S. John Paul II Homil. 831
1. “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (Lc 5,10). Today’s Gospel passage tells us about the vocation of Simon Peter and of the first Apostles. After speaking to the crowd from Simon’s boat, Jesus asks them to put out into the deep for a catch. Peter replies by explaining his difficulties during the previous night when, despite his efforts, he was unable to catch anything. Nevertheless he trusts the Lord and makes his first act of faith in him: “At your word, I will let down the nets” (Lc 5,5).
The subsequent wonder of the miraculous catch is an eloquent sign of Jesus’ divine power and, at the same time, foretells the mission that will be entrusted to the Fisherman of Galilee, of steering the ship of the Church over the billows of history, and, with the power of the Gospel, of gathering an immense multitude of men and women from every part of the globe.
The call of Peter and the first Apostles is the work of God’s free initiative, which is answered by man’s free adherence to him. This loving dialogue with the Lord helps the human being to become aware of his limitations and, at the same time, of the power of God’s grace, which purifies and renews the mind and heart: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men”. The ultimate success of the mission is guaranteed by divine assistance. It is God who brings everything to fulfilment. We are asked to trust in him and to comply docilely with his will.
2. Do not be afraid! How many times does the Lord repeat this invitation to us. Today especially, in an age marked by powerful fears and uncertainties, these words resound as an exhortation to entrust ourselves to God, to turn our gaze towards him. He, who directs the fate of history by the power of his Spirit, does not abandon us in trial and makes our steps firm in faith.
Dear brothers and sisters, let this deep awareness pervade your life. God calls every believer to follow him; he asks him to co-operate in his saving plan. Like Simon Peter, we too can proclaim: “At your word I will let down the nets”. At your word! His word is the Gospel, the perennial message of salvation, which transforms life when it is accepted and lived. On the day of our Baptism these “glad tidings” were communicated to us, and we must ponder them deeply and witness to them with courage.
The City Mission, now in its essential phase, asks all Christians to proclaim the Gospel in word, but especially with integrity of life. In this extraordinary apostolic undertaking, consider yourselves as continually sustained by the One who is the first missionary sent by the Father into the world: Jesus Christ, our Lord.
3. Dear brothers and sisters of Infant Jesus Parish in Saccopastore, I am delighted to be with you today, and to visit your lovely Church! I extend my affectionate greetings to you all: to the Cardinal Vicar, to the Auxiliary Bishop of this area, to your young parish priest, Fr Antonino De Siati, and to the priests who work with him, to the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antide, who are closely involved in parish activities and offer their generous service to the community’s many elderly and sick. I also greet those who participate more directly in parish life and in the many formation, service and apostolic groups, with a special thought for the individuals and families of Filipino descent who for some time have been meeting here every week for the Sunday liturgical celebration.
832 I know that there are many elderly people in your community. I extend my affectionate greetings particularly to them and to all Rome’s elderly, together with a cordial invitation to pray constantly and confidently for their own needs and for the success of the City Mission. May your witness of faith, dear brothers and sisters, be an example to everyone, but especially to young people, of how to welcome Christ into one’s life.
I am delighted with the religious and lay collaborators over the charitable and social programmes they have organized in the parish. The concrete solidarity you show to those in need both in your neighbourhood and far from here does you honour. I am referring to the many charitable activities you conduct, such as the support of a leprosarium in Central Africa, aid to the people stricken by the earthquake in Central Italy and twinning with the Lido dei Pini Institute. Continue your efforts in the spirit of the Word of God who, by his Incarnation, has reached out to everyone and has brought salvation to all.
4. Yours is a large community which has grown up along a bend in the Aniene River, located in the area called Saccopastore. Until 30 years ago, shepherds would come down to this place from the Abruzzi to spend the winter months with their flocks. Later, as families gradually settled here, the liturgy began to be celebrated in a small chapel dedicated to the Infant Jesus, which was the first place of worship and assembly in the area. The name of this chapel, chosen by the people in reference to its inauguration on Christmas Eve 1952, was later passed on to the parish, juridically established in 1957. Various priests worked here with great zeal. Among them I would like to recall the first parish priest, Mons. Giuseppe Simonazzi, whose memory lives on.
Your parish’s name refers to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, to God who came to dwell among us in order to save and redeem the whole man and every man: those of the past, the present and future generations. It is the mystery of the assumption of human time into the divine dimension, in itself transcendent and eternal. This is also the meaning of the Jubilee of the Year 2000. Jesus, God-made-man, is the one Saviour. It is to him that we turn our gaze as we approach the historic goal of the beginning of the third millennium. I urge you to prepare for the Jubilee event with these sentiments.
5. “Here am I! Send me” (Is 6,8). The account of Isaiah’s vocation, which we heard in the first reading, stresses the prophet’s prompt response to the Lord’s call. After contemplating God’s holiness and becoming aware of the people’s infidelity, Isaiah prepared for the important mission of calling the people of Israel back to the great commitments of the Covenant in view of the Messiah’s coming.
As it was for the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming salvation particularly involves every believer in rediscovering God’s holiness. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus: this acclamation is repeated in every Eucharistic celebration. Anyone who meets a Christian must be able to discern in him, despite inevitable human weaknesses, the holy face of the Most High.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, may we be granted the gift of constantly responding to God’s call. May we particularly be granted to trust in him in every circumstance, so that in all things we may co-operate with his work of salvation.
1. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mc 16,15). Before ascending to the Father, Jesus entrusts his Apostles with the mandate to continue his mission on earth by announcing his salvation to the whole world. This task, which characterizes the Church, the People of God on their way towards the heavenly homeland, is expressed in the plurality of ministries and charisms with which Christ enriches it. Pastors and confessors of the faith, virgins and martyrs, priests and laity, holy men and women of every age offer effective help in spreading the Gospel to every corner of the globe.
Sts Cyril and Methodius completed this work. Natives of Thessalonica and fearless witnesses to the Gospel, we could say that they were the first in a long line of apostles who worked actively in the service of Christ among the Slavic peoples. Your parish is honoured in having as its special protectors these two great co-patron saints of Europe. Their example is also very significant for us. In fact, as I emphasized in the Encyclical Slavorum Apostoli, “it can be said that their memory is particularly vivid and relevant to our day” (n. 1).
833 Although they had the opportunity to pursue brilliant political careers, these two brothers dedicated themselves completely to the Lord. At the request of Prince Rastislav of Greater Moravia to Emperor Michael III, they were sent to proclaim the Christian faith to the people of Central Europe in their own language. They thus devoted their lives to this work, facing many difficulties and sufferings, persecutions and imprisonment, and both becoming shining examples of devotion to the cause of Christ and of love towards their brethren who were thirsting for the Gospel truth.
2. The words of St Paul that we heard a few moments ago certainly apply to them: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1Co 9,16). In opening his soul to the Christians of Corinth, the Apostle expresses his awareness of the need and urgency of the Gospel message. He considers it a great gift but also an inescapable duty: a real “obligation” (cf. ibid.), for which he is responsible together with the other Apostles. By making himself “all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (ibid., n. 22), he shows us how every evangelizer must learn to adapt himself to the language of his listeners, in order to be deeply attuned to them.
This is what the two saints whom we remember today did most admirably: their entire mission was aimed at “incarnating” the Word of God in the Slavic language and culture. It is to them that we owe the transcription of the sacred and liturgical texts into the Old Slavonic language with a new alphabet. In order to maintain strong ecclesial communion, they came to Rome and received the approval of Pope Hadrian II. It was in Rome that Cyril died on 14 February 869, while Methodius, having been consecrated a Bishop for the territory of the ancient Diocese of Pannonia and appointed Papal Legate for the Slavic nations, continued the missionary task which he had begun with his brother.
We give thanks to God for these two saints, Cyril and Methodius, who were wise messengers of the Gospel in Europe. Even today they continue to teach the evangelizers of our time the courage to preach and the necessary attitude for inculturating the faith.
3. Dear brothers and sisters of Sts Cyril and Methodius Parish, I am pleased to be here among you today to celebrate the patronal feast of your community. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop Clemente Riva, your parish priest, Fr Giuseppe Trappolini, and his closest co-workers in the pastoral care of the parish. My affectionate greeting is extended to all of you who are taking part in this Eucharist, with a special thought for those — the sick, the elderly or those otherwise unable to leave their homes to come to church — who, through television, have joined in our festive celebration.
Yours is a young community which, in a relatively short time, received the gift of this new church. About three years ago in St Peter’s Square, I myself had the joy of blessing the cornerstone of your church which, as part of the project “50 Churches for Rome 2000”, was built swiftly and dedicated on 8 November last by the Cardinal Vicar. For the area of Acilia known as Dragoncello, this parish complex is the only centre of religious and social gathering open to the many young families who live in the district.
While I give thanks to God together with you for what you have been able to achieve up to now, I would like, by my visit today, to urge you to continue growing in generous apostolic service, concerned above all for the Christian formation of your children and young people. During the first five years of this community about 400 infants received Baptism. This means that in the near future this parish will see the presence of many children and young people.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is up to you to prepare the soil for the calm and healthy growth of these children. And you can fulfil this mission if you allow yourselves to be guided by the Word of God and if you always take care to offer a consistent testimony of faith and love.
4. The City Mission that is being celebrated in this parish, as in the other parishes of Rome, offers you an opportunity for spiritual and apostolic renewal. Do not become complacent, dear friends, within the walls of the church and the parish facilities, even if they are new and beautiful, but reach out to the people who do not attend. Everyone is waiting for a fresh proclamation of Jesus Christ, the only One who can save man. There are many who have moved to this neighbourhood from other parts of the city. These are often young couples who have come to live here after their wedding. See that the change of surroundings does not disorient them, causing them to stray dangerously from ecclesial and sacramental life. Rather, be a community that is able to welcome them and encourage their harmonious involvement.
To this end, be willing to meet the families, offering them friendship, sharing with them the joy of faith. The City Mission will be very useful for this purpose with its meetings in the various centres. This task of solidarity and welcome in the service of the Gospel must become part of daily life, so that common prayer, reflection on the Gospel and mutual support will never cease.
But all this interesting and urgent apostolic activity cannot be effective unless it is sustained by moments of prayer, especially of long periods before the Eucharist. I know that in this parish, due to the presence of the Missionaries of Charity, daily Eucharistic adoration is guaranteed. How beautiful it would be if Eucharistic adoration could be increased in every parish in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which will be an intensely Eucharistic year, since the city will host the International Eucharistic Congress on the theme: “Jesus Christ, the world’s only Saviour, Bread for a new life”.
834 5. “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Is 52,10). As we heard in the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foretells the universality of salvation, offered to all peoples without distinction of race, language and culture. Every believer is called, according to his own capabilities and responsibilities, to participate in the great mission of evangelization. This task must also be pursued with perseverance and faithfulness in your parish, so that the Gospel may enter every home, family and the various contexts of daily life.
May the Spirit of the Lord enlighten you and support you in this important apostolic task. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray together that the values of the Gospel, in particular those regarding life and the family based on marriage, will be defended and shared. Let us pray for young people, that they may find in the love of the Lord the strength to resist the temptations and dangers that threaten them. Let us pray that all men of goodwill will commit themselves to building a society that is more in harmony with the Gospel message. I entrust this community to the heavenly protection of Mary and the Holy Brothers of Thessalonica. I likewise entrust to them the path of the Slavic peoples and the future of all Europe. Sts Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavic peoples and co-patrons of Europe, pray for us!
“I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed” (1P 5,1).
1. I make my own the words of the Apostle Peter in addressing you, venerable and beloved Brothers whom I have had the joy of making members of the College of Cardinals. These words recall that as “elders” we are fundamentally rooted in the mystery of Christ, the Head and Shepherd. Since we share in the fullness of sacred Orders, we are a sacramental representation of him in the Church and for the Church, and are called to proclaim his Word authoritatively, to repeat his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation, and to show his loving concern to the point of giving ourselves totally for the flock (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 15). Today this rootedness in Christ receives a further specification in you, venerable Brothers, since by being raised to the rank of Cardinal, you are called and enabled to undertake an ecclesial service of even greater responsibility, in the closest collaboration with the Bishop of Rome. Therefore, everything that is taking place today in St Peter’s Square is a call to a more demanding service since, as we heard in the Gospel, “whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mc 10,44). The choice belongs to God, the serving to us. Should not the primacy of Peter itself be understood as a service to the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church? The Successor of Peter is the servant of the servants of God, according to St Gregory the Great’s expression. And the Cardinals are his first advisers and collaborators in governing the universal Church: they are “his” Bishops, “his” priests and “his” deacons, not merely in the early historical phase of Rome but in shepherding the whole People of God, over which the See of Rome “presides in charity” (cf. St Ignatius of Antioch, To the Rm 1,1).
2. With these thoughts I extend my cordial greetings to the venerable Cardinals present who, in the College of Cardinals and particularly at this Public Consistory, eminently display as it were the Church's “symphonic” nature, that is, her unity in the universality of backgrounds and the variety of ministries. Today I share with them the joy of welcoming 20 new Brothers, who come from 13 countries on four continents and have given excellent proof of fidelity to Christ and to the Church, some by directly serving the Apostolic See, others by leading important Dioceses. In particular, I thank Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez for expressing the sentiments you share on this highly significant occasion. At this moment, I would like to turn my prayerful thoughts to the late Archbishop Giuseppe Uhaè, whom the God of all grace — as the Apostle Peter wrote — called to himself just before his appointment, to offer him a very different crown: that of eternal glory in Christ (cf. 1P 5,10). I would also like to inform you that I have reserved in pectore the appointment of two other prelates as Cardinals.
3. Today’s celebration occurs during the year of the Holy Spirit in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, according to the itinerary marked out in the Apostolic Exhortation Tertio millennio adveniente, which gathered together and developed the suggestions made at a memorable Extraordinary Consistory held in June 1994. What better ecclesial and spiritual context for invoking the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the new Cardinals, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, ... and the spirit of the fear of the Lord” (Is 11,2-3, Vulgate)? Who more than they needs the abundant comfort of these gifts, in order to fulfil the mission they have received from the Lord? Who more than they is aware of the fact that “the Spirit is the principal agent of the new evangelization”, and that “the unity of the Body of Christ is founded on the activity of the Spirit, guaranteed by the apostolic ministry and sustained by mutual love” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 45,47).
Venerable Brothers, may the Holy Spirit the Paraclete dwell fully in each of you, fill you with divine consolation and thus make you in turn the consolers of all who are afflicted, particularly the most sorely tried members of the Church, of the communities that have endured the greatest sufferings for the sake of the Gospel. May you be able to tell them with the Apostle Peter: “If we are afflicted, it is for our comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2Co 1,6).
4. Venerable Brothers, you have been created Cardinals as we are rapidly approaching the third millennium of the Christian era. We can already see the Holy Door of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 appearing on the horizon, and this gives your mission an enormously important value and meaning. You are called, together with the other members of the College of Cardinals, to help the Pope steer the barque of Peter towards that historic goal. I rely on your support and on your enlightened and expert advice to guide the Church in the final phase of preparation for the Holy Year. As I turn my gaze with you beyond the threshold of the Year 2000, I invoke from the Lord an abundance of gifts from the divine Spirit for the whole Church, so that the “springtime” of the Second Vatican Council may find in the new millennium its “summer”, that is to say, its full development. The mission to which God calls you today requires attentive and constant discernment. That is why I urge you to be increasingly men of God, penetrating listeners of his Word, who can reflect its light on the Christian people and on all men and women of goodwill. Only if she is sustained by the light of the Gospel can the Church face with steadfast hope her present and future challenges.
5. I now extend a cordial welcome to the relatives of the new Cardinals, as well as to the delegations from their various Churches of origin and to the other civil and government representatives who have wished to take part in this solemn ecclesial moment.
835 Dear brothers and sisters, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your presence, an expression of the affection and esteem which tie you to the Archbishops and Bishops whom I have made members of the College of Cardinals. I see in you, as I do in them, an image of the Church’s universality and an eloquent sign of the bond of communion of the laity and consecrated persons with their Pastors, as well as of priests and deacons with their Bishops. Starting today, the new Cardinals will have even greater need of your spiritual support: always accompany them with your prayer, as you already do.
6. Tomorrow I will have the joy of celebrating with particular solemnity the feast of the Chair of Peter together with the new Cardinals, to whom I will give their ring. I would like at this time to invoke the heavenly intercession of the Prince of the Apostles: may he who felt all his own unworthiness in the presence of his Lord's glory obtain for each of you humility of heart, which is indispensable each day for accepting as a gift the high office entrusted to you.
May Peter, who by following Christ became a fisher of men, enable you to be grateful each day for sharing in a singular way in the ministry of his Successor. May he who in this city of Rome sealed his witness to Christ with his own blood, enable you to give your life for the Gospel and thus make fruitful the harvest of God’s kingdom. I entrust your persons and your ecclesial service to Mary, Queen of Apostles: may her spiritual presence today in this Upper Room of ours be a pledge to you of the constant outpouring of the Spirit, through whom you will be able to proclaim to everyone, in the various languages of the world, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen!
Sunday, 22 February 1998
1. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16,18). Christ’s words to the Apostle Peter at Caesarea Philippi clearly illustrate the basic elements of today’s celebration. First of all, the feast of the Chair of St Peter is a very important occasion for this basilica, the heart of the Catholic world and the daily goal of many pilgrims. In addition, the presentation of rings to the new Cardinals created at the Ordinary Public Consistory I had the joy of holding yesterday enriches this liturgy with further ecclesial significance.
The Gospel passage presents Peter who, prompted by a divine inspiration, shows his total adherence to Jesus, the promised Messiah and Son of God. In response to this clear profession of faith, which Peter also makes on behalf of the other Apostles, Christ reveals the mission he intends to entrust to him, that of being the “rock” on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built.
“You are Peter!”. The ministry, entrusted to Peter and his Successors, of being the solid rock on which the ecclesial community is supported is the guarantee of the Church’s unity, the safeguarding of the integrity of the deposit of faith and the foundation of the communion of all the members of God’s People. Today’s liturgical feast is thus an invitation to reflect on the Bishop of Rome’s “Petrine service” to the universal Church. The Cardinals, who constitute the Church's senate and are the Pope’s first collaborators in his universal pastoral service, are united in a special way with the Chair of Peter.
How providential it is, then, that today we are celebrating both the feast of the Chair of Peter and the increase of the College of Cardinals by the appointment of 20 new members, prelates who have given proof of their wisdom and deep spirit of communion with the Apostolic See in generous and faithful service to the Ecclesial Community. We entrust them all in prayer to the Lord, so that their Gospel witness may continue to be a luminous example for the entire People of God.
2. Each of them certainly heard the Apostle Peter’s words as if they were addressed to him: “I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is in your charge” (1P 5,1-2).
The “elders”, the priests of the Church, cannot fail to be zealous and caring pastors of the “flock of God”. These are the thoughts of Peter's Successor on this solemn occasion as he prepares to present to the new Cardinals the cardinalitial ring, a sign of the special spousal bond now linking them to the Church of Rome, which presides in charity. Dear and venerable Brothers, entrusted to you, in close communion of spirit and intention with the Pope, is the mission of bearing witness to the sufferings which Christ still undergoes today in his Mystical Body; at the same time, you are called to proclaim, by your word and your life, the hope that does not disappoint.
Coming from 13 different nations on various continents, you are now incardinated in the Church of Rome. In this way a sublime exchange of gifts takes place between the Church in this city and the Churches on pilgrimage in the various parts of the world. You offer the Church of Rome the variety of your charisms and the spiritual riches of your Christian Communities, venerable by ancient tradition or admirable for the freshness and vitality of their energies. In turn, the Church of Peter and Paul displays her catholicity in a most luminous way, extending her pastoral concern to the Christian Communities of the whole world through your distinguished ecclesial service as Pastors called to the dignity and responsibility of Cardinal. Thus, as Pope Paul VI said at the Consistory in which I myself was raised to the Purple, the College of Cardinals constitutes in a way the “Presbyterium of the World” (Homily for the presentation of the cardinalitial ring, 29 June 1967: Insegnamenti, V , 352).
836 3. “Tend the flock of God ... being examples to the flock” (1P 5,2-3). By becoming this high ecclesial Senate, venerable Brothers, you are accepting responsibility to be Pastors of the Church at a new and higher level. You are not only entrusted with the office of electing the Pope, but also with that of sharing his concern for all the Christian people. You are already praiseworthy for all the generous and zealous work of your episcopal ministry carried out in renowned Dioceses in so many parts of the world or in dedicated service to the Apostolic See in various and demanding tasks.
The new dignity, to which you are now called by your appointment as Cardinals, is meant to show appreciation of your lengthy work in God’s vineyard and to pay tribute to your communities and nations of origin, of which you are the worthy representatives in the Church. At the same time, it invests you with new and more important responsibilities, asking you to be even more available to Christ and to his whole Mystical Body.
This new rootedness in Christ and in the Church thus commits you to a more courageous service of the Gospel and to unreserved dedication to your brothers and sisters. It also asks for your total self-giving to the point of shedding blood, which the purple colour of your cardinalitial robes symbolizes. “Usque ad sanguinis effusionem...”. This radical readiness to give your life for Christ is constantly nourished by a strong and humble faith. Be conscious of the mission the Lord entrusts to you today! Rely on him! God is faithful to his promises. Always work for him, in the certainty, as the Apostle Peter says, that “when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory” (1P 5,4).
4. “I myself will pasture my sheep ... The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back” (Ez 34,15-16). Do not let yourselves be disheartened by life’s inevitable difficulties! The prophet Ezekiel, as we heard in the first reading, assures us that the Lord himself will care for his people. You are called to become the visible sign of God’s concern for his inheritance by imitating Christ the Good Shepherd, who gathers humanity, dispersed by sin, into a single flock around himself.
And how can we not emphasize that this task of shepherding the flock is entrusted to you at a special moment in the history of the Church and of humanity? We are living at a historic transition from the second to the third millennium, whose dawn we can see rapidly approaching: we are on our way towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In every part of the world fervent apostolic and missionary activities are under way for making this event an occasion of spiritual renewal for all believers. May this historic moment be an extraordinary springtime of hope for believers and for all humanity!
5. Let us entrust these hopes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, ever present in the Christian Community from its beginning, as, gathered in prayer or dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel to everyone, it awaits and prepares the coming of Christ, the Lord of History. To her, venerable Brothers, we entrust our new ecclesial service with a view to the Great Jubilee event; let us place in her hands the expectations and hopes of every believer and of all humanity.
Ash Wednesday, 25 February 1998
1. “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.... Return to the Lord, your God” (Jl 2,12-13).
With the ancient prophet’s words today’s Ash Wednesday liturgy, preceded by the penitential procession, introduces us into Lent, a season of grace and spiritual rebirth: “Return ... repent”. At the beginning of the 40 days, these pressing appeals seek to establish a unique dialogue between God and man. Before the Lord who invites him to conversion, man makes his own the prayer of David by humbly confessing his sins:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
S. John Paul II Homil. 831