S. John Paul II Homil. 486
O Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the end of this celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in which we have meditated on the mystery of the Annunciation and honoured you under the title “Queen of Peace”, I now turn to you in confident prayer.
487 Look with love upon God’s people gathered here in worship. See how they rejoice with you in the Good News of your Son. You know how firmly they believe in the Gospel. You know how deep their love is for him. Be near to them always, O Mother of the Redeemer, to assist them on their journey of faith. In union with the Body of Christ throughout the world, the Church in Swaziland seeks to respond generously to the great task of evangelization: to hand on faithfully the teachings of the Church, to defend the dignity and rights of every person, to give constant glory and praise to the Most Holy Trinity.
O dearest Mother of Our Saviour, I entrust to your loving care all the members of the Church in this land, their bishop and priests, their men and women religious, all the laity who serve Christ in the midst of the world. I entrust them to you with great hope, confident that you will teach them how to grow each day in the knowledge and love of your divine Son.
O Blessed Virgin Mary, in a special way I entrust to you the youth of this country: the little children in their innocence and joy, and the young men and women who are now deciding what to do with their lives. Lead them along the way of truth and love to a future that is bright with hope. May their minds and hearts, like your own, be guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
O Mary, Mother of tenderness, I entrust to you the sick and the elderly, and all who care for them. Your own heart was pierced with suffering and sadness as you witnessed the redemptive suffering of your Son. Help those who are given a generous share in the Cross of Christ to share as well in the promise of the Resurrection. May the families of Swaziland be united in Christ’s love and may their homes be like your home in Nazareth, a place of warm welcome and affection.
O Mary, Queen of Peace, I entrust to your gentle care all the beloved people dwelling in this land.I place before you their aspirations and desires, especially their concern for justice and peace. When your Son was born at Bethlehem, the angels sang out in chorus: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour” (Lc 2,14).
Yes, the Son of God, your Son, came to bring peace, peace to men and women of good will, peace to people of every race and nation, peace to those “who enjoy his favour”, peace that is founded on justice and mercy. Intercede with your Son, O Queen of Peace, for the gift of peace throughout the world and for the fullness of peace in the hearts of all. And may the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace be ever more firmly established here in Swaziland. Amen.
I have come to Southern Africa as a pilgrim of peace carrying with me a message of reconciliation. I am saddened to learn that others on their way to join me in this pilgrimage have been the victims of a hijack that caused such anguish and bloodshed. I pray that God may take to himself those who have died and that he may console the members of their families, and grant a steady and speedy recovery to the wounded.
Airport of “Ndeke”, Kitwe (Zambia)
Wednesday, 3 May 1989
“The Lord is very near” (Ph 4,5).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
488 1. These words give us comfort and courage. They explain our gathering here today in Kitwe, in the Copperbelt. The Lord himself has brought us together. In the name of him who is the chief Shepherd of the Church, I greet each one of you. I greet the bishops from your nine dioceses and in particular, Bishop de Jong of this Diocese of Ndola. I greet the other concelebrants, bishops, priests, the men and women religious, the seminarians, the catechists.
I greet the civic leaders and the members of the other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities present.
Today in Kitwe God permits me to proclaim Christ’s love for his people, his love for the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, believers and non-believers, refugees. Let us rejoice together in the message of Jesus’ love for each and every one of us.
2. God’s love is expressed in the words of the Prophet Ezekiel in the liturgy of today’s Mass: “I am going to look after my flock and keep all of it in view” (Ez 34,11). The God of Israel reveals himself to the people of the Old Testament as a Shepherd.The attentive shepherd looks after the sheep and protects them from being scattered. He seeks out the best pastures for them. At a suitable time he leads them to rest. He watches especially over the lost, the stray, the unhealthy or the injured members of the flock.
We are familiar with this image. In fact, Jesus says of himself: “I am the Good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10,11)
Jesus can say this about himself because he and the Father share the same love for mankind. As we heard in today’s Gospel for the Feast of Saints Philip and James, at the Last Supper, as the “hour” drew near for Jesus to offer up his life for the sins of the world, Philip asked: “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied”. Jesus replied: “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father”(Ibid.14, 8-9)
3. Jesus called God his Father and he taught his disciples to call God “our Father”. But there in the Upper Room, Philip and James and the other apostles heard something more.Jesus says: “to have seen me is to have seen the Father”. Explaining this idea he continues: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Here, Jesus’ conversation with the apostles on the night before his Passion contains a special revelation of the unity of God in the Trinity of Persons.
The Son came from the Father. As man, born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son remains always in the Father and the Father remains in him (Cfr. Io Jn 14,11). Having carried out his redemptive mission, Jesus returns to the Father. So he says to the apostles in the Upper Room: “I go to the Father” (Ibid. 14, 12). He came into the world from the Father. Now he leaves the world and returns to the Father (Cfr. ibid. 16, 28).
Forty days after Easter the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension. The conversation in the Upper Room prepares us for that moment when Jesus returns to the Father.
4. But it is his intention to lead us too to our heavenly Father. Jesus says of himself: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (Ibid. 14, 6). The Son, who is of one being with the Father (Cfr. ibid. 10, 30), became our path to salvation. He is the Shepherd. The Shepherd knows the way and leads the flock until it reaches the best pastures, the rich meadows where the sheep will find food. For us, rational human beings, that food is the Truth which leads to Life. Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
This is the message of today’s liturgy regarding Jesus Christ. Philip and James – indeed all the twelve apostles – received this message from Christ himself. This is the faith of the Church; and the Church in Zambia, as everywhere else, has been built up on the truth of this message.
489 5. I am pleased that my visit to Zambia coincides with the beginning of celebrations marking the hundredth anniversary of the presence of the Catholic Church in this region.It is true that Portuguese missionaries first came here in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but is was only in the late nineteenth century that organized Catholic missionary activity began. We cannot forget the first Jesuits and White Fathers who came at that time, nor the Italian Franciscans and Irish Capuchins who came later. By another happy coincidence, this year also marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bishop Francis Mazzieri, the dedicated Conventual missionary who became the first Bishop of Ndola and who is buried here.
Like Bishop Mazzieri, the first missionary priests and sisters were inspired by a deep love of God and by a heroic zeal for the Gospel. They worked under difficult conditions, in a new environment, far from the support of their families and friends, but the love of Christ kept them going. What mattered most was that Christ should be lived and preached. They sowed the seeds of faith which you are privileged to make your own and in turn hand on to the next generation. The first generation of missionaries found strength in the knowledge that Christ the Good Shepherd would always watch over his flock.
As a sign of this, at the conclusion of Mass, I will be happy to bless the foundation stones of six new parish churches for the Diocese of Ndola. I do this in memory of Bishop Mazzieri and all the missionaries of Zambia, but also as an expression of hope for the future; a future of great promise.
6. It is only fitting then that we should ask ourselves what does it mean to be a Catholic in the Copperbelt and in Zambia today. Certainly, it means to take an active part in the life of the Church. The family of faith has grown since those early days and the message of the Gospel has taken root. The approaching centenary celebration is a moment of grace for the Church in Zambia, a young Church with great potential. The centenary is a precious opportunity to renew and deepen your relationship with Christ who is the cornerstone and the Good Shepherd. Each parish, each local group, should intensify prayer in order to have the strength and courage to evangelize and to serve each other in fraternal love.
Jesus has said: “Whatever you ask for in my name I will do” (Jn 14,14). Through the solidarity of a faith-filled ecclesial community Christ stretches out his hand to the unemployed, the sick, all who suffer, and he says to each one of you: “I love you”. In the Second Reading of today’s Mass, Saint Paul’s words to the Philippians encourage us: “if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving” (Ph 4,5-6). Our petitions are not always immediately answered, but we can be certain that the “peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus” (Ph 4,7).
7. The Lord is indeed very near. The Lord has never abandoned his people but always seeks to draw ever closer to them. The history of Zambia shows this too: the Lord has always been very near to you in your progress towards independence and unity as a nation. He is with you as you go to the mines, he is there at the pit face; he is with you as you gather as members of a family or social group. He is beside you as you go about your work in factories, in school, at home or in the fields.
In a special way Christ is near to you in the sacraments. He has made you children of God in Baptism and he strengthens you to be his witnesses in Confirmation. In the Eucharist, Christ comes to you as the food of your souls. He is the Lamb of God who takes away your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In Marriage he gives you the graces you will need to remain faithful to the love you pledge at the altar and to bring up your children as children of the Father. In Holy Orders he confirms the deacons and priests in their special vocation and gives them the necessary grace to be his ambassadors and ministers among the People of God. In the Anointing of the Sick he removes sin and brings relief and strength to the sick and the dying, giving them confidence in God’s mercy.
8. “Christ is very near”. I say these words especially to the young people who are gathered here at this Mass. The Lord is very close to you. When you need him he will come to you; he will lift you up and carry you on his shoulders since he is the Good Shepherd. You have a saying that the young trees, when they grow up, will make the forest. With Christ as the cornerstone, you will be the architects, the builders of tomorrow’s Zambia and tomorrow’s Church. Do not be afraid to build your lives on the rock which is Christ himself! He will be your joy and your peace.
9. Yes, my dear friends: “the Lord is very near”. But how will people who are searching for him know this? Will they be able to recognize him in your lives? This will be the test! People will realize that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is in your midst if you live in harmony, in justice and in God’s peace. They will see Christ in you if you exercise charity and tolerance especially towards those in need, the stranger, the refugee. Christ needs the witness of your love if the message of the Gospel is to take deeper root and spread out even further in Zambia.
To all he people of Zambia, to all families and to all who live in this richly endowed country Christ says to you today and every day of your lives: “I am very near... Let your tolerance be evident to everyone... and the peace of God... will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus” (Ph 4,4-5 Ph 4,7). Amen.
Cathedral of Lusaka (Zambia)
490 Thursday, 4 May 1989
“You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses” (Ac 1,8).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today is the fortieth day after Christ s Resurrection. As he leaves this world in order to return to the Father, Jesus promises the Apostles once again that the Holy Spirit will come upon them. The Spirit will be their Paraclete, their new Advocate and Helper. He will be for them the source of power that overcomes human weakness. You will receive his power, “and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to earth’s remotest end” (Ac 1,8).
With this promise Christ goes to the Father. The apostles will see the words of their Master – the last words that he spoke to them – become a reality. They will receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and on that day Jerusalem will hear their testimony to Christ crucified and risen.
From this saving truth the Church will be born. She will be born through the faith and baptism of those who are the first to welcome the word of God proclaimed by the apostles. From that time on the Church will be born constantly not only in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but in ever new places, “to earth’s remotest end”.
2. The time was also to come when from that apostolic message and apostolic labour the same Church of Christ would be born here, in Zambia. Today we look back with praise and thanksgiving to the origins of the Church in your country.
The evangelization of Zambia took place mainly from 1879 to 1930, thanks to the heroic efforts of the White Fathers, the Jesuits and the Franciscan Conventuals and Capuchins in different parts of the country.
An important milestone was the opening of the first Catholic parish by the White Fathers in 1891. Another was the episcopal ordination of this region’s first bishop, Joseph Dupont, a White Father from France. He was ordained on Zambian soil among the Zambian people at the Kayambi Mission. Just thirty years ago Lusaka became an Archdiocese and the Metropolitan See for the whole country, a distinction it now shares with Kasama.
Today members of many missionary Institutes come here to further the work of evangelization – not only priests, but religious brothers and many sisters as well. The missionary labours of the past century have been crowned by an increasing number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life from among the sons and daughters of Zambia itself, as the roots of the Gospel sink deeper in the rich soil of your country.
“It is not for you to know the times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority” (Ac 1,7). The whole of future time is embraced by the eternal mind of the Father and by his power, even to the last day. This includes the day fixed for the beginning of the Church’s history in your land.
491 Thus we can say that the Church here was also born on Pentecost Day, when the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit and began their testimony to Christ, the testimony which extends over generations and centuries.
3. Today we give thanks to the living God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are grateful for all those who have gone before you, in particular the missionaries who are truly your “fathers in Christ” and whose memory lives on in the Church’s witness to the Gospel in Zambia. You, dear brothers and sisters, are the living stones of the house they built through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is fitting that we make our act of thanksgiving on this spot in your nation’s capital where a new Catholic Cathedral is to be built. The blessing of the cornerstone symbolizes the beginning of a building made up of many stones. The construction of a house of worship devoted to the living God always has its beginning in Christ for he is the cornerstone, the “keystone”.
From Christ’s Cross and Resurrection we derive that power of the Holy Spirit which was manifested on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. It is a power that the Church in Zambia constantly receives in order to become an ever more mature witness to Christ crucified and risen. “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ibid. 4, 12).
4. The same power of the Holy Spirit to which we owe the building up of the Church in Zambia is also the source of every baptized person’s transformation according to the model of Christ himself. Christ is the living model of the new man, of the man who incarnates and manifests by his life the truth of the Beatitudes in today’s Gospel.
We are told that we will be truly blessed if we imitate Christ by letting God’s love transform every situation of human weakness, need and suffering. Only faith in a Crucified and Risen Saviour makes it possible for us to think of ourselves as blessed when we are poor, in mourning or persecuted. Only the victory of Christ can ensure the blessedness of those who are gentle, merciful, pure of heart and eager for honesty and peace.
The Beatitudes challenge us to overcome human weakness, need and suffering through the transforming power of the Spirit. At the same time they teach us to judge our success not in material terms alone, but by applying the measure of love to individual human hearts even in situations of injustice, sinfulness and despair.
Dear brothers and sisters: Christ invites you and the whole Church to live the Beatitudes.He asks those who are rich to remember that in God’s eyes it is the poor who are blessed. He invites them to change their hearts, to be spiritually detached from material things, to take an interest in the poor, to commit themselves to working for a more just society. The poor, in their turn, must not lose confidence in their dignity and vocation as God’s children, nor think that for lack of worldly goods they are excluded from blessedness in the sight of God. Hatred is never justified even in the midst of dire need or injustice.
The Church proclaims a message of hope to those of you who suffer in Zambia today, whether physically or spiritually: to the sick and dying, especially the victims of AIDS, and to those who lack medical care; to the many young people who are unemployed for lack of education or job opportunities; to those who are refugees as a result of social upheaval. She pledges herself to continue working with other Christians and all people of good will to help change things for the better. But above all the Church offers you Christ. In him, evil and suffering are overcome at their very roots, through the forgiveness of sins.
Every person who is baptized can and must be spiritually transformed in the power of the Holy Spirit according to the model and ideal found in Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work in the human “heart”: in each person’s inmost self.
5. At the same time the Holy Spirit also unites people with one another. He “gathers together” the People of God, as we read in the Prophet Jeremiah: “I will... gather you from all the nations and all... places” (Ier. 29, 14).
492 Dear brothers and sisters: are you not “gathered together” in this way from different places in your vast country, you who make up the Church in Zambia? And are you not likewise “gathered together” in the universal Church, which stretches “to earth’s remotest end” – gathered “from all the nations”?
This “gathering together” responds to the deep desire of every person to live in communion, in fellowship with others. As the theme of my pastoral visit expresses it. we seek to grow “together in Christ, our hope”: together with others in Zambia, together with all our brothers and sisters in faith throughout the world.
I urge you in the face of many social changes not to lose the sense of belonging and of sharing that have always been an important part of life in Zambia. Without these supports the human community breaks down and its collective moral strength is lost. I also urge you to renew those great traditional values which lead family to share with family, village with village, and chieftainship with chieftainship.
May the “communion in the Holy Spirit” for which the Church prays continue to work in you, sons and daughters of Zambia. May it enable you to overcome divisions in the midst of the great Christian family. May it “gather together” and unite all of you in conformity with God’s designs which, in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, are “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Ibid. Jr 29,11).
6. “You will call upon me” says the Lord through the Prophet, “and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you” (Ier. 29, 12-14). This is an invitation to prayer that is always offered to everyone, but it is fulfilled in an exceptional way in the fervent prayer of those in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, The apostles and disciples of the Lord “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with... Mary, the Mother of Jesus” (Ac 1,14). By means of this prayer they prepared themselves to receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And their prayer was heard.
Keeping in mind this prayer, which implored the gift of the Spirit so that the Church born on the Cross might be manifested to the world, we who are here are gathered together around the Mother of God, who prays with us and for us. As the apostles invited her to the Upper Room, so we too have invited her here. Let us turn to her now in prayer and entrust to her maternal protection your country and your local Churches.
7. Blessed Mary, you are the Queen of the Apostles and our model of prayer in the Upper Room on the eve of Pentecost. Look with kindness upon this land of Zambia, upon all its people and their leaders. As children of one Heavenly Father, they wish to come closer to him and to do his will. They are striving to work together for the good of all. Help them, Blessed Lady, to grow in their love of God and neighbour.
Queen of Peace, inspire all the citizens of this land to be truly grateful for the blessings of peace which they enjoy. May they always live in harmony with one another and with other nations. We ask you to intercede for the many people in Africa who suffer from war and violence, injustice and oppression, and from social and economic hardship.
Chosen by God as a highly favoured daughter “full of grace”, you brought forth the Saviour. Open the hearts of all the people of Zambia to the dignity and vocation of every human person created and redeemed by God. Keep their families strong and help the young to find their rightful place in society. Through human and Christian love may justice grow and flourish in this land.
Mother of the Church, I entrust to you today all the bishops, priests, men and women religious and laity who form the local Churches in Zambia. At this liturgy I commend to you in a special way Archbishop Mung’andu and the Archdiocese of Lusaka. May all the Christian faithful here live the Beatitudes in imitation of your Son. May they work together to build up the one Body of Christ.
The laity of Zambia look to you as the Help of Christians to lead them to greater love and understanding of their Catholic Faith. They invoke your intercession as they seek to transform society with the love of Christ. Intercede for them and obtain for them an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life among their sons and daughters, for the service of the Church.
493 Mother of Sorrows, at the foot of the Cross you never lost hope in God’s power to save. Be close to all who suffer in Zambia today: those with family problems, the refugees, the poor and unemployed. Bring comfort to the sick and dying. May they receive compassion from others and put all their trust in God.
We turn to you, Mother, as our refuge and hope on this our earthly pilgrimage. You are the Queen of Hope, and we entrust ourselves to you this day. As you once prayed for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the apostles, pray now for us, that through the power of the same Spirit we may truly be witnesses to Christ, your Son. To him be glory for ever. Amen.
Friday, 5 May 1989
“It was necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory” (Cfr. Luc Lc 24,26)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the name of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Bishop of Rome greets the Church in Malawi.Today’s celebration is a sign of the universality of Christ’s Church, which is built upon the foundation of the Apostles with Peter at the head as a lasting and visible source and foundation of unity (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 18).
At the same time I wish to greet all the people of this African nation. The Church proclaims and professes the truth about Christ, the Redeemer of the world, to all the sons and daughters of this land, to whom she feels especially close. I know that the citizens of Malawi are religious people who have always sought God’s help and protection for their country. I pray that he will bestow upon all of you many spiritual and material blessings, so that you may grow in your love for him and for one another, and for all people of every race and nation.
2. Today we celebrate the Liturgy of the Lord’s Ascension. The Scriptures tell us that forty days after he rose from the dead, Christ “was taken up” to heaven. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that they witnessed the return of the Lord to the Father: “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Ac 1,9).
But before this, during the forty days that followed his Resurrection, Christ “presented himself” to the Apostles and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God (Cfr. ibid. Ac 1,3). We are told that “he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Ibid. Ac 1,4).
Before his Passion, Christ had already promised the Apostles that the Father would send the Paraclete – the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. And after the Resurrection he said: “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Ibid. Ac 1,5). Indeed the Spirit is the one who accomplishes the baptism of conversion, immersing man in the grace of divine life. By means of this promise Jesus prepared his disciples for the day when he would leave this world for the Father.
494 3. In Jesus Christ the power of God is revealed: “the immeasurable greatness of his power”, as we read in the Letter to the Ephesians (Ep 1,19). This letter of Saint Paul goes on to say that “ the working of (God’s) great might “was accomplished in Christ “when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand... above every name that is named” (Ibid. Ep 1,20-21). Yes, above every other name under heaven, “not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ibid. 1, 21). God has exalted the Crucified and Risen Christ as Lord of all.
Christ is the Son who is of one being with the Father. And in him – in the Son – God revealed himself as Father. Christ is the fullness of God’s self-revelation in human history. He is “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ac 1,23). The Father “has put all things under his feet” (Ibid. Ac 1,22). As Redeemer and Lord, Christ is “the head of the Church, which is his body” (Cfr. Ibid. Ac 1,22-23). This is the truth proclaimed to us in today’s Liturgy by the Letter to the Ephesians. This is the truth about Christ’s Ascension.
4. At the Ascension the Risen Christ speaks to the Apostles one last time about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He says: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Ac 1,8). We read these words in the Acts of the Apostles. We read the same in today’s Gospel. Both texts were written by the Evangelist Luke.
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marks the beginning of the Church’s mission. The Apostles received this mission from Christ. The Holy Spirit gave them the power to fulfil it by word and deed even to the shedding of their blood. Martyrdom is the ultimate testimony to the truth about Christ crucified and risen. Following in the foot-steps of the Apostles the Church has inherited the same mission, and she fulfils it in the midst of all the nations.
Dear brothers and sisters: it is now a hundred years since the Church was implanted in this land. The first Catholic missionaries arrived at Mponda in 1889. Like the Apostles they too had heard the Lord’s command to “preach repentance and forgiveness of sins... in his name to all nations” (Lc 24,47). They gave themselves unselfishly in order that the Good News of salvation might find a home in the hearts of all. They sowed the seed. The Lord has given the growth.
Since that humble beginning the Church has taken root in Malawi and has produced a rich harvest for the Gospel. This is shown by the large number of Catholics, their lively faith, the many vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the eagerness of dedicated lay men and women to serve the Church community and to bring the faith to others.
After a century of growth, you now have seven dioceses: Blantyre, Chikwawa, Dedza, Lilongwe, Mangochi, Mzuzu and Zomba. In every part of this country the Church’s sons and daughters are spreading the joy and enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit. They are bearing witness to Christ in obedience to his command. They are blessing God for all his mighty deeds.
5. At the same time, like the first Apostles, like the early missionaries in Malawi and like Christians in every age, we must recognize that the Lord is always calling the Church to renewal. If we are to “preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins” to others, we ourselves must first “be converted and live”.
This is the theme of my pastoral visit among you, and I gladly join your bishops in inviting you to reflect more deeply on the meaning of your life in Christ. It is good that you should challenge one another to grow in faith, hope and love; that you should ask yourselves how far justice, peace and reconciliation have transformed the way you live; that you should strive to conform your lives more perfectly to the mysteries of faith that you celebrate every Sunday (Cfr. EPISC. MAMAVIAE Epistula od Catholicos, die 6 ian. 1989). “Be converted and live”: these words are a lifelong challenge to all of us, to grow in holiness as sons and daughters of God.
I hope that my visit will help you, as individuals and as a community of faith, to be more like Christ every day, and help you to persevere in living the Gospel. Our mission as members of the Church is to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us and all of humanity through his power, now that the Son is seated “at God’s right hand”.
Even though we can no longer see Christ, he assures us that we are seeing him with the eyes of faith in the needy. We are told that at the final judgement both the righteous and unrighteous will ask, “Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison?” And he will answer that what we did or failed to do for the least of our brothers and sisters we did to him (Cfr. Mt 25,31-46). Therefore it is Christ whom you welcome to Malawi whenever you show love and kindness to the refugee who comes to your country from Mozambique in search of safety, food and shelter. Some of you have even welcomed Christ in this way into your villages and homes. You can also see him in the handicapped. Whenever you help such people to take their rightful place in society, you are helping Christ. This also applies to the love and care you show for the sick and dying. Today a growing number of people suffer from AIDS. We must treat them as we would treat Christ himself. We must “be converted and live” through active charity, through the power of love.
495 6. When Christ returned to the Father, the Apostles “were gazing into heaven as he went” (Ac 1,10), “as cloud took him out of their sight” (Ibid. Ac 1,9) the cloud being a sign of God’s presence, as we see so often in the Old Testament.The Apostles also heard these words: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Ibid. 1, 11). This means that the Church must accomplish her mission on earth with hope in the Second Coming of Christ.
When will this happen? We can reply with the Master’s own words: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Ibid. 1, 7). The time of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the world must therefore be left to the Father. In the meantime we, members of the Church, must be watchful and ready. We must also do everything possible to prepare the world for Christ’s final Coming-for Judgement.
7. Dear brothers and sisters who are the Church of Jesus Christ here in this land: on the occasion of our gathering today I pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”. May he truly enlighten “the eyes of your hearts”, “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe” (Ep 1,17-19).
Let us pray for this, especially as we look forward to Pentecost. Let us pray together with the Apostles, and particularly Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Nations, who carried the name of Christ to the whole world of his time.
Father of glory, hear our prayer, and grant that “the eyes of the heart may be enlightened” for all the people here today, your beloved sons and daughters in Christ. Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 486