S. John Paul II Homil. 1115
1115 2. This message is also addressed to you, dear craftsmen, who have come to Rome from every part of the world to celebrate your Jubilee. In reflecting anew on this consoling reality — God is Father — you are supported by your heavenly patron, St Joseph, a craftsman like you, a just man and the faithful guardian of the Holy Family.
You look to him as an example of diligence and honesty in daily work. In him, especially, you seek a model of unreserved faith and constant obedience to the heavenly Father's will. Next to St Joseph you find the Son of God himself who, under his guidance, learns the carpenter's trade and plies it until he is 30 years old, the very epitome of “the Gospel of work”.
In his earthly life Joseph thus becomes a humble and diligent reflection of that divine fatherhood which would be revealed to the Apostles on the mount of the Transfiguration. The liturgy for this Second Sunday of Lent invites us to reflect on this mystery with greater attention. It is the heavenly Father himself who in a sense takes us by the hand to guide us in this meditation.
Christ is the beloved Son of the Father! It is especially this word “beloved” which, by answering our questions, lifts the veil to a certain extent from the mystery of the divine fatherhood. Indeed, it enables us to understand the Father's infinite love for the Son and, at the same time, reveals to us his “passion” for man, for whose salvation he does not hesitate to give this beloved Son. Henceforth, every human being knows that in Jesus, the incarnate Word, he is the object of the heavenly Father's boundless love.
3. The first reading from the Book of Genesis makes a further contribution to our knowledge of this mystery. God asks Abraham for the sacrifice of his son: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gn 22,2). With a broken heart, Abraham prepares to carry out God's command. But as he raises the knife to sacrifice his son, the Lord stops him and through an angel tells him: “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gn 22,12).
Here, through the events of a human fatherhood put to a dramatic test, another fatherhood is revealed, the one based on faith. It is precisely through the extraordinary witness of faith offered on that occasion that Abraham receives the promise of numerous descendants: “By your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gn 22,18). Through his unconditional trust in God's Word, Abraham becomes the father of all believers.
4. God the Father “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all (Rm 8,32). By his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham foreshadows Christ's sacrifice for the world's salvation. The actual carrying out of the sacrifice, which Abraham is spared, will take place with Jesus Christ. It is he who tells the Apostles this: coming down from the mount of the Transfiguration, he orders them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. The Evangelist adds: “They kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant” (Mc 9,10).
The disciples realized that Jesus is the Messiah and that salvation is achieved in him. But they do not understand why he speaks of suffering and death: they do not accept that the love of God can be hidden behind the Cross. Yet, where men see only death, God will manifest his glory by raising his Son; where men speak words of condemnation, God will work his mystery of salvation and love for the human race.
This is the lesson that every Christian generation must learn anew. Every generation: even our own! This is the reason for our journey of conversion in this special time of grace. The Jubilee enlightens all human life and experience. Even the efforts and the burden of daily work receive a new light of hope from faith in the dead and risen Christ. They are revealed as significant elements of the saving plan that the heavenly Father is accomplishing through the Cross of his Son.
5. Strong in this knowledge, dear craftsmen, you can give new strength and practical expression to those values which have always marked your activity: quality, a spirit of initiative, the promotion of artistic skills, freedom and cooperation, the correct relationship between technology and the environment, devotion to family, good neighbourly relations. In the past, the culture of crafts has created great occasions for bringing people together and has bequeathed wonderful syntheses of culture and faith to later generations.
The mystery of the life at Nazareth, of which St Joseph, patron of the Church and your protector, was the faithful guardian and wise witness, is the icon of this wonderful synthesis of faith life and human work, of personal growth and commitment to solidarity.
1116 Dear craftsmen, you have come here today to celebrate your Jubilee. May the light of the Gospel shine ever more brightly on your daily work. The Jubilee gives you an opportunity to meet Jesus, Joseph and Mary, to enter their home and the humble workshop of Nazareth. At the extraordinary school of the Holy Family we learn the essential realities of life and acquire a deeper understanding of what it means to follow Christ. Nazareth teaches us to overcome the apparent tension between the active and contemplative life; it invites us to grow in love of the divine truth that radiates from Christ's humanity and to exercise courageously the demanding service of safeguarding Christ who is present in every human person (cf. Redemptoris custos, n. 27).
6. Let us make a spiritual pilgrimage, then, across the threshold of the house of Nazareth, the poor dwelling which I will have the joy of visiting, God willing, next week during my Jubilee pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Let us pause to contemplate Mary, who witnessed the fulfilment of the Lord's promise “to Abraham and to his posterity for ever” (Lc 1,54-55).
With Joseph, her chaste husband, may she help you, dear craftsmen, to listen constantly to God, combining prayer and work. May they support you in your jubilee resolutions of renewed Christian fidelity and ensure that God's creative and provident work is in some way continued through your hands.
May the Holy Family, a place of understanding and love, help you to make acts of solidarity, peace and forgiveness. In this way you will be heralds of the infinite love of God the Father, who is rich in mercy and goodness to all. Amen.
Tuesday, 21 March 2000
“A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” (Is 40,3).
Your Beatitude, Brother Bishops and Priests,
Brothers and Sisters,
1. The words of the Prophet Isaiah, which the Evangelist applies to John the Baptist, remind us of the path which God has traced through time in his desire to teach and save his people. Today, as part of my Jubilee Pilgrimage to pray in some of the places connected with God’s saving interventions, Divine Providence has brought me to Jordan. I greet His Beatitude Michel Sabbah and thank him for his kind words of welcome. I cordially embrace the Greek Melkite Exarch Georges El-Murr and all the members of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, as well as the representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I am grateful to the civil authorities who have wished to honour our celebration with their presence.
The Successor of Peter is a pilgrim in this land blessed by the presence of Moses and Elijah, where Jesus himself taught and worked miracles (cf. Mk Mc 10,1 Jn 10,40-42), where the early Church bore witness in the lives of many saints and martyrs. In this year of the Great Jubilee the whole Church, and especially today the Christian community of Jordan, are spiritually united in a pilgrimage to the origins of our faith, a pilgrimage of conversion and penance, of reconciliation and peace.
1117 We look for a guide to show us the way. And there comes to meet us the figure of John the Baptist, a voice that cries in the wilderness (cf. Lk Lc 3,4). He will set us on the road that we must take if our eyes are to “see the salvation of God” (Lc 3,6). Guided by him, we make our journey of faith in order to see more clearly the salvation which God has accomplished through a history stretching back to Abraham. John the Baptist was the last of the line of Prophets who kept alive and nurtured the hope of God’s People. In him the time of fulfilment was at hand.
2. The seed of this hope was the promise made to Abraham when he was called to leave all that was familiar and follow a God he had not known (cf. Gen Gn 12,1-3). Despite his wealth, Abraham was a man living in the shadow of death, for he had no son or land of his own (cf. Gen Gn 15,2). The promise seemed a vain one, for Sarah was barren and the land was in other hands. But still Abraham put his faith in God; “he believed, hoping against hope” (Rm 4,18).
However impossible it seemed, Isaac was born to Sarah, and Abraham received a land. And through Abraham and his descendants the promise became a blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Gn 12,3 Gn 18,18).
3. That promise was sealed when God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. What passed between Moses and God on the holy mountain shaped the subsequent history of salvation as a Covenant of love between God and man – a Covenant which demands obedience but promises liberation. The Ten Commandments etched in stone on Sinai – but written on the human heart from the beginning of creation – are the divine pedagogy of love, indicating the only sure path to the fulfilment of our deepest longing: the human spirit’s irrepressible search for goodness, truth and harmony.
For forty years the people wandered until they arrived in this land. Moses, “whom the Lord knew face to face” (Dt 34,10) would die on Mount Nebo and be buried “in the valley of the land of Moab . . . though no one knows the place of his burial to this day” (Dt 34,5-6). But the Covenant and the Law he received from God live on for ever.
From time to time the Prophets had to defend the Law and the Covenant against those who set human rules and regulations above God’s will, and therefore imposed a new slavery upon the people (cf. Mk Mc 6,17-18). The city of Amman itself – Rabbah in the Old Testament – recalls the sin of King David in causing the death of Uriah and taking his wife Bathsheba, for it was here that Uriah fell (2S 11,1-17). “They will fight against you”, God says to Jeremiah in the First Reading we have listened to today, “but they will not prevail against you, for I am with you . . . to deliver you” (Jr 1,19). For denouncing failures to keep the Covenant, there were Prophets, including the Baptist, who paid with their blood. But because of the divine promise – “I am with you . . . to deliver you” – they stood firm as “a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls” (Jr 1,18), proclaiming the Law of life and salvation, the love which never fails.
4. In the fullness of time, at the River Jordan John the Baptist points to Jesus, the one upon whom the Holy Spirit descends like a dove (cf. Lk Lc 3,22), the one who baptizes not with water but “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Lc 3,16). The heavens are opened and we hear the Father’s voice: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3,17). In him, the Son of God, the promise made to Abraham and the Law given to Moses are fulfilled.
Jesus is the realization of the promise. His death on the Cross and his Resurrection lead to the definitive victory of life over death. Through the Resurrection the gates of Paradise are thrown open, and we may walk once again in the Garden of Life. In the Risen Christ we obtain “the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lc 1,54-55).
Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law. The Risen Christ alone reveals the full meaning of all that happened at the Red Sea and Mount Sinai. He reveals the true nature of the Promised Land, where “death shall be no more” (Ap 21,4). Because he is “the firstborn from the dead” (Col 1,18), the Risen Lord is the goal of all our journeying: “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Ap 22,13).
5. During the last five years, the Church in this region has been celebrating the Pastoral Synod of the Churches in the Holy Land. All the Catholic Churches together have walked with Jesus and heard his call anew, setting out the path ahead in a General Pastoral Plan. At this solemn Liturgy I gladly receive the fruits of the Synod as a sign of your renewed faith and generous commitment. The Synod has involved a deeply felt experience of communion with the Lord, and also of intense ecclesial communion, like the disciples gathered around the Apostles at the Church’s birth (cf. Acts Ac 2,42 Ac 4,32). The Synod has made clear that your future lies in unity and solidarity. I pray today, and I invite the whole Church to pray with me, that the Synod’s work will bring a strengthening of the bonds of fellowship and cooperation between the local Catholic communities in all their rich variety, between all the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and between Christians and the other great religions which flourish here. May the resources of the Church – the families, parishes, schools, lay associations, youth movements – set unity and love as their supreme goal. There is no more effective way to be involved socially, professionally and politically, above all in the work of justice, reconciliation and peace, which is what the Synod called for.
To the Bishops and priests, I say: Be good shepherds according to the Heart of Christ! Guide the flock entrusted to you along the path that leads to the green pastures of his Kingdom! Strengthen the pastoral life of your communities through a new and more dynamic collaboration with the religious and laity. Amid the difficulties of your ministry, put your trust in the Lord. Grow closer to him in prayer, and he will be your light and joy. The whole Church thanks you for your dedication and for the mission of faith you carry out in your dioceses and parishes.
1118 To the Religious women and men, I express the Church’s immense gratitude for your witness to the supremacy of God in all things! Continue to shine forth as beacons of the evangelical love which overcomes all barriers! To the laity I say: Do not be afraid to take your proper place and responsibility in the Church! Be brave witnesses to the Gospel in your families and in society!
On this Mother’s Day in Jordan, I congratulate the mothers present here, and invite all mothers to be builders of a new civilization of love. Love your families. Teach them the dignity of all life; teach them the ways of harmony and peace; teach them the value of faith and prayer and goodness! Dear young people, the path of life is opening up before you. Build your future on the solid foundation of God’s love, and remain ever united in Christ’s Church! Help to transform the world around you, by giving the best of yourselves in the service of others and of your country.
And to the children making their First Holy Communion, I say: Jesus is your best friend; he knows what is in your hearts. Stay close to him, and in your prayers remember the Church and the Pope.
6. In this year of the Great Jubilee, the whole pilgrim people of God returns in spirit to the places connected with the history of our salvation. After following in the footsteps of Abraham and Moses, our pilgrimage has now reached the lands where our Saviour Jesus Christ lived and travelled during his earthly life. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (He 1,1-2). In the Son all the promises were fulfilled. He is the Redemptor Hominis, the Redeemer of man, the hope of the world! Keeping all this before you, let the whole Christian community of Jordan be ever more steadfast in faith and generous in works of loving service.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, guide and protect you on the way! Amen.
Palestinian Territories – Bethlehem
Wednesday, 22 March 2000
“To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. . . and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God. . . Prince of Peace'” (Is 9,6)
Mr. President, thank you for your presence and for that of the other civil authorities.
Your Beatitude, Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1119 1. The words of the Prophet Isaiah foreshadow the Saviour’s coming into the world. And it was here in Bethlehem that the great promise was fulfilled. For two thousand years, generation after generation of Christians have pronounced the name of Bethlehem with deep emotion and joyful gratitude. Like the shepherds and the wise men, we too have come to find the Child, “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lc 2,12). Like so many pilgrims before us, we kneel in wonder and adoration before the ineffable mystery which was accomplished here.
On the first Christmas of my ministry as Successor of the Apostle Peter I mentioned publicly the great desire I had to celebrate the beginning of my Pontificate in Bethlehem at the cave of the Nativity (cf. Homily at Midnight Mass, 24 December 1978, No. 3). That was not possible then; and has not been possible until now. But today, how can I fail to praise the God of all mercies, whose ways are mysterious and whose love knows no end, for bringing me, in this year of the Great Jubilee, to the place of the Saviour’s birth? Bethlehem is the heart of my Jubilee Pilgrimage. The paths that I have taken lead me to this place and to the mystery that it proclaims.
I thank Patriarch Michel Sabbah for his kind words of welcome and I cordially embrace all the members of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. Significant is the presence, in the place which saw the birth of the Son of God in the flesh, of many of the Eastern Catholic Communities which form the rich mosaic of our catholicity. With affection in the Lord, I greet the Representatives of the Orthodox Churches and of the Ecclesial Communities present in the Holy Land.
I am grateful to the officials of the Palestinian Authority who are taking part in our celebration and joining us in praying for the well-being of the Palestinian people.
2. “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord” (Lc 2,10-11).
The joy announced by the angel is not a thing of the past. It is a joy of today – the eternal today of God’s salvation which embraces all time, past, present and future. At the dawn of the new millennium, we are called to see more clearly that time has meaning because here Eternity entered history and remains with us for ever. The words of the Venerable Bede express the idea clearly: “Still today, and every day until the end of the ages, the Lord will be continually conceived in Nazareth and born in Bethlehem” (In Ev. S. Lucae, 2: PL 92, 330). Because it is always Christmas in Bethlehem, every day is Christmas in the hearts of Christians. And every day we are called to proclaim the message of Bethlehem to the world – “good news of great joy”: the Eternal Word, “God from God, Light from Light”, has become flesh and has made his dwelling among us (cf. Jn Jn 1,14).
The newborn Child, defenceless and totally dependent on the care of Mary and Joseph, entrusted to their love, is the world’s entire wealth. He is our all!
In this Child – the Son who is given to us – we find rest for our souls and the true bread that never fails – the Eucharistic Bread foreshadowed even in the name of this town: Beth-lehem, the house of bread. God lies hidden in the Child; divinity lies hidden in the Bread of Life. Adoro te devote latens Deitas! Quae sub his figuris vere latitas!
3. The great mystery of divine self-emptying, the work of our redemption unfolding in weakness: this is no easy truth. The Saviour was born in the night – in the darkness, in the silence and poverty of the cave of Bethlehem. “The people who walked in darkness has seen a great light: on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone”, declares the Prophet Isaiah (9:2). This is a place that has known “the yoke” and “the rod” of oppression. How often has the cry of innocents been heard in these streets? Even the great church built over the Saviour’s birth-place stands like a fortress battered by the strife of the ages. The Crib of Jesus lies always in the shadow of the Cross. The silence and poverty of the birth in Bethlehem are one with the darkness and pain of the death on Calvary. The Crib and the Cross are the same mystery of redemptive love; the body which Mary laid in the manger is the same body offered up on the Cross.
4. Where then is the dominion of the “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace” of which the Prophet Isaiah speaks? What is the power to which Jesus himself refers when he says: “All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28,18)? Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” (Jn 18,36). His kingdom is not the play of force and wealth and conquest which appears to shape our human history. It is rather the power to vanquish the Evil One, the ultimate victory over sin and death. It is the power to heal the wounds which disfigure the image of the Creator in his creatures. Christ’s is the power to transform our weak nature and make us capable, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, of peace with one another and communion with God himself. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1,12). This is the message of Bethlehem today and for ever. This is the extraordinary gift which the Prince of Peace brought into the world two thousand years ago.
5. In that peace, I greet all the Palestinian people, aware as I am that this is an especially important time in your history. I pray that the recently concluded Pastoral Synod in which all the Catholic Churches took part will encourage you and strengthen among you the bonds of unity and peace. In this way you will bear ever more effective witness to the faith, building up the Church and serving the common good. I offer the holy kiss to the Christians of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I greet the Muslim Community of Bethlehem and pray for a new era of understanding and cooperation among all the peoples of the Holy Land.
1120 Today we look back to one moment two thousand years ago, but in spirit we embrace all time. We gather in one place, but we encompass the whole earth. We celebrate one newborn Child, but we embrace all men and women everywhere. Today from Manger Square, we cry out to every time and place, and to every person, “Peace be with you! Do not be afraid!” These words resound through the pages of Scripture. They are divine words, spoken by Jesus himself after he rose from the dead: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28,10). They are the words of the Church to you today. Do not be afraid to preserve your Christian presence and heritage in the very place where the Saviour was born.
In the cave of Bethlehem, to use the words of Saint Paul in today’s Second Reading, “God’s grace has been revealed” (Tt 2,11). In the Child who is born, the world has received “the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants for ever” (cf. Lk Lc 1,54-55). Dazzled by the mystery of the Eternal Word made flesh, we leave all fear behind and we become like the angels, glorifying God who gives the world such gifts. With the heavenly choir, we “sing a new song” (Ps 96,1):
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those whom he loves” (Lc 2,14).
O Child of Bethlehem, Son of Mary and Son of God, Lord of all time and Prince of Peace, “the same yesterday, today and for ever” (He 13,8): as we set forth into the new millennium, heal all our wounds, strengthen our steps, open our hearts and minds to “the loving kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high” (Lc 1,78). Amen.
Jerusalem – Cenacle
Thursday, 23 March 2000
1. “This is my Body”.
Gathered in the Upper Room, we have listened to the Gospel account of the Last Supper. We have heard words which emerge from the depths of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus takes bread, blesses and breaks it, then gives it to his disciples, saying: “This is my Body”. God’s covenant with his People is about to culminate in the sacrifice of his Son, the Eternal Word made flesh. The ancient prophecies are about to be fulfilled: “Sacrifices and offerings you desired not, but a body you have prepared for me. . . Lo, I have come to do your will, O God” (He 10,5). In the Incarnation, the Son of God, of one being with the Father, became Man and received a body from the Virgin Mary. And now, on the night before his death, he says to his disciples: “This is my Body, which will be given up for you”.
It is with deep emotion that we listen once more to these words spoken here in this Upper Room two thousand years ago. Since then they have been repeated, generation after generation, by those who share in the priesthood of Christ through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In this way, Christ himself constantly says these words anew, through the voice of his priests in every corner of the world.
2. “This is the cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant; it will be shed for you and for all, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me”.
1121 In obedience to Christ’s command, the Church repeats these words each day in the celebration of the Eucharist. Words which rise from the depths of the mystery of the Redemption. At the celebration of the Passover meal in the Upper Room, Jesus took the cup filled with wine, blessed it and gave it to his disciples. This was part of the Passover rite of the Old Testament. But Christ, the Priest of the new and eternal Covenant, used these words to proclaim the saving mystery of his Passion and Death. Under the appearances of bread and wine he instituted the sacramental signs of the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood.
“By your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world”. At every Holy Mass, we proclaim this “mystery of faith”, which for two millennia has nourished and sustained the Church as she makes her pilgrim way amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, proclaiming the Cross and Death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8). In a sense, Peter and the Apostles, in the person of their Successors, have come back today to the Upper Room, to profess the unchanging faith of the Church: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.
3. In fact, the First Reading of today’s Liturgy leads us back to the life of the first Christian community. The disciples “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Ac 2,42).
Fractio panis. The Eucharist is both a banquet of communion in the new and everlasting Covenant, and the sacrifice which makes present the saving power of the Cross. And from the very beginning the Eucharistic mystery has always been linked to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles and to the proclamation of God’s word, spoken first through the Prophets and now, once and for all, in Jesus Christ (cf. Heb He 1,1-2). Wherever the words “This is my Body” and the invocation of the Holy Spirit are pronounced, the Church is strengthened in the faith of the Apostles and in the unity which has the Holy Spirit as its origin and bond.
4. Saint Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, saw clearly that the Eucharist, as our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, is also a mystery of spiritual communion in the Church. “We, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the same bread” (1Co 10,17). In the Eucharist, Christ the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep, remains present in his Church. What is the Eucharist, if not the sacramental presence of Christ in all who share in the one bread and the one cup? This presence is the Church’s greatest wealth.
Through the Eucharist, Christ builds up the Church. The hands which broke bread for the disciples at the Last Supper were to be stretched out on the Cross in order to gather all people to himself in the eternal Kingdom of his Father. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, he never ceases to draw men and women to be effective members of his Body.
5. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.
This is the “mystery of faith” which we proclaim in every celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus Christ, the Priest of the new and eternal Covenant, has redeemed the world by his Blood. Risen from the dead, he has gone to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house. In the Spirit who has made us God’s beloved children, in the unity of the Body of Christ, we await his return with joyful hope.
This Year of the Great Jubilee is a special opportunity for priests to grow in appreciation of the mystery which they celebrate at the Altar. For that reason I wish to sign this year’s Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday here in the Upper Room, where the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, in which we all share, was instituted.
Celebrating this Eucharist in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, we are united with the Church of every time and place. United with the Head, we are in communion with Peter and the Apostles and their Successors down the ages. In union with Mary, the Saints and Martyrs, and all the baptized who have lived in the grace of the Holy Spirit, we cry out: Marana tha! “Come, Lord Jesus!” (cf. Rev Ap 22,17). Bring us, and all your chosen ones, to the fullness of grace in your eternal Kingdom. Amen.
1122 Friday, 24 March 2000
“Consider your calling, brothers and sisters” (1Co 1,26).
1. Today these words of Saint Paul are addressed to all of us who have come here to the Mount of the Beatitudes. We sit on this hill like the first disciples, and we listen to Jesus. In the stillness, we hear his gentle and urgent voice, as gentle as this land itself and as urgent as a call to choose between life and death.
How many generations before us have been deeply moved by the Sermon on the Mount! How many young people down the centuries have gathered around Jesus to learn the words of eternal life, as you are gathered here today! How many young hearts have been inspired by the power of his personality and the compelling truth of his message! It is wonderful that you are here!
Thank you, Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, for your kind welcome. Please take my prayerful greeting to the whole Greek-Melkite community over which you preside. I extend my fraternal good wishes to the many Cardinals, to Patriarch Sabbah, and to many Bishops present and all the
priests. I greet the members of the Latin community, including the Hebrew-speaking faithful, the Maronite community, the Syrian community, the Armenian community, the Chaldean community, and all our brothers and sisters of the other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I extend a special word of thanks to our Muslim friends who are here, and to the members of the Jewish faith and to the Druse community.
This great gathering is like a rehearsal for the World Youth Day to be held in August in Rome! The young man who spoke promised that you will have another mountain, Mount Sinai. Young people of Israel, of the Palestinian Territories, of Jordan and Cyprus; young people of the Middle East, of Africa and Asia, of Europe, America and Oceania! With love and affection I greet each one of you!
2. The first to hear the Beatitudes of Jesus bore in their hearts the memory of another mountain – Mount Sinai. Just a month ago, I had the grace of going there, where God spoke to Moses and gave the Law, “written with the finger of God” (Ex 31,18) on the tablets of stone. These two mountains – Sinai and the Mount of the Beatitudes – offer us the roadmap of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities to God and neighbour. The Law and the Beatitudes together mark the path of the following of Christ and the royal road to spiritual maturity and freedom.
The Ten Commandments of Sinai may seem negative: “You will have no false gods before me; . . . do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness...” (Ex 20,3). But in fact they are supremely positive. Moving beyond the evil they name, they point the way to the law of love which is the first and greatest of the commandments: “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. . . You will love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22,37). Jesus himself says that he came not to abolish but to fulfil the Law (cf. Mt Mt 5,17). His message is new but it does not destroy what went before; it leads what went before to its fullest potential. Jesus teaches that the way of love brings the Law to fulfilment (cf. Gal Ga 5,14). And he taught this enormously important truth on this hill here in Galilee.
3. “Blessed are you!”, he says, “all you who are poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, you who mourn, who care for what is right, who are pure in heart, who make peace, you who are persecuted! Blessed are you!” But the words of Jesus may seem strange. It is strange that Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He says to them, “Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the true winners: the kingdom of heaven is yours!” Spoken by him who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11,29), these words present a challenge which demands a deep and abiding metanoia of the spirit, a great change of heart.
You young people will understand why this change of heart is necessary! Because you are aware of another voice within you and all around you, a contradictory voice. It is a voice which says, “Blessed are the proud and violent, those who prosper at any cost, who are unscrupulous, pitiless, devious, who make war not peace, and persecute those who stand in their way”. And this voice seems to make sense in a world where the violent often triumph and the devious seem to succeed. “Yes”, says the voice of evil, “they are the ones who win. Happy are they!”
1123 4. Jesus offers a very different message. Not far from this very place Jesus called his first disciples, as he calls you now. His call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts even now on this hill, the choice between good and evil, between life and death. Which voice will the young people of the twenty-first century choose to follow? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.
In the end, Jesus does not merely speak the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He is the Beatitudes. Looking at him you will see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say, “Come, follow me!” He does not say simply, “Do what I say”. He says, “Come, follow me!”
You hear his voice on this hill, and you believe what he says. But like the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee, you must leave your boats and nets behind, and that is never easy – especially when you face an uncertain future and are tempted to lose faith in your Christian heritage. To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in today’s world. But Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge. He is always with you to transform your weakness into strength. Trust him when he says: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Co 12,9)!
5. The disciples spent time with the Lord. They came to know and love him deeply. They discovered the meaning of what the Apostle Peter once said to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6,68). They discovered that the words of eternal life are the words of Sinai and the words of the Beatitudes. And this is the message which they spread everywhere.
At the moment of his Ascension Jesus gave his disciples a mission and this reassurance: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . and behold I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28,18-20). For two thousand years Christ’s followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the Third Millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, he speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for the people of the twenty-first century no less than those of the first century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into Christ’s Kingdom. Now it is your turn to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom!
Young people of the Holy Land, Young people of the world: answer the Lord with a heart that is willing and open! Willing and open, like the heart of the greatest daughter of Galilee, Mary, the Mother of Jesus. How did she respond? She said: “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Lc 1,38).
O Lord Jesus Christ, in this place that you knew and loved so well, listen to these generous young hearts! Continue to teach these young people the truth of the Commandments and the Beatitudes! Make them joyful witnesses to your truth and convinced apostles of your Kingdom! Be with them always, especially when following you and the Gospel becomes difficult and demanding! You will be their strength; you will be their victory!
O Lord Jesus, you have made these young people your friends: keep them for ever close to you! Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 1115