S. John Paul II Homil. 853
Holy Thursday, 9 April 1998
1. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me" (Lc 4,18).
These words of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, quoted by the Evangelist Luke, recur several times in today's liturgy of the Chrism and are as it were its guiding theme. They recall a ritual act which has a long-standing tradition in the Old Covenant, because in the history of the chosen people it is repeated for the consecration of priests, prophets and kings. By the sign of the anointing, God himself entrusts the priestly, royal and prophetic mission to the men he calls and makes his blessing visible through the fulfilment of the task entrusted to them.
All those anointed in the Old Covenant were anointed in view of a single person, he who was to come: Christ, the one and definitive "Consecrated", the "Anointed" par excellence. It will be the Incarnation of the Word which will reveal the mystery of God, Creator and Father, who sends his only-begotten Son into the world through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
He is now present in the synagogue of Nazareth. Nazareth is his town: here he lived and worked for years at his humble carpenter's bench. Today however, he is present in the synagogue in a new role: on the banks of the Jordan, after his baptism by John, he received the solemn investiture of the Spirit who urged him to begin his messianic mission in fulfilment of the Father's saving will. And now he presents himself to his fellow citizens with the words of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lc 4,18-19). Here the reading ends, and after a pause, he says a few words which astound his listeners: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lc 4,21). The declaration leaves no room for doubt: he is the "Anointed", the "Consecrated One", to whom the Prophet Isaiah alludes. In him, the Father's promise is fulfilled.
2. Today, Holy Thursday, we are gathered in St Peter's Basilica to meditate on this event: like the anointed of the Old Covenant, we too turn our gaze to the One the Book of Revelation calls "the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth" (1:5). We look towards him, the One they pierced (cf. Jn Jn 19,37). Giving his life to free us from sin (cf. Jn Jn 15,13), he revealed his "great love"; he showed himself as the true and definitive Anointed One who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, redeems us through the Cross. It is on Calvary that his words are completely fulfilled: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me" (Lc 4,18).
This anointing and the sacrifice of the Cross constitute respectively the inauguration and the fulfilment of the incarnate Word's mission. Holy Thursday commemorates the sacramental manifestation, instituted by Jesus in the Upper Room, of the supreme act of love accomplished on Golgotha, while Good Friday highlights its dramatic and bloody historical aspect. In its twofold dimension, this sacrifice marks the beginning of the "new" anointing in the Holy Spirit and represents the pledge of the descent of the Paraclete upon the Apostles and upon the Church, which is therefore, in a certain sense, celebrating her birth today.
3. Dear brother priests, this morning we are gathered around the Eucharistic table on the holy day when we commemorate the birth of our priesthood! Today we celebrate the particular "anointing" which in Christ has also become our own. When during our ordination the Bishop anointed our hands with sacred chrism, we became ministers of the sacred and efficacious signs of the Redemption and were made to share in the priestly anointing of Christ. From that moment, the power of the Holy Spirit, poured out upon us, transformed our life for ever. This divine power endures within us and accompanies us to the end.
854 As we prepare to enter the most holy days on which we commemorate the Lord's Death and Resurrection, we would like to renew our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the priceless gift he has given us in the priesthood. How can we not feel indebted to the One who wanted to associate us with such a wonderful dignity? This sentiment leads us to give thanks to the Lord for the marvels he has worked in our life; may he help us to consider our ministry with steadfast hope, humbly asking forgiveness for our possible infidelities.
May Mary sustain us, so that, like her, we may be led by the Spirit to follow Jesus to the very end of our earthly mission.
I wrote in this year's Letter to Priests: "Accompanied by Mary, the priest will be able to renew his consecration day after day; and the time will come when, trusting the guidance of the Spirit whom he has invoked on his journey as man and as priest, he will set forth upon the ocean of light which is the Trinity" (n. 7).
With this vision and with this hope, let us trustfully continue on the path the Lord opens before us, day after day. May his divine Spirit support and guide us.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Amen.
Basilica of St John Lateran
Holy Thursday, 9 April 1998
1. "Verbum caro, panem verum / Verbo carnem efficit...".
"Word made flesh, the bread of nature, / by his word to flesh he turns; / Wine into his blood he changes; / What though sense no change discerns?".
These poetic expressions of Thomas Aquinas vividly summarize today's evening liturgy "in Cena Domini", the Mass of the Lord's Supper, and help us enter into the heart of the mystery we are celebrating. In the Gospel we read: "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13,1). Today is the day when we recall the institution of the Eucharist, a gift and inexhaustible source of love. Engraved and rooted in it is the new commandment: "Mandatum novum do vobis...": "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another" (Jn 13,34).
2. Love reaches its peak in the gift the person makes of himself, without reserve, to God and to his brothers and sisters. By washing the Apostles' feet, the Teacher presents them with an example of service: "You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (Jn 13,13-14). By this act, Jesus reveals a distinctive feature of his mission: "I am among you as one who serves" (Lc 22,27). Thus a true disciple of Christ can only be someone who "takes part" in Christ's actions, making himself, as he was, prompt in serving others even with personal sacrifice. Indeed, service, that is, caring for our neighbour's needs, is the essence of any well-ordered authority: to reign is to serve. The priestly ministry, whose institution we celebrate and venerate today, implies an attitude of humble availability, especially to those most in need. Only in this light can we fully understand the Last Supper, which we are commemorating.
855 3. Holy Thursday is described in the liturgy as "the day of the Eucharist", in memory of the day when "Jesus Christ, our Lord, gave the mystery of his body and blood for his disciples to celebrate" (Roman Canon for Holy Thursday). Before being sacrificed on the Cross on Good Friday, he instituted the sacrament which perpetuates this offering in every age. In every holy Mass, the Church commemorates that decisive historical event. With a deep sense of awe the priest bows at the altar over the Eucharistic gifts, saying the very words spoken by Christ "on the night he was betrayed". Over the bread he says, "This is my body which will be given up for you" (cf. 1Co 11,24) and then, over the cup of wine: "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant" (cf. 1Co 11,25). Since that Holy Thursday almost 2,000 years ago until this evening, Holy Thursday 1998, the Church has lived on the Eucharist, letting herself be moulded by the Eucharist and continuing to celebrate it while she awaits the second coming of her Lord.
This evening, let us make our own St Augustine's invitation: O most beloved Church "manduca vitam, bibe vitam: habebis vitam, et integra est vita!": "eat life, drink life: you will have life and it will remain intact!" (Homily 131, I, 1).
4. "Pange, lingua, gloriosi / Corporis mysterium / Sanguinisque pretiosi...". We adore this "mysterium fidei", by which the Church is ceaselessly nourished. May the vibrant, awesome sense of the supreme gift which the Eucharist is for us be reawakened in our hearts.
And may our gratitude be rekindled, linked to recognition that there is nothing in us that was not given to us by the Father of all mercies (cf. 2Co 1,3). The Eucharist, the great "mystery of faith", remains primarily and above all a gift, something we have "received". St Paul reasserts this, introducing the narrative of the Last Supper with these words: "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you" (1Co 11,23). The Church has received it from Christ and in celebrating this sacrament gives thanks to the heavenly Father for what he has done for us through Jesus, his Son.
In every celebration of the Eucharist, we welcome this gift which is always new; we let his divine power pervade our hearts and enable us to proclaim the Lord's death as we await his coming. "Mysterium fidei", the priest sings after the consecration and the faithful respond: "Mortem tuam annuntiamus Domine ...": "We announce your death, Lord Jesus, we proclaim your Resurrection until you come in glory". The whole of the Church's paschal faith is contained in the Eucharist.
This evening we also give thanks to the Lord who instituted this great sacrament. We celebrate and receive it in order to find in it the strength to advance on the way of life, awaiting the day of the Lord. Then we will also be brought into the dwelling where Christ the High Priest entered through the sacrifice of his Body and his Blood.
5. "Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine": "Hail true body, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary", the Church prays today. While we are "waiting for his coming", may we be accompanied by Mary, from whom Jesus took his body, the same body which this evening we share fraternally at the Eucharistic banquet.
"Esto nobis praegustatum mortis in examine": "May we be granted to have a foretaste of you at the decisive moment of death". Yes, take us by the hand, O Eucharistic Jesus, at that supreme moment when you will bring us into the light of your eternity: "O Iesu dulcis! O Iesu pie! O Iesu, fili Mariae!".
Holy Saturday, 11 April 1998
1. "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gn 1,26). "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1,27).
In this Easter Vigil, the Liturgy proclaims the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, which recalls the mystery of creation and, in particular, the creation of man. Once more our attention centres on the mystery of man, the mystery made fully manifest in Christ and through Christ.
856 "Fiat lux", "faciamus hominem": these words of Genesis disclose their full truth when they are passed through the crucible of the Passover of the Word (cf. Ps Ps 12,6). During the quiet of Holy Saturday, through the silence of the Word, they find their fullest meaning: that "light" is the new light which will never fade; that "man" is "the new man created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24).
The new creation comes about at Easter. In the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection all is redeemed, and everything becomes once more perfectly good, according to God's original plan.
It is above all man, the prodigal son who squandered in sin the precious treasure of freedom, who regains his lost dignity. "Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram". How true and profound these words sound on Easter night! And how wonderfully timely they are for the men and women of today, so aware of their ability to control the universe, but often so confused about the true meaning of life, in which they are no longer able to recognize the signs of the Creator.
2. In this regard, I am reminded of certain passages of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council, which blend harmoniously with the marvellous symphony of the Readings of the Easter Vigil. In fact, this Council document, if carefully studied, proves to be profoundly Paschal in both its content and its guiding inspiration. In it we read: "Only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of him who was to come (cf. Rom Rm 5,14), namely, Christ the Lord. Christ ... is 'the image of the invisible God' (Col 1,15). He himself is the perfect man. To the sons of Adam he restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward . . . By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. By suffering for us he not only provides us with an example for our imitation. He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning. The Christian man, conformed to the likeness of that Son who is the firstborn of many brothers, receives 'the first-fruits of the Spirit' (Rm 8,23) . . . Through this Spirit who is 'the pledge of our inheritance' (Ep 1,14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of the 'redemption of the body' (Rm 8,23): 'If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will also bring to life your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit who dwells in you' (Rm 8,21). The Christian . . . linked with the Paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope" (No. 22).
3. These words of the recent Council present to us once more the mystery of the vocation of every baptized person. They present it in a particular way to you, dear Catechumens, who, according to the Church's very ancient tradition, will receive Holy Baptism in the course of this holy Vigil. We greet you with affection and we thank you for your witness.
You come from different nations throughout the world: Canada, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Poland, South Africa.
Dear friends, in a very special sense Baptism constitutes your Passover, the sacrament of your redemption, of your new birth in Christ through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, by virtue of which you will be able to call God by the name of "Father" and will yourselves be children in the Son.
We express the hope that the new life which you will receive as a gift this most holy night will grow to its fullest, bringing abundant fruits of love, joy and peace, the fruits of eternal life.
4. "O vere beata nox!", the Church sings in the Paschal Exsultet, recalling the great works of God wrought in the Old Testament during the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. This is the prophetic announcement of the exodus of the human race from the slavery of death to new life through Christ's Passover.
O vere beata nox!, we repeat with the Easter hymn, contemplating the universal mystery of man in the light of Christ's Resurrection. In the beginning God created man in his own image and likeness. By the power of Christ, crucified and risen, this likeness to God, obscured by sin, has been restored and brought to its highest point. And with the ancient author we can repeat: Man, look at yourself! Recognize the dignity of your calling! Christ, victorious over death on this holy night, opens before you the gates of life and immortality.
Echoing the words sung by the deacon in the Easter proclamation, I repeat with joy: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: surrexit Dominus vere! Surrexit hodie!
857 Sunday 19 April 1998
1. "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven Churches" (Ap 1,17-19). The words of the Book of Revelation sound so timely today. In fact, the Churches mentioned were all located in Asia. And we are gathered here this morning to open the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops with a solemn Eucharistic liturgy.
Bishops from the Asian continent, together with representatives of other Ecclesial Communities, have gathered in Rome for this important event. The fruit of the Synod's work will then be compiled in a book, which will constitute the post-synodal document destined for all the Churches of Asia. In it will be "written" what the Spirit will suggest, in a way similar to what John wrote at the end of the first century after Christ when he addressed the Book of Revelation to the Christian communities living in Asia at the time.
In a rapture of ecstasy while on the island of Patmos, he heard a loud voice (cf. Rv Ap 1,10) ordering him to write down the things he saw and to send them to the Churches of Asia. John reported that this was the voice of the Son of Man, who appeared to him in glory. He saw him and fell at his feet as if dead. Christ laid his hand upon him and said: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter" (Ap 1,17-19).
These very words, venerable Brothers of the Churches in Asia, are in a certain sense also addressed to us. During the Synod's work we will have to write about what we have witnessed. As successors of the Apostles, we are called to proclaim Christ crucified and risen. This is in fact the truth by which we advance towards the third millennium: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever!" (He 13,8).
2. We are opening this Synodal Assembly on the Second Sunday of Easter. The liturgy today recalls what happened in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the Sunday after the Resurrection when Christ again appeared to the Apostles, this time in the presence of Thomas. He had, in fact, already appeared eight days earlier, but Thomas was absent, and when the others told him: "We have seen the Lord!", he refused to believe them and declared: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn 20,25).
Doubting Thomas! It is precisely because of him that Christ appears eight days later in the Upper Room, entering even though the doors were locked. He said to those who were there: "Peace be with you". Then he said to Thomas: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (Jn 20,27). Thomas then spoke the words which express the whole faith of the apostolic Church: "My Lord and my God" (Jn 20,28). And Christ said: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20,29).
3. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe". The Apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ's life, passion, death and resurrection. After them, others who were unable to see all this with their own eyes would have to accept the truth transmitted by the first witnesses in order to become witnesses themselves. The Church's faith is transmitted and remains living through this line of witnesses, which extends from generation to generation. Thus from the Upper Room in Jerusalem the Church has spread through every country and every continent.
According to a very ancient tradition, the Gospel was brought to India by St Thomas, the Apostle to whom the Lord said: "You believe because you can see me". Thomas, no longer unbelieving but convinced of his Lord's resurrection, passes on to many others the certainty expressed in his confession of faith: "My Lord and my God!". His faith is still alive in India and in Asia.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate who have come here, the Church you represent, built on the foundations of the Apostles, is assembled in Rome today on the threshold of the third millennium for the work of the Synod, in order to pass on to future generations the witness borne to Christ by the Apostles, the witness borne by Thomas almost 20 centuries ago.
4. "Jesus Christ the Saviour and his Mission of Love and Service in Asia: '. . . that they may have life, and have it abundantly' (Jn 10,10)". This is the theme of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which we are beginning today with this solemn liturgical celebration. The theme invites us to direct our gaze to Christ, from whose pierced Heart flows the inexhaustible source of eternal life which vivifies our human existence.
858 This Synodal Assembly is a providential time of grace for the whole Christian people, and especially for the faithful in Asia, who are called to a fresh missionary outreach. In order that this favourable "time" may be truly fruitful, the figure of Jesus and his saving mission need to be presented once more in their full light. On everyone's lips there must resound with renewed awareness the profession of faith of the Apostle Thomas: "My Lord and my God!"
In effect, it is only by keeping her gaze fixed on Christ that the Church can adequately respond to the hopes and challenges of the Asian Continent, as to those of the rest of the world. The launch of the new evangelization for the Third Millennium demands an ever deeper knowledge of Jesus and unfailing fidelity to his Gospel.
5. At the same time, the new evangelization calls for respectful attention to "Asian realities" and healthy discernment in their regard. This vast continent, rich in history and age-old wisdom, is coming to the dawn of the Year 2000 with all the variety of its peoples, its cultures, its traditions and its religions.
Alongside the heritage of ancient civilizations, we see the signs of truly advanced technological and economic progress. There exists a notable difference between peoples, cultures and ways of living. And yet, there has been a long tradition of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance. Almost everywhere there are signs of the struggle for human advancement, and while difficulties and causes for concern are not lacking, notable signs of hope can also be seen. The ancient cultures of the continent, with their acknowledged wisdom, offer solid grounds for building the Asia of the future.
How can we ignore the fact that more than three fifths of the world's inhabitants are Asian and that an important part of them are young people? To this vast portion of the humanity of our time, dwelling on the continent of Asia, we must bring with enthusiasm and vigour the Easter proclamation echoed in today's Liturgy: "We have contemplated, O God, the wonders of your love" (Responsorial Psalm); "We have seen the Lord" (Gospel).
6. Dear Brothers and Sisters, the first Reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of the fervour uniting the early community and of its missionary activity, to the amazement of the people (cf. Acts Ac 5,12-13). May all this be a model for us, who have been called together by the Spirit of the Lord for this special Synodal Assembly.
We ask ourselves: what must we do to proclaim and bear witness to Christ before the men and women living in Asia? At the threshold of the Year 2000, what must be the Church's commitment in this vast continent, ancient and yet abounding in new developments? Essentially, we find the answer in today's Liturgy: we must bear witness to Christ Crucified and Risen, Redeemer of the world. At the same time we must carry on, for our part, the history initiated by the Apostles: ours is the task of writing new chapters of Christian witness in every part of the world, and in Asia: from India to Indonesia, from Japan to Lebanon, from Korea to Kazakhstan, from Vietnam to the Philippines, from Siberia to China. And it is precisely to the Catholics of Mainland China and to their Pastors that the thoughts of all of us go at this moment. In order that also the Episcopate there might be represented in this Synodal Assembly, in addition to the Bishops who work in the Diocese of Hong Kong I have invited to take part two other Bishops, namely Bishop Matthias Duan Yinming, Bishop of Wanhsien, and his Coadjutor, Bishop Joseph Xu Zhixuan. I hope that they will soon be able to take their places among us and bear witness to the vitality of those communities.
At this time all the Churches must feel mobilized, since they all take their origin from that dynamic Jerusalem community which had such a lively sense of its duty to proclaim the Gospel. All originate from the same Apostles, witnesses of Christ's Cross and Resurrection - the same Apostles who, on the day of Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, received the light and power needed to set out on the paths of the world and to raise up everywhere new communities of believers. We are the successors of these Apostles, and we must be ready to take up their missionary heritage.
7. "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven Churches". We hear these words addressed especially to us. During the Synod we would like to witness to what the Spirit of Christ says to the Churches on the great Asian continent. We will ask ourselves how they hear his voice, how they live in the communion of God's word and the Eucharist, how they can encourage evangelization among the peoples of Asia.
We would like to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches, so that they can proclaim Christ in the context of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and all those ways of thinking and living which were already rooted in Asia before the preaching of the Gospel arrived there. Moreover, we want to reflect together on how Christ's message is accepted by our contemporaries, how today the history of salvation continues among them and how the words of the Good News resonate in souls. We will ask ourselves in prayer and mutual listening how Christ, "the stone which the builders rejected", can still be the cornerstone on which to build the Church in Asia.
All this in the light of Easter, which floods our hearts with the joy and peace of the risen Lord.
859 "Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus. Exsultemus et laetemur in ea!" (Ps 117 :24).
1. "Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum" (Lc 23,46).
Jesus' words, his last prayer on the Cross to the Father, guide us in meditation and prayer as we are gathered here in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate the funeral Mass of our Venerable Brother, Cardinal Alberto Bovone, who died last Friday. Created a Cardinal on the eve of the Lenten season, he left for the heavenly Jerusalem after a painful illness, towards the end of the Octave of Easter, in anticipation of the unending day of eternity.
He experienced his last Easter as a Cardinal and Providence immediately asked of him the ultimate witness, so that the genuineness of his faith - according to the Apostle Peter's words - might redound to his praise, glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. 1P 1,7).
The Easter mystery fully conformed him to his Lord, for whom he gave his life as a concerned and good Pastor, loving to the very end the Church and those in her entrusted to his care.
2. Jesus' last breath on the cross opens the way to an immense hope for every person who comes into this world and leaves it. "He breathed his last", notes the Evangelist Luke (Lc 23,46 cf. Jn Jn 19,30). Christ's last breath is the centre of history, which, by virtue of this last breath, is salvation history.
In Jesus' death on the cross, God gave himself entirely to humanity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and conquered sin and death. That human breath which exhausted itself was the sacrament of the inexhaustible Spirit of life, who on the third day raised the Son of Man, "the faithful witness", making him "the first-born of the dead" (Ap 1,5).
Whoever dies in the Lord is "blessed henceforth" (Ap 14,13), because he joins his last breath with that of Christ, in the sure hope that "he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us ... into his presence" (2Co 4,14).
3. "Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur" (Ap 14,13). Sacred Scripture reminds us that in order to die in the Lord we must live in the Lord, entrusting ourselves each day to his grace, moment by moment, and striving with all our might to conform to it.
860 To live in the Lord! How can we not thank God at this moment when our hearts are suffering over the loss of our Venerable Brother, over the witness of fidelity he has left us? During his life he offered us a shining example of docilely following Christ. Yes, this Eucharist we are celebrating together is primarily a thanksgiving for the gift of a Christian and a Pastor who built up the Church with great discretion in the various tasks entrusted to him, especially in the Roman Curia.
4. In fact, it was precisely in the Curia that he began his service in 1951, continuing it without interruption until his death. His profound and balanced spiritual, apostolic and doctrinal formation, and even more his virtues of faithful diligence and sincere openness, as well as his wisdom, enabled him to offer valuable assistance for many years, first in the Congregation for the Council, which later became the Congregation for the Clergy, and then in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which I myself appointed him Secretary in 1984, raising him to the dignity of Archbishop. For 11 years he was a very capable collaborator of Cardinal Ratzinger, who consecrated him a Bishop and always regarded him with fraternal affection.
He ended his service to the Apostolic See as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, an important dicastery for the life of the Church, whose essential purpose is to live and testify to God's holiness at every moment. I am sure that today his devotion to the Gospel and his yearning for holiness, which he was given the opportunity to intensify by examining the lives of so many servants of God and blesseds in his special ministry during this last period, find that fulfilment with the Father for which every baptized person constantly hopes. Now the blesseds and saints whom he helped to make known here on earth can come to meet him and lead him into the joy of paradise.
5. We wish to pray for this together, recognizing that despite the human imperfections always present in the life of those who are pilgrims here below, our Venerable Brother Cardinal Bovone was a priest with a crystal clear faith, nourished by constant prayer. A strong spirituality, rooted in his family, parish and seminary education, sustained him in the faithful exercise of the priestly ministry, enabling him to achieve an admirable balance between his curial tasks and pastoral activity.
This wealth of gifts from the Lord, which he made so fruitful during his earthly pilgrimage, calls to mind the spices which the women, disciples of Jesus, took with them, as the Evangelist says, when they went to the tomb at daybreak (cf. Lk Lc 24,1).
6. However, dear Cardinal Bovone himself, with his characteristic modesty pervaded by a witty sense of humour, invites us not to dwell on his person but to turn our gaze to the mystery: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen" (Lc 24,5). He invites us - as a baptized person, as a Pastor, as a Cardinal - the day after the Octave of Easter, this "day the Lord has made", to make our own the words of the Apostle Peter: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (1P 1,3-4).
Our life is in the Lord's hands, always, at every instant, especially at the moment of death. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit". For this reason our late Brother asks us to accompany him with our prayer as he journeys from this world to the Father.
Sustained by the maternal intercession of Mary most holy, may he "as the outcome of his faith obtain the salvation of his soul" (cf. 1P 1,9). May he "rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy" (cf. 1P 1,8), contemplating finally and for ever the One whom he loved on earth without seeing him: Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom be praise and glory for ever and ever.
S. John Paul II Homil. 853