S. John Paul II Homil. 1015
Thursday, 10 June 1999
1016 1. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13,34).
We have just heard the words of Christ which Saint John has left us in his Gospel. The Lord addressed them to the disciples in the Farewell Discourse before his Passion and Death on the Cross, at the moment when he washed the Apostles’ feet. It is virtually his final cry to humanity, with which he gives voice to a burning desire: “That you love one another”!
With these words of Christ I greet all who have come to today’s liturgical gathering, which is at the same time an ecumenical prayer for Christian unity. I cordially greet Bishop Antoni, Pastor of the Diocese of Drohiczyn, Bishop Jan Szarek, president of the Polish Ecumenical Council, together with the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial communities belonging to the Polish Ecumenical Council. I greet the brothers and sisters of the Orthodox Church of Poland and those who come from abroad; I offer a special greeting to Archbishop Sawa, Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland and to the Bishops of that Church. My warmest consideration goes to the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from Poland and from other countries. I embrace with all my heart the entire People of God of the diocese of Drohiczyn, which is so dear to me. In a special way I salute my brother priests, the consecrated persons, and the students of the Major Seminar of Drohiczyn. I am also thinking most affectionately of the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the young people and the children here present. I salute as well the pilgrims from Belorussia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. Their presence fills me with special joy.
I greet you, land of Podlasia: a land made rich by nature’s beauty and, above all, made holy by the fidelity of this people who, throughout its history, were often sorely tested and had to struggle against huge adversities of every kind. Yet they remained faithful to the Church, and that is still true today. I am happy to be here and to exercise my pastoral ministry with you. I am moved to remember my many visits to Drohiczyn, especially for the celebrations of the Millennium, when the all Bishops of Poland, together with the Primate of the Millennium, gave thanks to God for the gift of holy Baptism, for the grace of faith, hope and charity. Here I was present at the final journey of the mitred prelate Monsignor Krzywicki, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Pinsk. A few years later I returned here for the closure of the pilgrimage of the copy of the image of the Madonna of Czestochowa. Today these memories stir in me once again, present among you as a pilgrim Pope.
2. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another”.
These words of Christ emanate great power. When he died on the Cross in his terrible Passion, humiliated and abandoned, he showed to the whole world the full meaning and depth of such trials. Watching Christ’s agony, the disciples came to realize what it was he had called them to when he said: “Love one another as I have loved you”. In recording the event, Saint John would write in his Gospel: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1). Christ loved us first of all, loved us despite our sinfulness and our human weakness. It was he who ensured that we became worthy of his love which knows no bounds and never ends. It is a love which is absolute and most perfect. Christ has in fact redeemed us with his Precious Blood.
To us too he has taught this love and to us he has entrusted it: “A new commandment I give you” (Jn 13,34). That means that this commandment is always pertinent. If we wish to respond to the love of Christ, we must respect its demands always, regardless of time and place: it must be for man a new way, a new seed which renews relations between people. This love makes us, who are disciples of Christ, new men, heirs of the divine promises. It ensures that we all become brothers and sisters in the Lord. It makes us of the new People of God, the Church in which we must love Christ and in him love each other in turn.
This is the true love which shows itself in the Cross of Christ. We must all look to this Cross; towards it we must direct our desires and our efforts. In the Cross, we have the greatest of all models to imitate.
3. “Lord, show us your ways, that we may walk in your paths” (cf. Is Is 2,3).
The vision of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading of today’s liturgy shows us the many peoples and nations gathered around Mount Zion. The vision attests to God’s presence. The prophecy announces a universal kingdom of justice and peace. It may be applied to the Church, as Christ wished the Church to be, that is, a Church in which the indispensable principle of unity holds sway.
We Christians gathered today for this joint prayer must invoke the Lord with the words of Isaiah: “Lord, show us your ways, that we may walk in your paths”, so that we may together, with all who confess Christ, take those paths into the future. In a special way, the approach of the Great Jubilee should impel us to take up the task of searching for new ways in the life of the Church, the Mother of all Christians. In the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, I expressed a fervent hope which I renew here today: “I pray that the Jubilee will be a promising opportunity for fruitful cooperation in the many areas which unite us; these are unquestionably more numerous than those which divide us” (No. 16). Faith tells us that the unity of the Church is not only a hope for the future: in some measure unity already exists! It has not yet attained fully visible form among Christians. The forging of unity is therefore “a duty of the Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love”, since “to believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father’s plan from all eternity” (Ut Unum Sint, UUS 8,9).
1017 We are therefore called to build unity. The unity found at the beginning of the Church’s life can never lose is essential value. We must note sadly, however, that this original unity has been seriously impaired through the centuries, and especially in the last millennium.
4. The way of the Church is not easy. “We may compare it to the via dolorosa of Christ. Yet it lasts not for several hours, but for centuries” – the Orthodox theologian Pavel Evdokimov has written. Wherever divisions among Christ’s disciples increase, his Mystical Body is wounded. On the Church’s journey through history, we see the successive “sorrowful stations”. But Christ founded a single Church and wants the Church to remained for ever united. Therefore, at the threshold of a new period of history, we must all examine our consciences regarding responsibility for the present divisions. We must admit the faults committed and pardon each other in turn. In fact, we have received the new commandment of mutual love, which has its source in the love of Christ. Saint Paul urges this love upon us in these words: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us . . . a sacrifice to God. Be imitators of God . . . and walk in love” (cf. Eph Ep 5,1-2).
Love should lead us to reflect together on the past, so that we may move forward with perseverance and courage on the path towards unity.
Love is the only power that opens hearts to the word of Jesus and to the grace of Redemption. It is the only power able to lead us to share as brothers all that we are and all that we have through Christ’s will. It is a powerful stimulus to dialogue, in which we listen to each other and come to know each other.
Love leads us to be open to others, thus becoming the basis of human relations. It enables us to overcome the barriers of our own weaknesses and prejudices. It purifies memory, teaches new ways, discloses the vision of true reconciliation, which is an essential premise for joint witness to the Gospel, which the world needs so badly today.
On the eve of the third millennium, we must move more quickly towards full and fraternal reconciliation, so that in the next millennium with joined hands we can witness to salvation before a world which eagerly awaits this sign of unity.
It is good that we are speaking about the great cause of ecumenism precisely at Drohiczyn, in the heart of Podlasia, where for centuries the Christian traditions of East and West have come into contact. This is a city which has always been open to Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. Yet there have been many moments in the history of this region which have shown more than in any other place the need for dialogue, if Christian unity is to be achieved. In the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, I stressed that “dialogue is...a natural instrument for comparing differing points of view and, above all, for examining those disagreements which hinder full communion between Christians” (No. 36). This dialogue must be distinguished by love for the truth, since “love for the truth is the deepest dimension of any authentic quest for full communion between Christians. Without this love it would be impossible to face the objective theological, cultural, psychological and social difficulties which appear when difficulties are examined. This dimension, which is interior and personal, must be inseparably accompanied by a spirit of charity and humility. There must be charity towards one’s partner in dialogue, and humility with regard to the truth which comes to light and which might require a review of assertions and attitudes” (ibid.).
Let it be love therefore which builds bridges between us and encourages us to do everything possible. Let love for each other and love for the truth be the answer to present difficulties and to the tensions which surface from time to time.
Today I turn to the brothers and sisters of all the Churches: let us be open to the reconciling love of God. Let us open the doors of our minds and hearts, of the Churches and communities. The God of our faith, he whom we invoke as Father, is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and Jacob” (Mc 12,26); he is the God of Moses. He is above all the God and Father of our one Lord, Jesus Christ, in whom he became “God with us” (cf. Mt Mt 1,23 Rm 15,6).
Let us offer to our heavenly Father, to the Father of all Christians, the gift of a sincere desire for reconciliation, expressed in concrete actions. To God “who is love” let us respond with our human love, which looks kindly upon others and displays a sincere determination to cooperate wherever possible, and allows us to appreciate that which is good, that which deserves praise and imitation.
5. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob” (Is 2,3).
1018 This is the cry which the prophet Isaiah puts on the lips of peoples and nations thirsting for unity and peace.
Sisters and Brothers, nothing expresses this concern better and with greater power than a great prayer for unity, for brotherhood, for a common family of all Christians. The love of Christ impels us to this prayer. It is Christ himself who commands us to pray to the Father: “Your kingdom come” (cf. Mt Mt 6,10). The Kingdom of God, which Jesus brought in himself as he entered the world and became man, endures in the Church as an already existing reality, but also as a task to be accomplished.
Only prayer can bring about a true metanoia of heart. Prayer in fact has the power to unite all the baptized in the brotherhood of the children of God. Prayer purifies from all that separates us from God and one another. It protects us against the temptation to timidity and opens the human heart to divine grace.
I therefore urge all gathered here to pray fervently for full communion among our Churches. To move further along the path towards unity will demand our effort, kindness to each other, openness and a true experience of brotherhood in Christ.
Let us ask the Lord to grant us this grace. Let us beseech him to remove the obstacles which delay the attainment of full unity. Let us ask that all of us will faithfully carry out his plans, so that the dawn of the new millennium will rise upon the disciples of Christ more united among themselves.
“A new commandment I give you” (Jn 13,34).
The new commandment.
“That we may all be one,
so that the world may believe” (cf. Jn Jn 17,21).
Friday, 11 June 1999
1019 1. “Let me go into the field and glean among the ears of grain” (Rt 2,2).
The liturgy of today puts before us the image of reaping. The First Reading shows us Ruth the Moabitess going into the field of the rich man Booz to gather up the gleanings after the reapers. Although the mode of reaping in Israel was probably different from what is done in Poland, there was still some similarity, and we can therefore make a comparison with our own experience. With the image of a Polish harvest before our eyes, we think of the Second Plenary Synod, which concludes today in the Cathedral of Warsaw. It too is a kind of reaping. Through the years of the Synod’s work, an attempt has been made to gather up all that has been produced in the soil of the Church in Poland during the last decades of the century. Through the Synod’s work, you have sought to put all this together. Above all you have tried to observe, to identify, to evaluate and to draw conclusions. You bring all of that today and present it as an offering to God, as the reapers do after the harvest, bringing the sheaves of cut grain, trusting fully that what they have reaped will be useful — like bread that is made from grain, in the hope that future generations will be nourished by it.
2. From the first, the Polish Church has seen Synods as an effective means for the reform and renewal of Christian life, following a practice adopted from apostolic times of joint reflection on important and difficult problems. After the ancient period of development of synods in the Church, the Council of Trent gave the practice new impetus. With their decrees, the Synods which took place after the Council of Trent became an important means for deepening the faith and for indicating the way of the Gospel for all generations of the People of God in our homeland. Much credit here goes to the Archbishops of Gniezno, who convoked the various provincial synods: Archbishops Karnkowski, Maciejowski, Gembicki, Wezyk, and Lubienski. They were true proponents of the conciliar reform, which saw synods as an effective method of renewal.
In our own century, synod activity increased after Poland regained independence. Thus in 1936 there was the Plenary Synod for all five Polish Metropolitan Sees, and many diocesan synods took place as well. These synods sought to give new life to the religious life of the faithful after the long years of lost independence, and to unify Church law. The praiseworthy practice of convoking synods continued after the Second World War. Especially after the Second Vatican Council, synods of a pastoral nature began to be held. Their deliberations were linked with the teaching and enactments of the Council, which involved the entire community of the Church. This brief history allows us to see how, through these synods, successive generations sought for themselves new ways of living the Christian life, making a precious contribution to the development and activity of the Church. Eight years ago, with all the Polish Bishops in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Prague, I was able to pray that the Second Plenary Synod would be blessed. I said then: “Your Synod begins its work after the Second Vatican Council (which was the Council of our century). At the same time, it takes place on the threshold of the third millennium after Christ. These circumstances alone determine the character of the Plenary Synod and its tasks. It is bound to reflect all the new things which arose in the Second Vatican Council. It is also bound to highlight all the “signs of the times” which are present in our century as it draws to a close” (8 June 1991).
3. I know that the most important themes of the Council have been part of the Synod’s work, in which more than six thousand Study Groups have taken part. The approved documents express a common concern for the renewal of Christian life in the Polish Church in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and also point the way for future work.
In the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, I wrote that the best preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000 is to apply as faithfully as possible, in the lives of individuals and in the whole Church, the teaching of Vatican II (cf. No. 20). At the same time I pointed out how necessary it was to undertake a spiritual discernment concerning the “reception given to the Council, this great gift of the Spirit to the Church as the end of the second millennium” (No. 36). I am glad that the Second Plenary Synod has taken on this task, seeking to reread the teaching of the Council and to assimilate its enactments more faithfully, in keeping with the motto chosen for the Synod: “With the Message of the Council into the Third Millennium”.
As a divine and human reality immersed in time, the Church needs continuous renewal in order to become more and more like her Founder. Such a renewal is first of all the work of the Holy Spirit, who “ dwells in the Church and with the power of the Gospel keeps her ever young and leads her to perfect union with Christ” (cf. Lumen Gentium, LG 4).
The Second Vatican Council has played an enormous role in this process of renewal of the Church, which requires the cooperation of all her members. During its sessions, the Church reflected deeply upon herself and upon her relations with the world of today. At the same time, she indicated the path to follow in order to fulfil the mandate and mission received from Christ. With great firmness, the Council stressed the that all members of the Church are responsible for her well- being: Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay people. The variety of charisms and tasks, conferred by the Holy Spirit upon clergy and laity, must help to build community life in the Church at the various levels — parish, diocesan, national and international.
4. The formation of a new society based upon respect for human rights, truth and freedom, requires from all the daughters and sons of the Church an awareness that can be the starting-point for wider responsibility in the Church. It is good that in a situation such as this the Plenary Synod recognized that its fundamental task was to work for the rebuilding and deepening of this awareness in the Church, among both laity and clergy. The long period of struggle against the Communist totalitarian system weakened the religious sense in many people, encouraging the tendency to reduce the Church to the level of merely a human institution and to relegate religion to the private realm. The attempt was made to weaken the Church in her identity as a community gathered around Christ giving public witness to the faith which she professes.
Thanks to the work of the Synod, the Church is called to grow stronger as a community of believers, and this can be done chiefly through a well informed sharing in the Church’s life, in accordance with the charism proper to each person’s state of life and with the principle of subsidiarity. The Synod, therefore, will accomplish its task in so far as it succeeds in reviving in the hearts of all – clergy and laity – the sense of responsibility for the Church and the desire to work together for the realization of the Church’s saving mission.
Yet the message left to us by the Second Vatican Council is much broader. It involves not only the truth of the Church as a visible community of faith, hope and charity, but also her relationship with the world around us. Evangelization today requires an apostolic dynamism which does not shut itself off from the problems of the world. I thank Almighty God for every inspiration, for every teaching which through the Synod has touched the minds and hearts of those who took part in it, enabling them to stand before the world as witnesses to the Gospel.
1020 The Polish Plenary Synod is part of the preparation of the entire People of God for the Year 2000, in the series of Synods being held in the Church at this time. This includes the Ordinary and Extraordinary Synods as well as the continental, regional, national and diocesan Synods. The Second Plenary Synod and its implementation attempt to meet the great challenge which the Church in Poland faces today. This challenge is the need for a new evangelization, that is, accomplishing the saving work of God which requires new ways of spreading the Gospel of Christ.
5. I wish to thank all those who helped to prepare for this Synod and who worked the whole time of its duration. I thank the Cardinal Primate, the Synod President, the Bishops, the priests and the lay people who have worked on the Permanent Commission and on the Synod Secretariat. I thank especially all those involved in the Synod Groups and who by prayer, reflection and concrete apostolic initiatives have shaped this Synod. May God reward you for your work and your zeal, by which you have shown how much you love the Church and how much you have her future at heart.
6. “The Kingdom of God is like a man who scattered seed on the ground” (Mc 4,26).
Today’s Gospel speaks of the growth of the Kingdom of God. It is like a seed. It does not matter whether the man “should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mc 4,27-29). As we close the Second Plenary Synod, Christ shows us what its purpose was from the start and what must be its purpose in the future. It has helped to spread the Kingdom of God. The words of the Gospel reveal how this Kingdom grows in human history, in the history of nations and societies. It grows organically. From a tiny beginning, like a mustard seed, it eventually becomes a great tree. I sincerely trust that this will be the case for this Second Plenary Synod and for the many other initiatives of the Church in our land.
Divine Providence has surely decreed that the closure of the Synod should fall on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, instituted by the Apostolic See in the eighteenth century following insistent requests from the Polish Bishops. Today the whole Church ponders and venerates in a special way the ineffable love of God, which found its human expression in the Saviour’s heart pierced by the centurion’s lance. Today we also recall the hundredth anniversary of the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a great event in the Church which contributed to the development of the devotion and produced saving fruits of holiness and apostolic zeal.
“God is love” (Jn 4,8) and Christianity is the religion of love. While other systems of thought and action seek to construct the human world on the basis of wealth, power, force, science or pleasure, the Church proclaims love. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is precisely the image of this infinite and merciful love which the heavenly Father has poured out upon the world through his Son, Jesus Christ. The goal of the new evangelization is to lead people to encounter this love. Only love, revealed by the Heart of Christ, can transform the human heart and open it to the whole world, making the world more human and more divine.
A hundred years ago, Pope Leo XIII wrote that in the Heart of Jesus “we need to place all our hope. In him we must seek and from him we must expect the salvation of all people” (Annum Sacrum, 6). I too exhort you to renew and nurture devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To this “Fount of life and holiness” draw individuals, families, parish communities, and all elements of the Church that they may obtain from him “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ep 3,8). Only those who are “rooted and grounded in love” (ibid., 3:17) can oppose the civilization of death and, upon the ruins of hatred, contempt and force, build a civilization which springs from the Heart of the Saviour.
To conclude my meeting with you on this Solemnity so loved by all the Church I entrust the entire work of the Second Plenary Synod, its implementation and its outcome in Poland to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of his Mother, who in speaking her fiat was totally united to the redeeming sacrifice of her Son.
Saturday, 12 June 1999
1. “His mother said to him, 'Son, why have your treated us so? Behold, you father and I have been looking for you anxiously'” (Lc 2,48).
1021 Today the Church’s Liturgy commemorates the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We consider Mary, filled with anxiety and concern, as she looks for Jesus, lost during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As devout children of Israel, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem each year for the Feast of Passover. When Jesus was twelve, he went with them for the first time. There the event which we contemplate in the fifth glorious mystery of the Rosary took place, the mystery of the finding in the Temple. Saint Luke describes it touchingly, on the basis of information we may suppose he received from the Mother of Jesus: “Son, why have you treated us so? . . . We have been looking for you anxiously”. Mary, who had carried Jesus beneath her heart and had protected him from Herod by fleeing to Egypt, acknowledges in a very human way her great worry about her Son. She knows that she needs to be present on his journey. She knows that through love and sacrifice she will cooperate with him in the work of Redemption. In this way we enter into the mystery of Mary’s great love for Jesus, that love which embraces with her Immaculate Heart the ineffable Love, the Word of the Eternal Father.
The Church reminds us of this mystery here, in Sandomierz, in this ancient city which has been the scene of the history of the Church and of Poland for over a thousand years. I greet the whole Church in Sandomierz and its Pastor, Bishop Waclaw, together with his Auxiliary Bishops, the priests and the consecrated men and women. I greet all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, who are taking part in this Holy Sacrifice. I greet the Military Bishop of the Polish Army and, together with him, the soldiers, non-commissioned officers, officers and generals. I also greet the representatives of the Polish Episcopate and the State and local authorities present today.
I offer a respectful greeting to ancient Sandomierz, which is so dear to me. In my heart I embrace the other cities and industrial centres, particularly Stalowa Wola, a city which symbolizes the great faith of the workers, who with impressive generosity and courage built their church in spite of difficulties and the threats of the Communist authorities of the time. I had the joy of blessing this church. How often have I visited this land of Sandomierz; I have often had an opportunity to get to know the history of your city and to learn here the history of our nation’s culture. For in this very city is concealed a wonderful power, whose ultimate source is the Christian tradition. Sandomierz is in fact a great book of the faith of our ancestors. Many of its pages were written by Saints and Blessed. I would mention first the city’s Patron, Blessed Wincenty Kadlubek, who was Provost of Sandomierz Cathedral and Bishop of Kraków, and who later became a poor monk in the Cistercian Order. He was the first Pole to write the nation’s history, in his “Polish Chronicle”.
In the thirteenth century this land was made fruitful by the blood of the Blessed Martyrs of Sandomierz, clergy and lay people, who died in great numbers for the faith at the hands of the Tartars, and together with them Blessed Sadok and forty-eight Dominican Fathers from the friary next to the Romanesque Church of Saint James. In the churches of Sandomierz Saint Hyacinth, Blessed Czeslaw and Saint Andrew Bobola preached the Gospel. Here the Dominican Fathers fervently spread veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the Gostomianum College, the Jesuits taught and trained young people. At the Church of the Holy Spirit the Religious of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit ran a hospital for the sick, a shelter for the poor and nurseries for small children. This city evokes memories of Jan Dlugosz and Queen Saint Hedwig, whose six hundredth anniversary we are celebrating this year.
In recent times too this land has borne fruits of holiness. The boast of the Church of Sandomierz is its laity and clergy, who by their lives witnessed to love of God, the homeland and their fellow men. I wish to recall in particular the Servant of God Bishop Piotr Golebiowski, who with discretion and meekness guarded the flock entrusted to him. As we know, the process of beatification is now under way for this good shepherd of the Diocese of Sandomierz. I would also mention the Servant of God Professor Father Wincenty Granat, an outstanding theologian and Rector of the Catholic University of Lublin, whom I often met on various occasions. I also wish to recall with gratitude Franciszek Jop, the Auxiliary Bishop of this Diocese, later named Administrator and Bishop of Opole. The Archdiocese of Kraków, of which he was the Administrator in the difficult period of the 1950s, owes much to him. Bishop Jop was also one of my consecrating Bishops.
Today in Sandomierz, together with all of you gathered here, I praise praise God for this great spiritual heritage which, at the time of the partitions, the German occupation and the totalitarian domination by the Communist system, made it possible for the people of this land to preserve their national and Christian identity. With immense sensitivity, we must stop and listen to this voice from the past, in order to carry over the threshold of the Year 2000 faith and love for the Church and our country and hand them on to future generations. Here we can easily appreciate how the time of individuals, the time of communities and the time of nations is permeated by the presence of God and his saving activity.
2. On my pilgrimage across Poland I am accompanied by the Gospel of the Eight Beatitudes preached by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Here in Sandomierz Christ says to us: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5,8). These words bring us to the heart of the Gospel truth about man. Those who seek Jesus will find him, as did Mary and Joseph. This fact sheds light on that great tension present in the life of every human being, namely, the search for God. Yes, man does indeed seek God; he seeks him with his mind, his heart and all his being. Saint Augustine says: “our heart is restless, until it finds its rest in God” (cf. Confessions, I). This restlessness is a creative restlessness. Man seeks God because in him, and only in him, can he find his own fulfilment, the fulfilment of his aspirations to truth, goodness and beauty. “You would not seek me, if you did not already possess me”, wrote Blaise Pascal (Pensées, Sect. VII, No. 555). This means that God himself takes part in this search, wishes us to seek him and creates within us the necessary conditions to be able to find him. Moreover, God himself draws near to us, speaks to us of himself and enables us to know him. Sacred Scripture is a great lesson on the subject of this process of seeking and finding God. It offers us many magnificent images of people who seek God and find him. At the same time, it teaches us how we should draw near to God, what conditions we need to fulfil in order to encounter this God, to know him and to be united with him.
One of these conditions is purity of heart. What does this mean? At this point we touch upon the very essence of man who, by virtue of the grace of the redemption accomplished by Christ, has regained the inner harmony lost in Paradise because of sin. Having a pure heart means being a new person, restored to life in communion with God and with all creation by the redemptive love of Christ, brought back to that communion which is our original destiny.
Purity is first and foremost a gift of God. Christ, by giving himself to man in the Church’s sacraments, comes to dwell in our hearts and enlightens them with the “splendour of truth”. Only the truth which is Jesus Christ is capable of enlightening the reason, purifying the heart and shaping human freedom. Without understanding and free acceptance, faith withers. Man loses sight of the meaning of things and events, and his heart seeks satisfaction where it cannot be found. Purity of heart is thus, above all, purity of faith.
Purity of heart prepares us for the vision of God face to face in the realm of eternal happiness. This is so because already during their earthly life the pure of heart are capable of glimpsing in all creation what comes from God. They are capable in a sense of recognizing the divine value, the divine dimension, the divine beauty of all creation. The Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount, in a certain way, shows us all the richness and all the beauty of creation, and exhorts us to discover in all things that which has its origin in God and that which leads to him. Consequently the carnal and sensual man must draw back, he must give way to the spiritual man, the spiritualized man. This is a profound process, which involves interior struggle. Sustained by God’s grace, it bears marvellous fruits.
Purity of heart is thus given to man as a task. He must constantly struggle to oppose the forces of evil, those which press upon him from without and those at work within him, and which would distract him from God. And thus there takes place in man’s heart a constant battle for truth and happiness. In order to gain victory in this battle, man must turn to Christ. He is able to win only if he is strengthened by Christ’s power, the power of his Cross and Resurrection. “Create in me a clean heart, O God”, exclaims the Psalmist, conscious of his own weakness, for he knows that to be righteous in God’s eyes human effort alone is not enough.
1022 3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, today this message about purity of heart is very timely. The culture of death wants to destroy purity of heart. One of its strategies is deliberately to create doubt about the value of the human attitude which we call the virtue of chastity. This is something particularly dangerous when the attack is aimed at the sensitive consciences of children and young people. A culture which in this way impairs or even destroys a correct relationship between individuals, is a culture of death, for man cannot live without true love.
I speak these words to all of you taking part in today’s Eucharistic Sacrifice, but in a special way I address them to the many young people present, to the conscript soldiers and to the scouts. Proclaim before the world “the Good News” of purity of heart, and by the example of your lives pass on the message of the civilization of love. I know how sensitive you are to truth and beauty. Today the culture of death sets before you, among other things, so-called “free love”. In this sort of disfigurement of love we reach the profanation of one of the most cherished and sacred values, for promiscuity is neither love nor freedom. Saint Paul admonishes us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rm 12,2). Do not be afraid to live in a way contrary to fashionable opinions and ways of life in conflict with God’s law. The courage of faith is costly, but you cannot lose love! Do not let anyone enslave you! Do not let yourselves be seduced by illusions of happiness for which you will have to pay a price that is too high, the price of often incurable wounds or even of a life destroyed! I want to repeat to you now what I said to young people on another occasion: “Only a pure heart can love God fully! Only a pure heart can bring to fulfilment that great commitment of love which is marriage! Only a pure heart can fully serve others. Do not allow your future to be destroyed. Do not let yourselves be robbed of the richness of love. Strengthen your fidelity, by which your future families will be formed in the love of Christ” (Asunción, 18 May 1988).
I address these words also to our Polish families, to you, fathers and mothers. Families need to take a firm stance in safeguarding the threshold of their homes, in defending the dignity of each person. Guard your families against pornography, which nowadays under various forms affects people’s minds, especially those of children and young people. Defend the purity of morals in your homes and in society. Education in purity is one of the great challenges of the evangelization now before us. The purer families are, the healthier the nation will be. And we want to remain a nation worthy of its name and its Christian vocation.
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5,8).
4. Let us turn our gaze to the Immaculate Virgin of Nazareth, Mother of Fair Love, who accompanies people of all times on their “pilgrimage of faith” to the house of the Father. We are reminded of her not only by today’s liturgical memorial, but also by the magnificent Cathedral Basilica which rises above this city. It bears her name: an eloquent coincidence of time and place. Even the Mother of Jesus, to whom the mystery of Christ’s divine sonship was most fully revealed, had to learn gradually the mystery of the Cross. “Son, why have you treated us so?”, today’s Gospel reports her as saying, “Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously”. And Jesus replies, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” “But they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them” (Lc 2,48-50). For Jesus was speaking to them of his messianic mission.
Before understanding it, man learns “by pain of heart” the meaning of crucified Love. But if, like Mary, “he keeps all these things in his heart” (cf. Lk Lc 2,51) — all that Christ says — and is faithful to God’s call, he will understand at the foot of the Cross the most important thing, namely, that the only true love is love which is united to God, who is Love.
S. John Paul II Homil. 1015