S. John Paul II Homil. 953
953 1. "Be united in the same mind and the same judgement" (1Co 1,10).
This morning the Apostle Paul's words encourage us to live intensely this meeting of faith, which is the Eucharistic celebration, on "holy Sunday, honoured by the Lord's Resurrection, the first fruits of all the other days" (Dies Domini, n. 19). I am filled with great happiness to be here, presiding at Holy Mass.
In God's plan, Sunday is the day when the Christian community gathers round the table of the Word of God and the table of the Eucharist. At this important assembly we are called by the Lord to renew and deepen the gift of faith. Yes, brothers and sisters, Sunday is the day of faith and hope, the day of happiness and of joyful response to Christ the Saviour, the day of holiness! At this fraternal gathering we live and celebrate the presence of the Teacher who promised: "I am with you always; yes, to the end of time" (Mt 28,20).
2. I would now like to express my gratitude for the kind words of Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City and Primate of Mexico, in presenting the reality of this beloved ecclesial community. I also affectionately greet Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, Archbishop emeritus of Mexico City, as well as the other Mexican Cardinals and Bishops and those who have come from other parts of the American continent and from Rome. The Pope encourages you in the exercise of your ministry and urges you to spare no effort in courageously preaching the Gospel of Christ.
With great esteem I also greet the priests and consecrated men and women, encouraging them to sanctify themselves by their irrevocable commitment to God through their service to the Church and to the new evangelization, and by always following their Pastors' directives. It will take great effort to proclaim Christ more effectively to others, especially to the most marginalized. I am also thinking of the many cloistered nuns who pray for the Church, for the Pope, for the Bishops and priests, for missionaries and for all the faithful.
With great affection I greet the many indigenous peoples from various regions of Mexico who are attending this celebration. The Pope feels very close to all of you; he admires the values of your cultures and encourages you not to lose hope in surmounting the difficult situations you are experiencing. I invite you to strive to achieve your own development and to work for your own advancement. Build your future and that of your children with responsibility! For this reason, I ask all the faithful of this nation to commit themselves to helping and supporting the neediest among you. Each and every one of the children of this land must have what they need to live a dignified life. All the members of Mexican society have equal dignity since they are God's children; for that reason they deserve full respect and have the right to fulfil themselves in justice and in peace.
The Pope would also like his words to reach the sick who have been unable to be with us here. I feel very close to them as I share Christ's comfort and peace with them. I ask them, while they are seeking to recover their health, to offer up their illness for the Church, in the full knowledge of the saving value and evangelizing power of human suffering when it is joined with that of the Lord Jesus.
In a special way I thank the civil authorities for their presence at this celebration. The Pope encourages you to continue to work diligently for the common good of all, with a deep sense of justice, according to the responsibilities entrusted to you.
3. In the first reading the prophet says with reference to Israel's expectation of the Messiah: "The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light" (Is 9,1). This light is Christ, brought here almost 500 years ago by the first 12 Franciscan evangelizers from Spain. Today we are witnesses to a deeply-rooted faith and the abundant fruits that the sacrifice and self-denial of so many missionaries have yielded.
As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "Christ is the light of nations" (Lumen gentium LG 1). May this light illumine Mexican society, its families, schools and universities, its fields and its cities. May the values of the Gospel inspire its leaders to serve their fellow citizens, with constant concern for those most in need.
Faith in Christ is an integral part of the Mexican nation, indelibly inscribed in its history. Do not let this light of faith be extinguished! Mexico still needs it in order to build a more just and fraternal society, in solidarity with those who have nothing and hope for a better future.
954 The world today sometimes forgets the transcendent values of the human person: his dignity and freedom, his inviolable right to life and the priceless gift of the family, in a social climate of solidarity. Human relations are not always based on the principles of charity and mutual aid. On the contrary, other criteria prevail, endangering the harmonious development and integral progress of individuals and peoples. For this reason Christians must be the "soul" of this world: may they fill it with spirit, infuse life into it and cooperate in building a new society governed by love and truth.
Dear sons and daughters, even in the most difficult moments of your history you have always known how to recognize the Teacher "who has the words of eternal life" (cf. Jn Jn 6,68). Bring Christ's word to those who still do not know it! Have the courage to bear witness to the Gospel in the streets and squares, in the valleys and mountains of this nation! Promote the new evangelization according to the Church's guidelines.
4. In the responsorial psalm we sang: "The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Ps 26 :1). Whom should we fear if he is with us? Be courageous, then. Seek the Lord, and in him you will find peace. Christians are called to be the "light of the world" (Mt 5,14), enlightening all society with the witness of their actions.
When a person resolutely sets out on the way of faith, he ignores the seductions which divide the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and pays no attention to those who, turning their back on the truth, preach division and hatred (cf. 2P 2,1). Sons and daughters of Mexico and of all America, do not look for the truth of life in deceptive and seemingly novel ideologies: "Jesus is the genuine newness which surpasses all human expectations and such he remains for ever" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 1).
5. At this racetrack, transformed today into a vast church, Jesus' words as he began his preaching resound with power: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 4,17). From her beginning, the Church faithfully transmits this message of conversion, so that we can all live a more virtuous life, in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel. The call to conversion becomes more insistent during this time of preparation for the Great Jubilee in which we will commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation of God's Son 2,000 years ago.
At the beginning of this liturgical year, I pointed out in the Bull Incarnationis mysterium that "the period of the Jubilee introduces us to the vigorous language which the divine pedagogy of salvation uses to lead man to conversion and repentance. These are the beginning and the path of man's healing" (n. 2). This is why the Pope urges you to turn your hearts to Christ. The whole Church must begin the new millennium by helping her children to purify themselves from sin and evil; she must extend her horizons of holiness and fidelity to participate in the grace of Christ, who has called us to be children of the light and to share in eternal glory (cf. Col Col 1,13).
6. "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4,19).
These words of Jesus, which we have just heard, are repeated throughout history and in every corner of the world. Like the Master, I extend to everyone, especially to the young, the same invitation to follow Christ. Dear young people, one day Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew. They were fishermen and left their nets to follow him. Christ is certainly calling some of you to follow him and to commit yourselves totally to the cause of the Gospel. Do not be afraid to accept the Lord's invitation! Do not let your nets prevent you from following in Jesus' footsteps! Be generous; do not fail to respond to the Master who calls. Follow him, so that you may be fishers of men like the Apostles.
I also encourage the mothers and fathers of families to be the first to nurture the seed of a vocation in their children, by giving them the example of Christ's love in their homes, by their efforts and sacrifices, by their commitment and responsibility. Dear parents: raise your children according to the principles of the Gospel so that they will become the evangelizers of the third millennium. The Church needs more evangelizers. All of America, of which you are a part, and especially this beloved nation, has a great responsibility for the future.
For a long period Mexico received selfless and generous evangelization from many witnesses of Christ. Let us mention just a few of these eminent figures, such as Juan de Zumárraga and Vasco de Quiroga. Others evangelized by their witness unto death, like the martyred children of Tlaxcala, Bl. Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, or Bl. Miguel Pro and many other priests, religious and lay martyrs. Still others were confessors, such as Bl. Bishop Rafael Guizar.
7. To conclude, I would like to turn my thoughts to Tepeyac, to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the first and the new evangelization of America. To her I entrust the pilgrim Church in Mexico and the American continent, and I fervently ask her to guide her children, so that they will enter the third millennium with faith and hope.
955 Under her motherly care I place the young people of this country, as well as the innocent lives of children, especially those who are in danger of not being born. I entrust the cause of life to her loving protection: may no Mexican dare to harm the precious and sacred gift of life in its mother's womb!
To the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe I commend the poor, with their needs and desires. Before her, with her mestizo face, I place the hopes and longings of the indigenous peoples with their own culture, who hope to achieve their legitimate aspirations and the development to which they have a right. I commend the African Americans to her as well, and I place in her hands the workers, the employers and all who collaborate by their activity in the progress of contemporary society.
Most Holy Virgin! Like Bl. Juan Diego, may we bring your image with us impressed on our journey of life and proclaim the Good News of Christ to all peoples.
At the end of his homily the Holy Father added extemporaneously:
This preaching should be emphasized. The Pope preached and the whole assembly preached with him by their prayers. Here on my left is a group of children who preached in this assembly with special force. Thank you all.
“In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1Jn 4,9).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the Incarnation, God fully reveals himself in the Son who came into the world (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 9). Our faith is not simply the result of our searching for God. In Jesus Christ, it is God who comes in person to speak to us and to show us the way to himself.
The Incarnation also reveals the truth about man. In Jesus Christ, the Father has spoken the definitive word about our true destiny and the meaning of human history (cf. ibid., 5). “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an expiation for our sins” (1Jn 4,10). The Apostle is speaking of the love that inspired the Son to become man and to dwell among us. Through Jesus Christ we know how much the Father loves us. In Jesus Christ, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, each one of us can share in the love that is the life of the Blessed Trinity.
Saint John goes on: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God” (1Jn 4,15). Through faith in the Son of God made man we abide in the very heart of God: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1Jn 4,16). These words open to us the mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the love and compassion of Jesus is the door through which the eternal love of the Father is poured out on the world. In celebrating this Mass of the Sacred Heart, let us open wide our own hearts to God’s saving mercy!
956 2. In the Gospel reading which we have just heard, Saint Luke uses the figure of the Good Shepherd to speak of this divine love. The Good Shepherd is an image dear to Jesus in the Gospels. Answering the Pharisees who complained that he welcomed sinners by eating with them, the Lord asks them a question: Which of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? “And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them: 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep'” (Lc 15,5-6).
This parable highlights the joy of Christ and of our heavenly Father at every sinner who repents. God’s love is a love that searches us out. It is a love that saves. This is the love that we find in the Heart of Jesus.
3. Once we know the love that is in the Heart of Christ, we know that every individual, every family, every people on the face of the earth can place their trust in that Heart. We have heard Moses say: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God . . . the Lord set his heart on you and chose you . . . because the Lord loved you” (Dt 7,6-8). From Old Testament times, the core of salvation history is God’s unfailing love and election, and our human answer to that love. Our faith is our response to God’s love and election.
Three hundred years have passed since December 8, 1698, when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the first time in what is now the City of St. Louis. It was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, and Father Montigny, Father Davion and Father St. Cosme set up a stone altar on the banks of the Mississippi River and offered Mass. These three centuries have been a history of God's love poured out in this part of the United States, and a history of generous response to that love.
In this Archdiocese, the commandment of love has called forth an endless series of activities for which – today – we give thanks to our heavenly Father. St. Louis has been the Gateway to the West, but it has also been the gateway of great Christian witness and evangelical service. In fidelity to Christ's command to evangelize, the first pastor of this local Church, Bishop Joseph Rosati – who came from the town of Sora, very near Rome – promoted outstanding missionary activity from the beginning. In fact, today we can count forty-six different Dioceses in the area which Bishop Rosati served.
In this area, numerous Religious Congregations of men and women have labored for the Gospel with exemplary dedication, generation after generation. Here can be found the American roots of the evangelizing efforts of the Legion of Mary and other associations of the lay apostolate. The work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, made possible by the generous support of the people of this Archdiocese, is a real sharing in the Church’s response to Christ’s command to evangelize. From St. Louis, Cardinal Ritter sent the first Fidei Donum priests to Latin America in 1956, giving practical expression to the exchange of gifts which should always be a part of the communion between the Churches. This solidarity within the Church was the central theme of last year’s Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, and it is the central idea of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America – the Church in America – which I have just signed and issued at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
4. Here, by the grace of God, charitable activities of every kind have been a vibrant part of Catholic life. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society has had a privileged place in the Archdiocese from the beginning. Catholic Charities have for years performed exceptional work in the name of Jesus Christ. Outstanding Catholic health care services have shown the human face of the loving and compassionate Christ.
Catholic schools have proven to be of priceless value to generations of children, teaching them to know, love and serve God, and preparing them to take their place with responsibility in the community. Parents, teachers, pastors, administrators and entire parishes have sacrificed enormously to maintain the essential character of Catholic education as an authentic ministry of the Church and an evangelical service to the young. The goals of the Strategic Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese – evangelization, conversion, stewardship, Catholic education, service to those in need – have a long tradition here.
Today, American Catholics are seriously challenged to know and cherish this immense heritage of holiness and service. Out of that heritage you must draw inspiration and strength for the new evangelization so urgently needed at the approach of the Third Christian Millennium. In the holiness and service of St. Louis’s own Saint Philippine Duchesne, and of countless faithful priests, religious and laity since the Church’s earliest days in this area, Catholic life has appeared in all its rich and varied splendor. Nothing less is asked of you today.
5. As the new evangelization unfolds, it must include a special emphasis on the family and the renewal of Christian marriage. In their primary mission of communicating love to each other, of being co-creators with God of human life, and of transmitting the love of God to their children, parents must know that they are fully supported by the Church and by society. The new evangelization must bring a fuller appreciation of the family as the primary and most vital foundation of society, the first school of social virtue and solidarity (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 42). As the family goes, so goes the nation!
The new evangelization must also bring out the truth that “the Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel” (Evangelium Vitae EV 2). As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of God’s gift of life and love? And as believers, how can we fail to feel the duty to surround the sick and those in distress with the warmth of our affection and the support that will help them always to embrace life?
957 The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 27). I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
As the new millennium approaches, there remains another great challenge facing this community of St. Louis, east and west of the Mississippi, and not St. Louis alone, but the whole country: to put an end to every form of racism, a plague which your Bishops have called one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the nation.
6. Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Gospel of God's love, which we are celebrating today, finds its highest expression in the Eucharist. In the Mass and in Eucharistic Adoration we meet the merciful love of God that passes through the Heart of Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd I wish to make an appeal – an appeal to Catholics throughout the United States and wherever my voice or words may reach – especially to those who for one reason or another are separated from the practice of their faith. On the eve of the Great Jubilee of the two thousandth anniversary of the Incarnation, Christ is seeking you out and inviting you back to the community of faith. Is this not the moment for you to experience the joy of returning to the Father’s house? In some cases there may still be obstacles to Eucharistic participation; in some cases there may be memories to be healed; in all cases there is the assurance of God's love and mercy.
The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will begin with the opening of the Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome: this is a powerful symbol of the Church – open to everyone who feels a need for the love and mercy of the Heart of Christ. In the Gospel Jesus says: “ I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (cf. Jn Jn 10,9).
Our Christian life can be seen as a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, which passes through the door that is Jesus Christ. The key to that door is repentance and conversion. The strength to pass through that door comes from our faith and hope and love. For many Catholics, an important part of the journey must be to rediscover the joy of belonging to the Church, to cherish the Church as the Lord has given her to us, as Mother and Teacher.
Living in the Holy Spirit, the Church looks forward to the Millennium as a time of far-reaching spiritual renewal. The Spirit will truly bring about a new springtime of faith if Christian hearts are filled with new attitudes of humility, generosity and openness to his purifying grace. In parishes and communities across this land holiness and Christian service will flourish if “you come to know and believe in the love God has for you” (cf. 1Jn 4,16).
Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach the people of St. Louis and of the United States to say yes to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!
Mother of the Church, on the way to the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium, be the Star which safely guides our steps to the Lord!
Virgin of Nazareth, two thousand years ago you brought into the world the Incarnate Word: lead the men and women of the new Millennium to the One who is the true light of the world! Amen.
Cathedral Basilica, Saint Louis
27 January 1999
958 “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.” (Ps 67,4)
1. We are here together in this striking Cathedral Basilica to worship God and to let our prayer rise up to him like incense. In singing God’s praises, we remember and acknowledge God's dominion over creation and over our lives. Our prayer this evening reminds us that our true mother-tongue is the praise of God, the language of Heaven, our true home.
We are gathered on what is already the eve of a new Millennium – by any standard a decisive turning-point for the world. As we look at the century we are leaving behind, we see that human pride and the power of sin have made it difficult for many people to speak their mother-tongue. In order to be able to sing God’s praises we must relearn the language of humility and trust, the language of moral integrity and of sincere commitment to all that is truly good in the sight of the Lord.
2. We have just heard a moving Reading in which the Prophet Isaiah envisions a people returning from exile, overwhelmed and discouraged. We too sometimes experience the parched desert-land: our hands feeble, our knees weak, our hearts frightened. How often the praise of God dies on our lips and a song of lament comes instead! The Prophet’s message is a call for trust, a call to courage, a call to hope for salvation from the Lord. How compelling, for all of us today, his exhortation: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God... he comes to save you” (Is 35,3-4)!
3. Our gracious host, Archbishop Rigali, has invited to this Evening Prayer representatives of many different religious groups and sectors of civil society. I greet the Vice President of the United States of America, and the other civil authorities and community leaders present. I greet my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith: the members of the laity who want to live their baptismal dignity ever more intensely in their efforts to bring the Gospel to bear on the realities of everyday life in society.
With affection I greet my brother priests, representing all the many zealous and generous priests of St. Louis and other Dioceses. My hope is that you will rejoice each day in your encounter – in prayer and in the Eucharist – with the living Jesus Christ, whose priesthood you share. I happily greet the deacons of the Church and encourage you in your liturgical, pastoral and charitable ministry. A special word of thanks goes to your wives and families for their supportive role in this ministry.
The many Religious who are here this evening represent thousands and thousands of women and men who have labored in the Archdiocese from the beginning. You are those who follow Christ by imitating his total self-giving to the Father and to the cause of his Kingdom. My appreciation and thanks go to each one of you.
I gladly address a special word of encouragement to the seminarians. You will be the priests of the new Millennium, working with Christ in the new evangelization; helping the Church, under the action of the Holy Spirit, to meet the demands of the new century. I pray each day that the Lord will make you “shepherds after his own heart” (Jr 3,15).
4. I am particularly pleased that distinguished members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities have joined the Catholic community of St. Louis in this Evening Prayer. With hope and confidence let us continue to work together to realize the Lord’s desire: “That they may all be one . . . that the world may believe” (Jn 17,21) . My friendship and esteem go also to those of all other religious traditions. In particular I recall my long association with members of the Jewish faith, and my meetings in many parts of the world with my Muslim brothers and sisters. Today, divine Providence has brought us all together and enabled us to pray: “O God, let all the nations praise you!” May this prayer signify our shared commitment to ever greater understanding and cooperation.
5. I wish also to say a word of appreciation to the civic community of the entire metropolitan area, to all those associated with the City of St. Louis and committed to its human, cultural and social well-being. Your determination to meet the many urban challenges facing the community will help bring about a renewed “Spirit of St. Louis” to serve the cause of the city, which is the cause of its people and their needs. Of particular concern must be the training of young people for positive participation in the community. In this regard I share the Archdiocese’s hope that Cardinal Ritter College Prep, sustained by the concerted support of all sectors, will be able to continue to give numerous young people the opportunity for quality education and genuine human advancement.
959 In the Church’s name I express gratitude to everyone, including the business community, for their continuing support of many worthy charitable, social and educational services promoted by the Church.
6. “O God, let all the nations praise you!” (Ps 67)
At the end of this century - at once marked by unprecedented progress and by a tragic toll of human suffering - radical changes in world politics leave America with a heightened responsibility to be for the world an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society. There is a lesson for every powerful nation in the Canticle from the Book of Revelation which we have recited. It actually refers to the song of freedom which Moses sang after he had led the people through the Red Sea, saving them from the wrath of the Pharaoh. The whole of salvation history has to be read in the perspective of that Exodus: God reveals himself in his actions to defend the humble of the earth and free the oppressed.
In the same way, in her Magnificat Canticle, Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, gives us the key to understanding God’s intervention in human history when she says: the Lord “has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts... and exalted the lowly” (Lc 1,51-52). From salvation history we learn that power is responsibility: it is service, not privilege. Its exercise is morally justifiable when it is used for the good of all, when it is sensitive to the needs of the poor and defenseless.
There is another lesson here: God has given us a moral law to guide us and protect us from falling back into the slavery of sin and falsehood. We are not alone with our responsibility for the great gift of freedom. The Ten Commandments are the charter of true freedom, for individuals as well as for society as a whole.
America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths. America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience. And so America: If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. If you want life, embrace the truth – the truth revealed by God.
In this way the praise of God, the language of Heaven, will be ever on this people’s lips: “The Lord is God, the mighty... Come then, let us bow down and worship”. Amen.
Tuesday, 2 February 1999
1. "A light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Lc 2,32).
The Gospel passage we have just heard, taken from St Luke's account, recalls the event that took place in Jerusalem on the 40th day after the birth of Jesus: his presentation in the temple. This is one of the occasions when the liturgical season reflects historical time: today, in fact, 40 days have passed since 25 December, the Solemnity of the Lord's Birth.
This fact is not without significance. It means that the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple creates a sort of "hinge" which separates and joins the initial phase of his life on earth, his birth, and its fulfilment, which is his death and resurrection. Today we leave the Christmas season behind and move towards the season of Lent, which begins in 15 days with Ash Wednesday.
960 The prophetic words spoken by the aged Simeon shed light on the mission of the Child brought to the temple by his parents: "Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against ... that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Lc 2,34-35). To Mary Simeon said: "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Lc 2,35). The hymns of Bethlehem have now faded and the cross of Golgotha can already be glimpsed; this happens in the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered. The event we are commemorating today is thus a bridge as it were, linking the two most important seasons of the Church's year.
2. The second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, offers an interesting commentary on this event. The author makes an observation which leads us to reflect: commenting on Christ's priesthood, he points out how the Son of God "is concerned ... with the descendants of Abraham" (2:16). Abraham is the father of believers, so all believers are in someway included in this phrase "descendants of Abraham" for whom the Child, in Mary's arms, is presented in the temple. The event that occurs before the eyes of those few privileged witnesses is an early prediction of the sacrifice of the Cross.
The biblical text states that the Son of God, in solidarity with mankind, shares their condition of weakness and frailty to the end, that is, until his death, in order to bring about a radical liberation of humanity by once and for all defeating the adversary, the devil, whose power over human beings and every creature lies in death itself (cf. Heb He 2,14-15).
With this wonderful synthesis, the inspired author expresses the whole truth about the world's redemption. He highlights the importance of the priestly sacrifice of Christ, who "had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (He 2,17).
Precisely because it shows the profound link uniting the mystery of the Incarnation with that of the Redemption, the Letter to the Hebrews is an appropriate commentary on the liturgical event we are celebrating today. It highlights Christ's redemptive mission, in which the whole People of the New Covenant take part.
Dear consecrated persons who fill the Vatican Basilica and whom I greet with great affection, you share in this mission in a particular way. This Feast of the Presentation is in a special way your feast: in fact, we are celebrating the Third Day for Consecrated Life.
3. I am grateful to Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who is presiding at this Eucharist. Through him, I greet and thank those who in Rome and throughout the world are working at the service of consecrated life.
At this time my thoughts turn with special affection to all consecrated persons in every part of the world: they are the men and women who have chosen to follow Christ in a radical way, in poverty, chastity and obedience. I am thinking of the hospitals, the schools, the recreation centres where they work with total dedication to the service of their brethren for the sake of God's kingdom. I am thinking of the thousands of monasteries in which communion with God is lived in an intense rhythm of prayer and work. I am thinking of the consecrated lay persons, discreet witnesses in the world, and of so many who are in the front lines among the poor and the marginalized.
How can we not remember here the men and women religious who, even recently, have shed their blood while performing an apostolic service that was often difficult and uncomfortable? Faithful to their spiritual and charitable mission, they offered their lives in union with Christ's sacrifice for the salvation of humanity. Today, the Church's prayer is dedicated to every consecrated person, but especially to them. She gives thanks for the gift of this vocation and ardently invokes it: indeed, consecrated persons make a crucial contribution to the work of evangelization, bringing to it the prophetic power which comes from the radicalness of their evangelical choice.
4. The Church lives on event and mystery. Today she draws life from the event of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, seeking to understand the mystery it holds. In a way, though, the Church draws each day from this event in Christ's life, meditating on its spiritual meaning. In fact, every evening the elderly Simeon's words which have just been proclaimed echo in churches and monasteries, chapels and homes throughout the world:
"Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my 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).
961 So prayed Simeon, who in his old age had been granted to see the promises of the Old Covenant fulfilled. So prays the Church, which, sparing no effort, does all she can to bring the gift of the New Covenant to all peoples.
In the mysterious encounter between Simeon and Mary, the Old and New Testaments are joined. Together the ageing prophet and the young mother give thanks for this Light which has kept the darkness from prevailing. It is the Light which shines in the heart of human life: Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world, "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of his people Israel".
S. John Paul II Homil. 953