S. John Paul II Homil. 969
1. "Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all of you who love her, rejoice with her" (Entrance Antiphon).
Today's liturgy begins with this invitation to rejoice. It gives a particularly cheerful tone to this Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally called Laetare Sunday. Yes, we should rejoice because the true Lenten spirit is a search for the deep joy which is the fruit of our friendship with God. We rejoice because Easter is now close at hand, and in a little while we will celebrate our freedom from evil and sin, thanks to the new life brought to us by Christ who died and rose again.
On our way to Easter, the liturgy urges us to retrace the catechumenal journey with those who are preparing to receive Baptism. Last Sunday, we meditated on the gift of the living water of the Spirit (cf. Jn Jn 4,5-42); today we reflect near the pool of Siloam with the man born blind, to embrace Christ, the light of the world (cf. Jn Jn 9,1-41).
"He went and washed and came back seeing" (Jn 9,7). Like the blind man, we must let ourselves be enlightened by Christ and renew our faith in the suffering Messiah, who reveals himself as the light of our life: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me ... will have the light of life" (Gospel Acclamation; cf. Jn Jn 8,12).
Water and light are essential elements of life. It is for this reason that Jesus elevates them to signs which reveal the great mystery of man's participation in the divine life.
2. Dear brothers and sisters of St Matthias the Apostle Parish, I am delighted to be with you on this Laetare Sunday. I offer my affectionate greetings to the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of this area, your parish priest, Mons. Vincenzo Josia, the priests who work with him and all of you who live, pray and bear witness to the Gospel in this neighbourhood. Today I would especially like to remember the first beloved parish priest of this community, Mons. Desiderio Pirovano, whom the Lord called to himself almost a year ago, after suffering a long illness which he faced with exemplary dignity and faith.
970 I know that your parish, now 35 years old, is characterized by good participation of the faithful in sacramental and ecclesial life. I am pleased with this, and thank the Lord with you for this spiritual and community wealth, which should make you even more committed to missionary activity aimed at those who do not yet share the same spiritual experience. For this reason, the City Mission which, please God, we will conclude together on 22 May next at the solemn Pentecost Vigil in St Peter's Square, is of real help to you. It is necessary that your missionary commitment continue afterwards with suitable initiatives. In fact, it must involve the parish communities and the whole Diocese to an ever greater extent, so that all the baptized will be ready to respond courageously to the human and spiritual challenges of the present time. In this context, it is important to make the most of the propensity for and openness to the Gospel found in society, without stopping at appearances, but looking at the heart of situations. This is what the first reading recalls through the person and mission of the prophet Samuel: "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1S 16,7). In every person we meet, even in those who openly profess not to be interested in the things of the Spirit, the need for God is real: it is the task of believers to proclaim and bear witness to the liberating truth of the Gospel, offering the light of Christ to everyone.
3. Dear parishioners of St Matthias the Apostle! I am delighted with your community's efficient organization. I am referring especially to the many initiatives for children and young people, which are part of the religious education classes and the programmes of Diocesan Catholic Action. Continue to give your time and energy generously to children, adolescents and young people, who are the Church's hope in the new millennium. Direct all your formative work to teaching them to grow in their knowledge of Jesus, the only Saviour of the world, to helping them to experience God's mercy and to translate what they learn in catechesis and in the experience of community prayer into a strong witness of life. May the meeting this coming Thursday, 25 March, in Paul VI Auditorium in preparation for the 14th World Youth Day be a significant moment on this journey of religious enrichment. Dear young people of this parish, come in large numbers and prepare your spirit, so that this event, which has now become the Pope's meeting with the young people of the Diocese, will be an authentic experience of faith for all.
Is it not true that today, more than ever, the younger generation has a keen desire for truth and are more and more tired of pursuing empty illusions? It is vital to present the Gospel to them with strength and love, and to help them combine faith with life in order to resist the many temptations of the modern world. This is why, like the man born blind in today's Gospel passage, encountering Jesus in a personal way is indispensable.
4. This morning when entering your impressive church, I noted how even the architectural structure has been designed so that the attention of the faithful is focused on the place where the Eucharistic Mystery is celebrated. The Eucharist, the summit and source of Christian life, is Jesus present among us, who makes himself food and drink for our salvation. A true community, an authentic Church, will only be such if it learns to grow in the school of the Eucharist and nourishes itself at the table of the Word and the Bread of eternal life. All of us need to learn how to be transformed by the Eucharistic Mystery. On this subject, our thoughts naturally turn to the International Eucharistic Congress which will take place in Rome from 18 to 25 June 2000.
The Eucharist, the supreme Mystery of love, also calls for a commitment of solidarity and active closeness to those in need. I would like to encourage you to do even more in this important area, in order to be credible witnesses to God's providential love for every human creature. There are many individuals and families among you who are in need of support; there are also poor people who live around the parish. Helping your brothers and sisters in difficulty, opening the arms of your heart to them, helps foster that climate of brotherhood and friendship which the world needs. Only in this way will we be true apostles of Jesus, who left us the commandment of love as a rule of life; only in this way will we be children of light, that is, of Truth and Love.
5. "Walk as children of light" (Ep 5,8).
May the words of the Apostle Paul in the second reading be an incentive for us to take this path of conversion and spiritual renewal. By virtue of Baptism, Christians are "filled with light"; they have already received the light of Christ. Therefore, they are called to conform their life to the gift of God: to be children of light!
Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord open the eyes of your faith just as he did with the man born blind, so that you learn to recognize his face in those of your brothers and sisters, especially those of the neediest.
May Mary, who offered Christ to the entire world, help us to welcome him into our families, into our communities and into all the living and working areas of our city.
971 1. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11,25-26 cf. Gospel Acclamation).
We can imagine the surprise that such an announcement caused in his listeners, who a short time later, however, were able to see the truth of Jesus' words when, at his command, Lazarus, who had already been in the tomb for four days, came forth alive. An even more striking confirmation of this astonishing statement will be given later by Jesus when, by his own Resurrection, he will win the final victory over evil and death.
What had been foretold many centuries before by the prophet Ezekiel in addressing the Israelites deported to Babylon: "I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live" (Ez 37,14), will become a reality in the paschal mystery and will be presented by the Apostle Paul as the essential core of the new life of believers: "But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you" (Rm 8,9).
Does this not show the timeliness of the Gospel message? In a society in which signs of death are increasing but in which at the same time a profound need for hope in life is felt, it is the mission of Christians to continue to proclaim Christ, man's "resurrection and life". Yes, faced with the signs of a creeping "culture of death", Jesus' great revelation must still be heard today: "I am the resurrection and the life".
2. Dear Brothers and Sisters of St Theresa of the Child Jesus in Panfilo! I am pleased to be here among you today, as I continue my pastoral visit to the parishes of our Diocese.
I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of this area, your parish priest, Fr Francesco Pacini, and the Discalced Carmelite religious who help run the parish. My thoughts turn next to the women religious, the members of the pastoral council and those belonging to the various parish groups, who perform valuable work in different areas of the parish's pastoral life.
I affectionately greet everyone who lives in this neighbourhood. In particular, I greet the elderly, whom I know are numerous, but also the groups of young families who have recently moved into the area. May the parish, which is called to be an authentic "family of families", be an ever more welcoming community towards them, in order to help them fulfil their vocation in the service of the Gospel.
3. Two days ago we celebrated the Solemnity of St Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary, guardian of the Redeemer and a worker. At this moment, I would like to remember those who spend a large part of their day working for the various institutions in this neighbourhood: the State Mint, E.N.E.L., the Vittorio Alfieri State Middle School, as well as the many offices and diplomatic legations. I know that, in conjunction with the City Mission, in which you are actively participating (and I am pleased with that), your parish community has become more attentive to the needs of the different situations and is seeking to plan and propose appropriate initiatives of formation and prayer at the best times for those who are involved all day in productive activities.
It is the task of believers to be an active and evangelizing "presence" in the workplace. By meeting in the parish to pray together and to grow in faith, they are then called to become the leaven of spiritual renewal where they work. It is their task to become apostles to their brethren, offering them the Gospel invitation "come and see" (cf. Jn Jn 1,46) and helping them to rediscover Christian values and to live them with greater conviction.
Regarding the City Mission, how can we not entrust its future progress to the patron of this parish, St Theresa of the Child Jesus, whom you affectionately call "Teresina". She deeply lived her missionary zeal within the walls of Carmel, so much so that she was proclaimed patroness of the missions. Together with the City Mission we also entrust to her the missions "ad gentes" of the Diocese of Rome and all the Roman missionaries, who have gone to many parts of the world generously to spread the Gospel seed.
4. The life and spiritual message of St Theresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, whom I had the joy of proclaiming a doctor of the Church on 19 October 1997, is very eloquent for the Church of our time. I am thinking, for example, of how much she can teach the many faithful who are preparing to come from around the world on pilgrimage to Rome for the Holy Year. Theresa of Lisieux was also a pilgrim to Rome in 1887. This same church preserves among its relics the veil she wore at the papal audience in which she asked and received from Pope Leo XIII permission to enter Carmel at only 15 years of age.
972 The young Theresa was enthusiastic in her discovery of Rome, the "shrine city", which contains numerous testimonies of holiness and love for Christ. Theresa was also able to express and synthesize in her mystical experience the very heart of the message connected with the approaching Jubilee: the proclamation of the mercy of God the Father and the invitation to entrust ourselves totally to him, who reaches out to everyone and wishes to save everyone through the Cross of Christ.
5. St Theresa also reminds us of the enthusiasm and generosity of the young. Her constant trust in the merciful love of God made her youth happier and more shining. Dear young people of this parish and young people of the entire Diocese, whom I will have the joy of meeting in the Vatican next Thursday, I hope that you will achieve the holiness and simplicity of heart of the "young" Theresa, so that you may experience her trust in the merciful providence of God. Is it not young people in particular who feel the strongest need to be welcomed, loved and forgiven? Dear young people, I wish to remind you that only in God will we find the spring that quenches every thirst for love and truth in our hearts. I hope that you will experience the beauty of this divine love and live it in your daily lives.
Dear parishioners, in coming here, I was wondering why in the title of your parish the name of St Theresa of the Child Jesus is followed by the expression "in Panfilo". It is because - as you know so well - under the high altar is the tomb of St Pamphilus, a Roman martyr of the third century. This revered tomb is part of an extensive network of underground cemeteries and Christian monuments of rare beauty. May the testimony of St Pamphilus and the many martyrs of the Church of Rome spur and encourage us to bear a courageous witness of fidelity to Christ.
6. Let us repeat with the Evangelist: "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world" (Jn 11,27).
Like Martha, Lazarus' sister, today we too wish to renew our faith in Jesus and our friendship with him. By his Death and Resurrection we are given the fullness of life in the Holy Spirit. It is the divine life that can transform our existence into a gift of love for God and for our brothers and sisters.
May St Theresa of the Child Jesus and St Pamphilus help us by their example and intercession, so that, just as we prayed at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, we may "be like Christ your Son, who loved the world and died for our salvation" (Collect).
14th WORLD YOUTH DAY
Palm Sunday, 28 March 1999
1. "He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Ph 2,8).
The celebration of Holy Week begins with the "Hosanna!" of Palm Sunday and culminates in the "Crucify him!" of Good Friday. But this is not a contradiction; rather it is the heart of the mystery the liturgy wants to proclaim: Jesus willingly gave himself up to his passion; he did not find himself crushed by superior forces (cf. Jn Jn 10,18). It was he himself who, in discerning the Father's will, understood that his hour had come and he accepted it with the free obedience of the Son and with infinite love for mankind.
973 Jesus brought our sins to the Cross and our sins brought Jesus to the Cross: he was crushed for our iniquities (cf. Is Is 53,5). The prophet said in reply to David, who was seeking the one responsible for the deed Nathan had recounted to him: "You are the man!" (2S 12,7). The Word of God gives us the same answer as we wonder what caused Jesus' death: "You are the man!". Indeed, Jesus' trial and passion are repeated in the world today and renewed by every person who abandons himself to sin and can only prolong the cry: "Not this man, but Barabbas! Crucify him!".
2. Looking at Jesus in his passion, we see humanity's sufferings as well as our personal histories reflected as in a mirror. Although there was no sin in Christ, he took upon himself what man could not endure: injustice, evil, sin, hatred, suffering and finally death. In Christ, the humiliated and suffering Son of Man, God loves everyone, forgives everyone and confers the ultimate meaning on human life.
We are here this morning to receive this message from the Father who loves us. We can ask ourselves: what does he want of us? He wants us to look at Jesus and be willing to follow him in his passion in order to share in his Resurrection. At this moment we recall Jesus' words to his disciples: "The cup that I drink, you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized" (Mc 10,39). "If any man would come after me, let him ... take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16,24-25).
The "hosanna" and the "crucify him" thus become the way to measure how one conceives of life, faith and Christian witness: we must not be discouraged by defeat nor exalted by victory because, as with Christ, the only victory is fidelity to the mission received from the Father. "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name" (Ph 2,9).
3. The first part of today's celebration let us relive Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On that fateful day, who realized that Jesus of Nazareth, the Teacher who spoke with authority (cf. Lk Lc 4,32), was the Messiah, the son of David, the awaited and promised Saviour? It was the people, and among them the most enthusiastic and active were the young, who thus in a way became the Messiah's "heralds". They understood that it was the hour of God, the longed-for and blessed hour awaited by Israel for centuries, and, waving palm and olive branches, they proclaimed Jesus' triumph.
In continuity with the spirit of that event we have now been celebrating World Youth Day for 14 years, when young people, together with their Pastors, joyfully profess and proclaim their faith in Christ, question themselves about their deepest aspirations, experience ecclesial communion and confirm and renew their commitment to the urgent task of the new evangelization.
They seek the Lord in the heart of the paschal mystery. The mystery of the glorious Cross becomes for them the great gift and sign of a mature faith. With his Cross, the universal symbol of Love, Christ leads the world's young people in the great "assembly" of the kingdom of God, who transforms hearts and societies.
How can we not give thanks to the Lord for the World Youth Days, which began in 1985 precisely in St Peter's Square and which, following the "Holy Year Cross", have traveled the world like a long pilgrimage towards the new millennium? How can we not praise God, who reveals the secrets of his kingdom to the young (cf. Mt Mt 11,25), for all the good fruits and Christian witness which this successful initiative has produced?
Today's World Youth Day is the last in this century and in this millennium before the great gathering of the Jubilee: it thus has special significance. May the contribution of all make it a powerful experience of faith and ecclesial communion.
4. The young people of Jerusalem shouted: "Hosanna to the Son of David!". Young people, my friends, do you too want to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, the Teacher, the Leader, the Friend of your life, as your peers did on that day so long ago? Remember: he alone knows deeply what is in every human being (cf. Jn Jn 2,25); he alone teaches us to be open to the mystery and to call God our Father, "Abba"; he alone makes us capable of selfless love for our fellow human beings, accepted and recognized as "brothers" and "sisters".
Dear young people, go joyfully to meet Christ, who gladdens your youth. See him and meet him by clinging to his word and his mysterious presence in the Church and the sacraments. Live with him in fidelity to his Gospel: demanding, it is true, but at the same time the only source of hope and true happiness. Love him in the face of your brother who needs justice, help, friendship and love.
974 On the eve of the third millennium, this is your hour. May the contemporary world open new paths before you and call you to be bearers of faith and joy, as expressed by the palm and olive branches you are holding today, symbols of a new springtime of grace, beauty, goodness and peace. The Lord Jesus is with you and is accompanying you!
5. Every year during Holy Week, the Church enters into the paschal mystery with trepidation, as she commemorates the Lord's Death and Resurrection.
It is precisely through the paschal mystery which gave her birth that she can proclaim to the world, in the words and deeds of her children: "Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Ph 2,11).
Yes! Jesus Christ is Lord! He is the Lord of time and history, the Redeemer and the Saviour of man. Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!
1. "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever" (Ap 1,5-6).
Christ, the Priest of the new and eternal Covenant, through his blood has entered into the heavenly sanctuary, having obtained the forgiveness of the sins of all humanity, once and for all.
On the threshold of the Triduum sacrum, the priests of the world's particular Churches gather with their Ordinaries for the solemn Chrism Mass, during which they renew their priestly promises. The presbyterium of the Church in Rome also gathers around its Bishop before the great day on which the liturgy recalls how Christ, through his blood, became the one and eternal priest.
I cordially greet each of you, dear brothers in the priesthood, with a special thought for the Cardinal Vicar and the Cardinals concelebrating, the Auxiliary Bishops and the other prelates present. It gives me great joy to be with you again on this day, which for us ordained ministers is redolent of the sacred anointing with which we were consecrated in the image of him who is the Consecrated One of the Father.
"Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him" (Ap 1,7). Tomorrow, the Good Friday liturgy will make present for us what the author of the Book of Revelation describes with the words proclaimed just now. On this most holy day of the Passion and Death of Christ, all the altars will be stripped and enveloped in deep silence: no Mass will be celebrated at the moment in which we make our annual commemoration of the one sacrifice, offered in a bloody manner by Christ the priest on the altar of the Cross.
975 2. "[He] made us a kingdom [of] priests" (Ap 1,6). Christ not only personally accomplished the redemptive sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world and gives perfect praise to the glory of the Father. He also instituted the priesthood as a sacrament of the New Covenant, so that the one sacrifice he offered to the Father in a bloody manner might be continually renewed in the Church in an unbloody manner, under the appearances of bread and wine. Holy Thursday is precisely the day we recall, in a special way, the priesthood Christ instituted at the Last Supper, binding it indissolubly to the Eucharistic sacrifice.
"[He] made us ... priests". He has made us sharers in his one priesthood so that on all the altars of the world down through the ages of history, the bloody and unrepeatable sacrifice of Calvary can be re-presented. Holy Thursday is the great feast-day of priests. This evening we will renew the memorial of the institution of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, according to the rhythm of the paschal events, just as the Gospels hand it down to us. Instead, this morning's solemn liturgy is a special thanksgiving to God for a gift which is a mystery, by all of us who intimately share in Christ's priesthood. Each of us makes the psalm's words his own: "Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo". "For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord" (Ps 88,2).
3. Let us renew in ourselves the awareness of this gift. In a certain sense, we would like to receive it again, to direct it towards further service. Our sacramental priesthood is, in fact, a ministry, a unique and specific service. We serve Christ, so that his one and unrepeatable priesthood may always be living and active in the Church for the good of the faithful. We serve the Christian people, our brothers and sisters who, through our sacramental ministry, come to share ever more deeply in Christ's Redemption.
Today, with special intensity, each of us can repeat with Christ the words of the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed in the Gospel: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners. To announce a year of favour from the Lord" (Lc 4,18-19).
4. "A year of favour from the Lord"! Dear friends, we now find ourselves on the threshold of an extraordinary year of grace, that of the Great Jubilee in which we will celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation. Today is the last Holy Thursday before the Year 2000.
Today I am pleased to offer in spirit to the priests of the entire world the Letter I addressed to them for this occasion. In the year dedicated to the Father, the fatherhood of each priest, a reflection of that of the heavenly Father, must be made more conspicuous so that the Christian people and all people of every race and culture experience God's love for them and faithfully follow him. May the forthcoming Jubilee be a favourable occasion for everyone to experience God's merciful love, a powerful spiritual energy which renews the human heart.
During this solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us ask the Lord to develop the grace of the Great Jubilee to the full in all the members of Christ's Body, which is the Church, and particularly in priests.
The Holy Year, now at hand, calls all of us, ordained ministers, to make ourselves totally available to the gift of mercy which God the Father wants to lavish on every human being. The Father seeks such priests (cf. Jn Jn 4,23)! May he find them imbued with his holy anointing, to spread the joyous message of salvation among the poor.
1. "Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, Quae sub his figuris vere latitas". "Devoutly I adore you, hidden Deity, under these appearances concealed".
976 This evening we relive the Last Supper when, on the night he was betrayed, the divine Saviour left us the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and his Blood, the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, a sacrament of love, a sign of unity and a bond of charity (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 47).
The readings of this celebration all speak of rites and actions destined to imprint upon history the saving plan of God. The Book of Exodus passes on the priestly document which establishes the regulations for celebrating the Jewish Passover. The Apostle Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, passes on to the Church the most ancient testimony of the new Christian paschal Supper: it is the rite of the new and everlasting Covenant, instituted by Jesus in the Upper Room before the Passion. Finally, John the Evangelist, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, summarizes the profound meaning of Christ's immolation in the act of the "washing of feet".
It is the Passover of the Lord, which is rooted in the history of the people of Israel and finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our salvation.
2. The Church lives by the Eucharist. Thanks to the ministry of the Apostles and their successors, in an uninterrupted series which begins in the Upper Room, Christ's words and actions are renewed, following the Church's journey, in order to offer the Bread of life to the men and women of each generation: "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.... This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1Co 11,24-25).
As a sacramental renewal of the sacrifice of the Cross, the Eucharist is the summit of the work of redemption: it proclaims and brings about that mystery which is the source of life for every person. In fact, every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (cf. 1Co 11,26).
After the consecration, the priest proclaims: "Mysterium fidei!", and the people respond "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".
Yes, today we are given to understand in a special way that the "mystery of the faith" is truly great, and the simplicity of the Eucharistic symbols - the bread and wine, the table, the fraternal banquet - serve only to give greater emphasis to its depth.
3. "O memoriale mortis Domini! Panis vivus, vitam praestans homini!". "O memorial of the Lord's sad death! Show life to man, O living Bread!".
The death of the Son of God becomes the source of life for us. This is the paschal mystery, this is the new creation! The Church professes this faith with the words of Thomas Aquinas, imploring:
"Pie Pellicane, Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine,
977 Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere".
"Jesus Lord, my Pelican devout,
with your Blood my sins dismiss:
one single drop could surely save
from sin this world's dark edifice".
The life-giving power of Christ's death! The purifying power of Christ's blood, which obtains the forgiveness of sins for the people of all times and all places. The sublimeness of the redemptive sacrifice, in which all the victims of the ancient law find fulfilment!
4. This mystery of love, "incomprehensible" to the human being, is offered in its entirety in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Christians are invited to pause before it this evening, even late into the night, in silent adoration:
"Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut, te revelata cernens facie,
978 Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae".
"Jesus, whom now I see enveiled,
what I desire, when will it be?
Beholding your fair face revealed,
your glory shall I be blessed to see.
This is the Church's faith. This is the faith of each one of us before the sublime Eucharistic mystery. Yes, may words cease and adoration endure. In silence.
"Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine....
"Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
which truly underwent the Passion, immolated upon the Cross for humanity....
O sweet Jesus! O loving Jesus!
979 O Jesus, Son of Mary!".
Holy Saturday 3 April 1999
1. “The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner-stone” (Ps 117,22)
On this night, the liturgy speaks to us with all the abundance and wealth of the word of God. This Vigil is not only the heart of the liturgical year, but is in some ways its womb: from it springs all of sacramental life. We could say that on this night the table round which the Church gathers with her children, especially with those who are about to be baptized, has been lavishly prepared.
My thoughts turn to you, dear catechumens, who are soon to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn Jn 3,5). With great joy I greet you and the lands from which you come: Albania, Cape Verde, China, France, Morocco and Hungary.
Through Baptism you will become members of the Body of Christ, sharing fully in the mystery of communion found there. May your life be immersed for ever in this Easter mystery, so that you will always be true witnesses to God’s love.
2. Not only you, dear catechumens, but all the baptized are called on this night, in faith, to experience profoundly what we have just heard in the Letter to the Romans: “Do you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6,3-4).
To be Christians means to share personally in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. This sharing is brought about sacramentally by Baptism, upon which, as a solid foundation, the Christian life of each one of us is built. And this is why the Responsorial Psalm urged us to give thanks: “Praise the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy is everlasting... The Lord’s right hand... has worked wonders. I shall not die, I shall live and recount the works of the Lord” (Ps 117,1-2,16). On this holy night, the Church echoes these words of thanksgiving, confessing the truth that Christ “suffered death and was buried; on the third day he rose again” (cf. Creed).
3. “This will be a night of vigil in honour of the Lord...from generation to generation” (Ex 12,42).
These words of the Book of Exodus conclude the account of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. They resound with special eloquence during the Easter Vigil, from which they draw their full meaning. In this year dedicated to God the Father, how can we fail to think of this night, Easter night, as the great night of the Father’s “vigil”? This watch by God embraces to the entire Easter Triduum. But in a special way the Father keeps watch during Holy Saturday, while the Son lies dead in the tomb. The mystery of Christ’s victory over the sin of the world is kept safe precisely by the Father’s watching. He watches over the whole earthly mission of the Son. His infinite compassion reaches its summit in the hour of passion and death: the hour when the Son is abandoned, so that the sons and daughters might be saved; when the Son is despised and rejected, so that the sons and daughters might be found once again; when the Son dies, so that the sons and daughters may find new life.
S. John Paul II Homil. 969