S. John Paul II Homil. 1088
Friday 31 December 1999
1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Ga 4,4).
1089 What is "the fullness of time" of which the Apostle speaks? Experience teaches us that time passes relentlessly. All creatures are subject to the passage of time. Only man, however, is aware of his own passing in time. He realizes that his personal history is tied to the flow of days.
Aware of its own "passing", humanity writes its own history: the history of individuals, States and continents, the history of cultures and religions. Let us ask ourselves this evening: what, above all else, has marked the millennium now ending? How did the geography of countries, the situation of peoples and nations appear a thousand years ago? Who knew then of the existence of another great continent to the west of the Atlantic Ocean? The discovery of America, which gave rise to a new era in humanity's history, is certainly a distinctive element in evaluating the millennium now ending.
This last century has also been marked by profound and sometimes rapid upheavals, which have influenced culture and relations between peoples. Let it suffice to think of the two oppressive ideologies, responsible for countless victims, which have spent themselves in this century. What sufferings, what tragedies! But also what exalting achievements! These years, entrusted to humanity by the Creator, are marked by man's efforts, failures and triumphs (cf. Gaudium et spes, GS 2).
The greatest risk at this epochal turning point is perhaps that "many of our contemporaries are prevented by this complex situation from recognizing permanent values and duly applying them to recent discoveries" (Gaudium et spes, GS 4). This is a great challenge for us men and women on the point of entering the Year 2000.
2. "When the time had fully come!". The liturgy tells us of the "fullness of time" and enlightens us on the meaning of this "fullness". God chose to send his eternal Word into the history of the great human family, having him take on our human nature. It was through the sublime event of the Incarnation that human and cosmic time achieved true fullness: "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman ... that we might receive adoption as sons" (Ga 4,4-5). Here is the great mystery: the eternal Word of God, Verbum Patris, became present in the events that constitute man's history on earth. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, eternity entered time and human history was opened to a transcendent fulfilment in the absoluteness of God.
Human beings are thus offered an inconceivable prospect: they can aspire to be sons of the Son, heirs with him to the same glorious destiny. The earthly pilgrimage is thus a journey that occurs in God's time. Its goal is God himself, the fullness of time in eternity.
3. In the eyes of faith, time assumes a religious meaning and even more so during the Jubilee Year which has just begun. Christ is the Lord of time. Every moment of human time is under the sign of the Redemption of the Lord, who, once and for all, entered the "fullness of time" (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 10). In this perspective let us thank God for all that has happened this year, this century and this millennium. In a special way, we give thanks for the continual progress in the spiritual world. Let us give thanks for the saints of this millennium: those raised to the honours of the altar and, even more numerous, those unknown to us who sanctified time by their faithful adherence to God's will. Let us also give thanks for all of humanity's triumphs and successes in the fields of science, technology, art and culture.
With regard to the Diocese of Rome, let us give thanks for the spiritual journey made in past years and, with a view to the Great Jubilee, for having completed the City Mission. I remember that evening of 22 May, the Vigil of Pentecost, when we prayed together to the Holy Spirit that in the new century this special pastoral experience would become a form and model for the Church's life and pastoral care in Rome and in all the other countries and cities of the world, at the service of the new evangelization.
As we give thanks to God, we feel the need at the same time to implore him to have mercy on the millennium which is ending. We ask forgiveness because unfortunately, technological and scientific discoveries, so important for genuine human progress, have frequently been used against man: Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri!
4. Two thousand years have passed since "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (Jn 1,14). This is why the hymn of our praise and gratitude is unanimously raised: Te Deum laudamus.
We praise you, God of life and hope.
1090 We praise you, Christ, King of glory, eternal Son of the Father.
Born of the Virgin Mother, you are our Redeemer, you became our brother for man's salvation, and you will come in glory to judge the world at the end of time.
You, Christ, the goal of human history, are the focal point of the expectations of every human being.
The years and the centuries belong to you. Time is yours, O Christ, who are the same yesterday, today and for ever.
Saturday 1 January 2000
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
World Day of Peace
1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Ga 4,4).
Yesterday evening we paused to meditate on the meaning of Paul's words, taken from the Letter to the Galatians, and asked ourselves about the meaning of the "fullness of time" of which he speaks, in relation to the progress that marks man's way through history. The moment we are living is full of significance: at midnight the year 1999 entered the past, giving way to a new year. Here we are just a few hours into the Year 2000!
1091 What does this mean for us? We are beginning to write a new page of history. Yesterday evening we looked back at the past, at how the world was when the second millennium began. Today, beginning the Year 2000, we cannot but wonder about the future: what direction will the great human family take in this new phase of its history?
2. Taking into account the start of a new year, today's liturgy expresses good wishes to all people of good will with these words: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (NM 6,26).
May the Lord grant you peace! This is the Church's wish to all humanity on the first day of the new year, a day dedicated to the celebration of the World Day of Peace. In my Message for this Day I recalled some of the conditions and requirements for strengthening the peace process at the international level. This process is unfortunately always threatened, as we are reminded by the painful events that have marked the history of the 20th century on various occasions. This is why, more than ever, we must wish each other peace in God's name: may the Lord give you peace!
I am thinking at this moment of the prayer meeting for peace which gathered representatives of the world's main religions in Assisi, in October 1986. We were still in the period of the so-called "Cold War": together, we prayed to avert the great threat of a conflict which seemed to menace humanity. In a certain sense, we gave voice to everyone's prayer, and God heard his children's supplication. Even if we had to note the outbreak of dangerous local and regional conflicts, we were nonetheless spared the great world conflict which had loomed on the horizon. This is why, with greater awareness, we wish one another peace as we cross the threshold of the new century: may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you.
Year 2000 coming to meet us, may Christ grant you peace!
3. "The fullness of time"! St Paul says that this "fullness" was achieved when God "sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Ga 4,4). Eight days after Christmas, today, the first day of the new year, we commemorate in a special way the "Woman" of whom the Apostle speaks, the Mother of God. In giving birth to the eternal Son of the Father, Mary contributed to achieving the fullness of time; she contributed uniquely to ensuring that human time would reach the measure of its fullness in the Incarnation of the Word.
On this most significant day, I have had the joy of opening the Holy Door in this venerable Liberian Basilica, the first one in the West to be dedicated to the Virgin Mother of Christ. A week after the solemn rite held in St Peter's Basilica, today it is as though the ecclesial communities of every nation and continent were gathering here in spirit, under the Mother's gaze, to cross the threshold of the Holy Door which is Christ.
It is, in fact, to her, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, that we wish to entrust the Holy Year just begun, to protect and encourage the journey of all who become pilgrims in this time of grace and mercy (cf. Incarnationis mysterium, n. 14).
4. The liturgy of today's solemnity has a profoundly Marian character, although this is rather soberly expressed in the biblical texts. The passage from the Evangelist Luke summarizes, as it were, what we heard on Christmas night. It says that the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the Child lying in the manger. After seeing him, they recounted what they had been told of him. And all were amazed at the shepherds' tale. "But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lc 2,19).
It is worth reflecting on this sentence which expresses a wonderful aspect of Mary's motherhood.
In a certain sense, the whole liturgical year follows in the footsteps of this motherhood, beginning with the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, exactly nine months before Christmas. On the day of the Annunciation, Mary heard the Angel's words: "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.... The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lc 1,31-33 Lc 1,35). And she answered: "Let it be to me according to your word" (ibid., Lc 1,38).
1092 Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit. Like every mother, in her womb she carried that Son, whom she alone knew to be the Only-begotten Son of God. She gave birth to him in the night of Bethlehem. Thus began the earthly life of the Son of God and his mission of salvation in the world's history.
5. "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart".
How can we marvel that the Mother of God should remember all this in a special and indeed unique way? Every mother has a similar knowledge of the beginning of a new life within her. Every person's history is written first of all in his own mother's heart. It is no wonder that the same was true for the earthly life of the Son of God.
"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart".
Today, the first day of the new year, on the threshold of a new year, of this new millennium, the Church returns to this inner experience of the Mother of God. She does so not only by thinking back to the events of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, to the various stages, that is, of the Redeemer's earthly life, but also by considering all that his Life, Death and Resurrection have brought about in human history.
Mary was present with the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; she participated directly in the birth of the Church. Since then her motherhood accompanies the history of redeemed humanity, the journey of the great human family, for whom the work of Redemption is intended.
At the beginning of the Year 2000, as we move into the Jubilee season, we trust in your motherly "memory", O Mary! We set out on this special path of salvation history, which is kept alive in your heart as Mother of God. To you we entrust the days of the new year, the future of the Church, the future of humanity, the future of the entire universe.
Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Peace, watch over us.
Mary, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us.
Thursday 6 January 2000
1093 1. "Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come. The glory of the Lord is rising on you" (Is 60,1).
The prophet Isaiah turns his gaze to the future. He is not looking so much at the secular future, but, enlightened by the Spirit, he directs his gaze to the fullness of time, to the fulfilment of God's plan in the messianic age.
The prediction uttered by the prophet concerns the Holy City, which he sees brightly shining: "Though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples, above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears" (Is 60,2). This is exactly what happened with the incarnation of the Word of God. With him "the true light that enlightens every man came into the world" (Jn 1,9). From now on everyone's destiny will be decided by whether he accepts or rejects this light: for the life of men is found in him (cf. Jn Jn 1,4).
2. Today the light that appeared on Christmas extends its rays: it is the light of God's epiphany. It is no longer only the shepherds of Bethlehem who see and follow it; it is also the Magi Kings, who came to Jerusalem from the East to adore the newborn King (cf. Mt Mt 2,1-12). With the Magi came the nations, which begin their journey to the divine Light.
Today the Church celebrates this saving Epiphany by listening to the description of it in Matthew's Gospel. The well-known account of the Magi, who came from the East in search of the One who was to be born, has always inspired popular piety as well, becoming a traditional part of the crib.
Epiphany is both an event and a symbol. The event is described in detail by the Evangelist. The symbolic meaning, however, was gradually discovered as the Church reflected more and more on the event and celebrated it liturgically.
3. After 2,000 years, wherever Epiphany is celebrated, the Ecclesial Community draws from this precious liturgical and spiritual tradition ever new points for reflection.
Here in Rome, in accordance with a custom to which I have wanted to remain faithful since the beginning of my Pontificate, we celebrate this mystery by consecrating new Bishops. It is a tradition that has its own intrinsic theological and pastoral eloquence, and today we joyfully introduce it into the third millennium.
Dear Brothers who will shortly be consecrated, you come from various nations and represent the universality of the Church which adores the Word made flesh for our salvation. Thus the words of the responsorial psalm are fulfilled: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
Our liturgical assembly expresses this catholic nature of the Church in a remarkable way, thanks also to you, dear Bishops-elect. For around you are gathered in spirit the faithful from various parts of the world to whom you have been sent as successors of the Apostles.
4. Some of you will carry out the mission of Apostolic Nuncios: you, Archbishop Józef Wesolowski, in Bolivia; you, Archbishop Giacomo Guido Ottonello, in Panama; you, Archbishop George Panikulam, in Honduras; and you, Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, in The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. You will be papal representatives in these countries at the service of the local Churches and of the authentic human progress of their respective peoples.
1094 You, Bishop Ivo Baldi, will lead the Diocese of Huaraz, Peru. You, Bishop Gabriel Mbilingi, have been chosen as Coadjutor Bishop of Lwena, Angola; and you, Bishop David Laurin Ricken, as Coadjutor Bishop of Cheyenne in the United States of America.
Episcopal ordination will confirm and strengthen you, Bishop Anton Cosa, in your service as Apostolic Administrator of Moldova, and you, Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, as Apostolic Administrator of the Caucasus.
You, Bishop András Veres, will be Auxiliary Bishop to the Archbishop of Eger, Hungary; and you, Bishop Péter Erdo, will be Auxiliary to the Pastor of Székesfehérvár.
As for you, Bishop Franco Croci, you will continue your work as Secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
Be ever mindful of the grace of this Epiphany day! May the light of Christ always shine in your hearts and your pastoral ministry.
5. Today's liturgy urges us to be joyful. There is a reason for this: the light that shone from the Christmas star to lead the Magi from the East to Bethlehem continues to guide all the peoples and nations of the world on the same journey.
Let us give thanks for the men and women who have made this journey during the past 2,000 years. Let us praise Christ, Lumen gentium, who guided them and continues to guide the nations down the path of history!
To him, the Lord of time, God from God, Light from Light, we confidently address our prayer.
May his star, the Epiphany star, continually shine in our hearts, showing to individuals and nations the way of truth, love and peace in the third millennium. Amen.
1. "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Mc 1,11).
These words, recounted by the Evangelist Mark, bring us straight to the heart of today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which closes the Christmas season. Today we commemorate the manifestation of the mystery of Trinitarian love, which occurred right at the beginning of the Messiah's public activity.
On the holy night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born among us in the poverty of a stable; on the day of Epiphany, the Magi acknowledged him as the long-awaited Messiah of the nations; today, all our attention is focused on his person and mission. The Father speaks to him directly: "You are my beloved Son", as the heavens are opened and the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove (cf. Mk Mc 1,10). The scene on the banks of the Jordan thus presents the solemn proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God. And so his saving mission begins publicly.
2. The Baptism that the Lord receives takes place in the context of John the Baptist's penitential preaching. The ritual act of being immersed in water, offered by the Precursor, was an outward sign of repentance for sins committed and of the desire for spiritual renewal.
All this refers to the Christian sacrament of Baptism, which I will shortly have the joy of administering to these children and which we received a long time ago. Baptism inserted us into God's own life, making us his adopted children in his only-begotten "beloved Son".
How can we not give thanks to the Lord, who today calls these 18 infants to become his children in Christ? We surround them with our prayer and our affection. They come from Italy, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Switzerland. With great joy we welcome them into the Christian community, which today really becomes their family. Together with them I am pleased to extend a most cordial greeting to their parents and godparents who are presenting these little ones at the altar. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of their lives and even more for the gift of their spiritual rebirth.
3. It is very significant that the sacrament of Baptism is being administered in this Sistine Chapel, where stupendous masterpieces of art remind us of the wonders of salvation history, from man's origins to the universal judgement. It is even more significant to contemplate these signs of God's action in our lives during the Jubilee Year, which is totally centred on the mystery of Christ, who was born, died and rose again for us.
I hope that these little ones will grow in the faith they are receiving today, so that they can soon take an active part in the Church's life.
I ask you, dear parents, who are participating with intense feeling in this important moment, to renew the promises of your baptismal vocation. In this way you will be better prepared to fulfil your task as the first teachers of faith for your children. These little ones must find in you, and in their godparents, support and guidance on the path of fidelity to Christ and the Gospel. Be examples for them of solid faith, of deep prayer and of active involvement in the Church's life.
May Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, accompany the first steps of these newly baptized children. May she always protect them, along with their parents and godparents. May she help each of them to grow in love for God and in the joy of serving the Gospel, and thus be able to give full meaning to their lives.
Tuesday, 18 January 2000
1096 Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Paul's words to the community of Corinth, "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1Co 12,13), seem to form a counterpoint to Christ's prayer: "As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, I pray that they may be one in us" (Jn 17,21).
Christ's prayer for unity! It is the prayer he addressed to the Father just before his passion and death. Despite our resistence, it continues to bear fruit, although mysteriously. Does not the grace of the "ecumenical movement" flow from this prayer? As the Second Vatican Council affirms: "The Lord of ages ... in recent times has begun to bestow more generously upon divided Christians remorse and a longing for unity", so that there "increases from day to day a movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians" (Unitatis redintegratio UR 1). We were and are witnesses to this. We have all been enriched by the grace of the Spirit who guides our steps towards unity and full, visible communion.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today in Rome with the celebration that has gathered us together. I wanted it to coincide with the opening of the Holy Door in this basilica dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles, to stress the ecumenical dimension that should mark the Jubilee Year 2000. At the beginning of a new Christian millennium, in this year of grace that invites us to be converted more radically to the Gospel, we must turn with more heartfelt prayer to the Spirit, imploring the grace of our unity.
"Baptized by one Spirit into one body": gathered in the basilica that bears Paul's name, we, representatives of different peoples and nations, of various Churches and Ecclesial Communities, feel directly challenged by these words of the Apostle of the Gentiles. We know we are brothers and sisters who are still divided, but we have set out with firm conviction on the path that leads to the full unity of Christ's Body.
2. Dear brothers and sisters, welcome to you all! I offer each of you the embrace of peace in the Lord who has gathered us together, as I cordially thank you for your presence, which I deeply appreciate. In each of you I would like to greet with a "holy kiss" (Rm 16,16) all the members of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities that you worthily represent.
Welcome to this gathering, which marks another step towards the unity of the Spirit in whom "we have been baptized". The Baptism we have received is one. It brings about a sacramental bond of unity among all who have been reborn through it. A purifying water, the "water of life", it enables us to pass through the one "door" which is Christ: "I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved" (Jn 10,9). Christ is the door of our salvation, which leads to reconciliation, to peace and to unity. He is the light of the world (cf. Jn Jn 8,12) and we, in conforming perfectly to him, are called to bring this light into the new century and the new millennium.
The humble symbol of a door which opens bears in itself an extraordinary wealth of meaning: it proclaims to all that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14,6). He is such for every human being. The more united we are, being recognized as disciples of Christ by loving one another as he has loved us (cf. Jn 13,35 Jn 15,12), the more effective this proclamation will be. The Second Vatican Council has fittingly recalled that division openly contradicts Christ's will, scandalizes the world and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature (Unitatis redintegratio UR 1).
3. The unity desired by Jesus for his disciples is a sharing in the unity he has with the Father and which the Father has with him. "As you, Father, are in me, and I in you", he said at the Last Supper, "may they be one in us" (Jn 17,21). Consequently, the Church, "a people made one in the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (St Cyprian, De Dom. orat., 23), cannot fail to look constantly at that supreme model and principle of unity which is resplendent in the Trinitarian mystery.
The Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit are one in the distinction of Persons. Faith teaches us that, by the power of the Spirit, the Son became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man (Creed). At the gates of Damascus Paul has, in the power of the Spirit, a most extraordinary experience of the incarnate, crucified and risen Christ and becomes the Apostle of the One who "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Ph 2,7).
When he writes: "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body", he means to express his faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God and to reveal the particular analogy of Christ's body: the analogy between the body of the God-man, a physical body through which our redemption was wrought, and his mystical and social body, which is the Church. Christ lives in her, making himself present through the Holy Spirit in all who form one body in him.
1097 4. Can a body be divided? Can the Church, the Body of Christ, be divided? Ever since the first Councils, Christians have together professed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic" Church. They know, with Paul, that there is one body, one Spirit and one hope to which all are called: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Ep 4,5-6).
In contrast to this mystery of unity, which is a gift from above, the divisions bear a historical character that attests to the human weaknesses of Christians. The Second Vatican Council recognized that divisions arose "for which, often enough, people on both sides were to blame" (Unitatis redintegratio UR 3). In this year of grace, each of us must have a greater awareness of his own personal responsibility regarding the breaches that have marked the history of Christ's Mystical Body. This awareness is indispensable if we are to advance towards that goal which the Council described as unitatis redintegratio, the restoration of our unity.
But unity cannot be restored without inner conversion, because the desire for unity is born and grows from the renewal of mind, the love of truth, self-denial and the free outpouring of love. Thus: conversion of heart and holiness of life, with personal and community prayer for unity, are the nucleus from which the ecumenical movement draws its strength and substance.
The longing for unity goes hand in hand with a profound ability to "sacrifice" what is personal, in order to dispose the soul to ever greater fidelity to the Gospel. Preparing ourselves for the sacrifice of unity means changing our viewpoint, broadening our horizons, knowing how to recognize the action of the Holy Spirit who is at work in our brethren, discovering new dimensions of holiness and opening ourselves to fresh aspects of Christian commitment.
If, sustained by prayer, we can renew our minds and hearts, the dialogue we are pursuing will eventually go beyond the limits of an exchange of ideas and become an exchange of gifts, a dialogue of love and truth which challenges and urges us to move ahead in order to offer God "the greatest sacrifice", which is our peace and fraternal harmony (cf. St Cyprian, De Dom. orat., n. 23).
5. In this basilica built in honour of Paul, remembering the words with which the Apostle today has challenged our faith and our hope, "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body", let us ask Christ to forgive everything in the Church's history which has compromised his plan of unity. Let us confidently ask him, the door of life, the door of salvation, the door of peace, to support our steps, to make the progress already achieved long-lasting, to grant us the support of his Spirit, so that our commitment will be ever more authentic and effective.
Dear brothers and sisters, my wish at this solemn moment is that the year of grace 2000 will be an opportunity for all of Christ's disciples to give new impetus to the ecumenical commitment and to welcome it as a demand of the Christian conscience. The future of evangelization, the proclamation of the Gospel to the men and women of our time, greatly depends on this.
From this basilica, which today sees us gathered together with hope-filled hearts, I look ahead to the new millennium. The wish that flows from my heart and becomes a fervent entreaty before the throne of the eternal Father is that, in the not too distant future, Christians will at last be reconciled and be able to walk together again as one people obedient to the Father's plan, a people who can repeat with one voice and in the joy of renewed brotherhood: "Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with all the spiritual blessings in the heavens" (Ep 1,3).
May the Lord Jesus hear our prayers and our ardent plea. Amen!
"Unitate, unitate"! This cry which I heard during my visit to Bucharest comes back to me like a loud echo. "Unitate, unitate", shouted the people gathered for the Eucharistic celebration: all Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelical Protestants were chanting together: "Unitate, unitate". Thank you for this call, this comforting call of our brothers and sisters. Perhaps we too can leave this basilica crying out like them: "Unitŕ, unitŕ; Unité, Unity". Thank you.
1098 Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. "There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.... And there was a prophetess Anna" (Lc 2,25-26 Lc 2,36).
These two figures, Simeon and Anna, witnessed the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem. The Evangelist stresses that each of them, in his or her way, is a precursor of the event. Both express the longing for the Messiah's coming. Both in some way bear within them the mystery of the temple in Jerusalem. Thus they are both present there - in a way that can be called providential - when Jesus' parents take him to the temple, 40 days after his birth, to offer him to the Lord.
Simeon and Anna represent the expectation of all Israel. It is granted to them to meet the One whom the prophets had foretold for centuries. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the two elderly people see the long-awaited Messiah in the Child that Mary and Joseph have brought to the temple as prescribed by the law of the Lord.
Simeon's words have a prophetic tone: the old man looks at the past and foretells the future.
He says: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for mine eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Lc 2,29-32). Simeon expresses the fulfilment of the expectation that was his reason for living. The same thing occurs with the prophetess Anna, who rejoices at the sight of the Child and speaks of him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lc 2,38).
2. Every year a vast throng of consecrated persons assembles at the Tomb of Peter for today's liturgical feast. Today, this throng has become a multitude, because consecrated persons have come here from every part of the world. Dear brothers and sisters, today you are celebrating your Jubilee, the Jubilee of Consecrated Life. I welcome you with the Gospel embrace of peace!
I greet the men and women Superiors of the various congregations and institutes, and I greet all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who have wished to experience the Jubilee by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. In you I see all your brothers and sisters throughout the world: my affectionate greeting also goes to them.
Assembled at the Tomb of the Prince of the Apostles in this Jubilee Year, you wish to express with special emphasis the deep bond that links consecrated life to the Successor of Peter. You are here to place upon the altar of the Lord the hopes and problems of your respective institutes. In the spirit of the Jubilee, you give thanks to God for the good he has wrought and, at the same time, you ask his forgiveness for the failings that may have marked the life of your religious families. You are asking yourselves at the beginning of a new millennium about the most effective ways to contribute, while respecting your foundational charism, to the new evangelization by reaching out to the many people who still do not know Christ. With this in mind, your fervent prayer rises to the Lord of the harvest that he will awaken in the hearts of many young men and women the desire to give themselves totally to the cause of Christ and the Gospel.
I gladly join in your prayer. Having been a pilgrim in so many parts of the world, I have been able to appreciate the prophetic value of your presence for all Christian people. Men and women of this generation have a great need to meet the Lord and his liberating message of salvation. On this occasion I am also pleased to note the example of generous Gospel dedication offered by your countless brothers and sisters, who often work in difficult situations. In Christ's name they devote themselves unreservedly to serving the poor, the outcast and the lowly.
Many of them, even in recent years, have paid with the supreme witness of blood for their choice of fidelity to Christ and to man, without surrender or compromise. They deserve the tribute of our admiration and gratitude!
1099 3. Jesus' presentation in the temple sheds particular light on the choice you have made, dear brothers and sisters. Do you too not live the mystery of the expectation of Christ's coming, expressed and as it were personified by Simeon and Anna? Do not your vows express with particular intensity that expectation of meeting the Messiah which these elderly Israelites cherished in their hearts? Old Testament figures standing on the threshold of the New, they reveal an inner attitude that is never out-of-date. You have made it your own, as you look with expectation for the second coming of the Bridegroom.
Eschatological witness is part of your vocation. The vows of poverty, obedience and chastity for the kingdom of God are a message that you proclaim to the world about man's ultimate destiny. It is a valuable message: "Those who vigilantly await the fulfilment of Christ's promises are able to bring hope to their brothers and sisters who are often discouraged and pessimistic about the future" (Vita consecrata VC 27).
4. "It had been revealed to him by the Spirit" (Lc 2,26). What the Evangelist said of Simeon can easily be applied to you whom the Spirit leads towards a special experience of Christ. By the renewing power of his love, he wants to make you effective witnesses to conversion, penance and new life.
To have your heart, affections, interests and feelings centred on Jesus is the most important aspect of the gift that the Spirit works within you. He conforms you to the chaste, poor and obedient Jesus. And the evangelical counsels, far from being an impoverishing renunciation, are a choice that frees a person for a fuller realization of his potential.
The Evangelist notes that the prophetess Anna "did not depart from the temple" (Lc 2,37). The first vocation of those who endeavour to follow Jesus with an undivided heart is "to be with him" (Mc 3,14), to be in communion with him, listening to his words in constant praise of God (cf. Lk Lc 2,38). I am thinking at this moment of prayer, particularly liturgical prayer, which rises from so many monasteries and communities of consecrated life in every corner of the earth.
Dear brothers and sisters, make your praise resound in the Church with humility and constancy, and the hymn of your life will echo deeply in the heart of the world.
5. The joyful experience of meeting Jesus, the exultation and praise which flow from the heart, cannot remain hidden. The service given to the Gospel by institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in the variety of forms which the Holy Spirit has stirred up in the Church, is always born of an experience of love and a living encounter with Christ. It arises from sharing his efforts and his ceaseless offering to the Father.
Invited to leave everything to follow Christ, you, consecrated men and women, no longer define your life by family, by profession or by earthly interests, and you choose the Lord as your only identifying mark. Thus you acquire a new family identity. The divine Teacher's words apply particularly to you: "Here are my mother and my brethren" (cf. Mk Mc 3,35). The invitation to renunciation, as you know well, is not meant to leave you "without a family" but to make you the first and distinctive members of the "new family", a witness and prophetic example for all whom God wishes to call and bring into his house.
6. Dear friends, at every moment of your life may the Virgin Mary be close to you as an example and support. Simeon disclosed to her the mystery of the Son and the sword that would "pierce through your own soul also" (Lc 2,35). Today I entrust to her those of you here and all consecrated persons who are celebrating their Jubilee.
Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ
and of the Church,
1100 look upon the men and women
whom your Son has called to follow
him in total consecration to his love:
may they always let the Spirit
may they be tireless in giving of
themselves and in serving the Lord,
so as to be faithful witnesses to
the joy that flows from the Gospel,
and preachers of the Truth
that leads human beings
1101 to the springs of immortal life.
Holy Father's greetings at end of Mass
I greet the consecrated persons present on this Jubilee day. I also extend my cordial greetings to the French-speaking pilgrims. May everyone give thanks for the grace of consecrated life! I bless you all.
I warmly welcome the consecrated men and women, and the pilgrims and visitors from the English-speaking countries. I invoke almighty God's blessings and grace upon you so that you may grow in friendship with God, who alone can fulfil the deepest aspirations of the human heart.
I very cordially greet the consecrated men and women who have come to Rome from German-speaking countries to celebrate the Great Jubilee and to renew their vows. May this gathering become a source of inner joy and enthusiasm for their life according to the evangelical counsels.
I extend a heartfelt greeting to the consecrated persons as well as to the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have taken part in this celebration. With the grace of the Jubilee may you proclaim Christ by your witness of life and your apostolic zeal.
I cordially greet all the orders, congregations, societies of apostolic life and institutes present for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life in Rome. I thank God with you for the gift of your vocation to the consecrated life, which is bearing abundant fruits of holiness and apostolic zeal in our homeland and beyond its borders.
I also greet all the pilgrims who have come to the Eternal City.
S. John Paul II Homil. 1088