the “Mother of Divine Grace”.
May each of you “make a place for her in your home”, and even more so in your heart, every day and throughout your life, especially at those times of trial and suffering.
483 May the memory of this blessed day be inscribed for ever in the history of this city and this country, in the history of the whole continent of Africa.
Blessed Joseph Gérard, pray for us; lead us to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother in faith. Amen.
O Mary, Mother of our Redeemer, Mother of the Church, at the end of this celebration of the Eucharist, we turn to you with confidence and love. On this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember your own sharing in the suffering and death of Christ your Son.
O Mother of Sorrows, it was precisely at the hour of your Son’s death that you became by a new title our Mother, Mother of all the faithful. For your loving Son said to you, as you stood at the foot of the Cross, “Woman, this is your son!”.
From that moment onwards and throughout the course of human history, you are the Mother not only of the beloved disciple but of every member of the Church. You are our gentle Mother. You care for us all as your dear children. In fact, you see in each of us the face of your beloved Jesus And you intercede with him on our behalf, for our good and the Redemption of the world.
Today, dearest Mother, I entrust to you all those present at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and all the people living in this mountain Kingdom. I entrust them to you with complete confidence and love.
O Mother of Sorrows, I bring before you the sick and the elderly and all who are burdened by sin. I know they will find in you a safe harbour and a consoling help. You will bring them tenderly but surely to the foot of the Triumphant Cross.
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, so filled with love for your Son, I entrust to you the youth of Lesotho in whose eyes the future shines. Protect them from the evil one. Enable them to see that only your Son is” the Way and the Truth and the Life”, only in him is there a future full of hope and a life truly founded on love.
O Blessed Virgin of Nazareth, I place before you the families of the Basotho people, all married couples who with their children are called to form a lifelong communion of love. Keep them pure and chaste, ever faithful to one another, always faithful, as you were, to the life-giving word of God.
O Mary, Model of holiness and first disciple of your Son, I entrust to your gentle care the Church in Lesotho. As it rejoices in a century and a quarter of evangelization and in the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, lead your sons and daughters in the way of constant conversion, along the path of spiritual renewal. Pray for this local Church, so dear to the Successor of Peter, so dear to your own Immaculate Heart. Help our brothers and sisters to come to believe with conviction what you believed at the foot of the Cross: that human death is not the final word, for the final word belongs to God, the God of love and mercy, the God who has saved the world through the victorious Cross of your Son. Amen.
484 Friday, 16 September 1988
"Listen! You are to conceive and bear a Son,
and you must name him Jesus...
his reign will have no end" (Lc 1,31 Lc 1,33).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today we come together in the name of Jesus Christ, the eternal King, whose reign will have no end: “Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps” (Ps 85,13).
We present ourselves to him, the King of Peace. His kingdom of peace is also one of grace and truth, of justice and love. And his Mother, the Virgin of Nazareth, tells the angel at the Annunciation, “I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lc 1,38). It is precisely as the Lord’s handmaid that she participates in the kingship of her Son. That is why she is the Queen of Peace.
2. I know that here in Swaziland the Church has come to have a special veneration for Mary under the title “Queen of Peace”. In my joy at being among you, I too wish to join in this veneration of Christ’s Mother. In this spirit, and uniting myself to the whole Church in Swaziland, I offer heartfelt greetings to you who are assembled here for this memorable celebration and to all the people of your beautiful country during this year in which you celebrated the twentieth anniversary of national independence.
I greet most respectfully His Majesty King Mswati III and Her Majesty the Queen Mother. With them, I greet as well the distinguished members of your Government. I extend fraternal greetings in Christ to Bishop Ndlovu, to the priests and religious of Swaziland and to all the members of the catholic Church in your country, I also greet those present who belong to other Ecclesial Communities or to non-Christian religions. To all of you go my greetings in the love of God.
3. Today’s first reading from Sacred Scripture helps us to understand better what we mean when we say that Christ is the King of Peace. Saint Paul tells us that “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself” (2Co 5,19). This reconciliation was accomplished through Christ’s redeeming Sacrifice on the Cross, and it is the basis of the peace that fills Christ’s kingdom. It is a reconciliation that cannot be destroyed. It remains for ever fruitful as a source of reconciliation and peace for the whole human race.
Christ’s work of reconciliation transforms us from within. It frees us from selfishness and sin, and confers upon us a new life in him. As Saint Paul tells us, “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them” (Ibid.); “... the reason (Christ) died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them” (Ibid. 5, 15). “... For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation” (Ibid. 5, 17).
485 Christ is King of Peace because he establishes a new creation and restores the dimension of brotherhood to human life on earth. All people are brothers and sisters to each other because God is their common Father. Christ revealed this to us by teaching us to call God “Our Father”. This is the foundation of the peace of God’s Kingdom.
4. To be sure, God alone is the source of this peace. In him we find the source of all reconciliation, human and divine. Saint Paul proclaims this when he says that “It is all God’s work” (2Co 5,18). Yet we also know in faith that the gift of peace is likewise a human responsibility given to each and every one of us. Saint Paul again proclaims: “the love of Christ overwhelms us” (Ibid. 5, 14). God, who “in Christ was reconciling the world to himself... has entrusted to us the news that (people) are reconciled” (Ibid.5, 18). And so, “we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God” (Ibid. 5, 20). Clearly, Saint Paul knows that he is handing on a “message of reconciliation”. It constitutes a mission not only for his contemporaries, but for the Church throughout the ages.
5. After many centuries this apostolic mission, described in the Second Letter to the Corinthians and proclaimed during today’s liturgy, reached this land in the southern region of the African continent. What does this mission mean for us who are gathered here, for the Church in Swaziland and for all the people of your country? How does the apostolic “message of reconciliation” resound here with new vigour?
An ambassador is known by his credentials. He must give credible proof that he has been sent. As ambassadors of Christ we too must give proof of our mission. And the greatest proof is our own fidelity to the Christian way of life. If we are reconciled with God, with ourselves and with others, and if we in turn foster this reconciliation in society, we can make a convincing claim to be ambassadors of the King of Peace. In this way, the good news that God in Christ has reconciled the world to himself will be credible to those who see and hear us.
6. An important challenge today in our individual lives and in the life of society is the great need to support and strengthen the family, that “intimate community of life and love” (Gaudium et Spes GS 48) which is the primary foundation of society. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Christ “who is our peace” (Ep 2,14) was himself a member of a family. He was the Son of Mary. Through Mary’s “yes” to God, through her loving surrender to God’s will, Jesus entered our world as a man and became a member of a human family, the Holy Family of Nazareth.And in so doing, he affirmed the dignity and value of family life.
Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, every family in Swaziland, every family in the world, is built on love and exists for love. As I stated in my Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Family in the Modern World, “the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of, and a real sharing in, God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his Bride” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Familiaris Consortio FC 17).
In family life, the love between husband and wife is of primary importance. For if a family is to be true to its own nature as an intimate community of life and love, then husband and wife must form a loving communion of total and mutual self-giving. God our Creator has established natural complementarity and equal dignity between man and woman which facilitate and favour this communion. Furthermore, as a special source of grace, Christ instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony in which the Holy Spirit is poured forth on a couple to be their light and wisdom, to give them the strength to remain faithful for all of life to their marriage vows. Christian marriage, then, is characterized by a special bond of unity and indissolubility, for Christ gives to each couple the grace to overcome all obstacles to a lifelong and exclusive union in love.
For this reason, Christians find that a monogamous marital union provides the foundation upon which to build a stable family, in accordance with the original plan of God for marriage. “From the beginning”, God founded the marriage covenant on the equal personal dignity of men and women, “who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Familiaris Consortio FC 19). Hence, all forms of disregard for the equal dignity of men and women must be seen as serious contradictions of the truth that Christ, the King of Peace, has brought into the world.
At the same time, it is important to recognize the positive practices and values which strengthen and support marriage and family life. These include the worthy traditional Swazi values and practices that have come down to you. It has been a constant tradition of the Church to receive from various cultures everything that helps to express better the unfathomable riches of Christ. Your culture can enrich the whole Church to the degree that it is filled with human wisdom and enlivened by moral values (Ibid, 10).
7. The love of Christ and the truth of his Gospel also urge you to help those in your communities whose marriages and family life are troubled because of marital infidelity and promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, and the unbridled use of modern technology in ways that do not always respect the dignity of human life. These and other social evils are by no means confined to Swaziland. They are symptoms of the lack of reconciliation with God and with others that we find in individual human hearts and in whole societies in today’s world.
Despite these social ills and the suffering they cause, there is never any reason for us as Christians to be overwhelmed with discouragement; rather we should be overwhelmed with joy at the fidelity of God, at the Good News of the Victory of the Cross, at the wondrous love of our heavenly Father. In this context, for example, we recall those grandmothers who, when faced with broken homes and abandoned children, have lovingly reared their grandchildren and introduced them to Christian faith and sacramental life. May we learn from these good women the power of love, as they so generously care for the young who are the future of Swaziland.
486 8. Dear brothers and sisters: the search for reconciliation and peace that begins in your families must also extend to your communities, your country and the whole human race.Peace is Christ’s gift to us (Cfr. Io Jn 14,27), but as sinners we must constantly search for peace and struggle to preserve it. My predecessor Paul VI called attention to an important aspect of this search when he said to us: “If you want peace, work for justice” (Pauli VI Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1972, die 8 dec. 1971: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, IX  1073 ss).
As Catholics, you have an important contribution to make to the building of a more just society for your fellow citizens. The traditional sense of justice that your ancestors have handed down to you can be enriched by Christian revelation to encompass a new and deeper commitment to authentic human development for all. In this regard, I want to commend you on the current efforts being made in Swaziland to ensure racial harmony, religious liberty, social welfare, and a hospitable welcome for refugees. There has also been a long-standing openness to the views of other nations. All this serves to promote a more just and humane society and a more peaceful world.
9. The apostolic mission to be ambassadors of reconciliation places a special obligation on all Christians to seek reconciliation among themselves. With all of you, I welcome the initiatives that have been undertaken by ecumenical organizations on a national level, as well as the more spontaneous collaboration of Christians locally. A true spirit of ecumenism will not ignore the real doctrinal differences that exist among Christians, nor should it lead to indifference about our Catholic identity or the practice of our faith. But we can and should rejoice at every effort to promote Christian unity, especially as we work together for greater justice and peace.
10. My brothers and sisters in Christ: the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the salvation of the world: “Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High... and his reign will have no end” (Lc 1,31-33).
Yes, the reign of Christ will have no end, even though the powers of this world will pass away, even though heaven and earth will pass away. His word will not pass away: the word of Christ will endure for ever because it is the word of truth and love, the word of justice and grace, the word of reconciliation and peace.
What the Psalmist foretold is thus fulfilled: “Mercy and faithfulness have met; Justice and peace have embraced... The Lord will make us prosper and our earth shall yield its fruit. Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps” (Ps 10-13).
The Angel Gabriel announced: “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus” (Lc 1,30-31): Jesus, a name which means “God saves”, a name which means “Saviour”.
11. And she whom we venerate here in Swaziland as the Queen of Peace answered with the words: “I am the handmaid of the Lord... let what you have said be done to me” (Ibid.1, 38).
The Queen of Peace is the one who wishes to serve – who wishes above all to serve the reconciliation and peace which Christ her Son brings to the world. She – the Mother of the King of Peace – desires above all to serve and to intercede so that “our earth shall yield its fruit”, the fruit of peace with God and among all people.
Mary – the Queen of Peace – desires above all to serve, because “to serve God is to reign”. Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 473