S. John Paul II Homil. 1153
1154 1. "When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me" (Jn 15,26).
These are the words that the Evangelist John received from Christ's lips in the Upper Room, during the Last Supper on the eve of his Passion. Today they resound with remarkable intensity for us on Pentecost of this Jubilee Year, whose deepest meaning they reveal.
To understand this essential message, one must remain in the Upper Room, as the disciples did. This is why the Church, through a fitting selection of liturgical texts, has remained in the Upper Room throughout the Easter season. This evening St Peter's Square is transformed into a vast Upper Room in which our community has gathered to pray for and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, reminded us of what happened in Jerusalem 50 days after Easter. Before ascending into heaven Christ had entrusted a great task to the Apostles: "Go ... and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20). He had also promised that after his departure they would receive "another Counselor", who would teach them all things (cf. Jn Jn 14,16).
This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost: the Spirit, descending upon the Apostles, gave them the necessary light and strength to teach the nations and to proclaim Christ's Gospel to them all. In this way the Church was born and lives in the fruitful tension between the Upper Room and the world, between prayer and proclamation.
2. When he promised the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus had spoken of him as the "Counselor" and "Paraclete" whom he would send from the Father (cf. Jn Jn 15,26). He had spoken of him as the "Spirit of truth" who would guide the Church into all the truth (16: 13). He had explained that the Holy Spirit would bear witness to him (cf. Jn Jn 15,26), but had immediately added: "And you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning" (Jn 15,27). Now that the Spirit descends on the community gathered in the Upper Room on Pentecost, this twofold witness begins: that of the Holy Spirit and that of the Apostles.
The witness of the Spirit is divine in itself: it comes from the depth of the Trinitarian mystery. The Apostles' witness is human: It transmits, in the light of revelation, their experience of life with Jesus. In laying the foundations of the Church, Christ attaches great importance to the human witness of the Apostles. He wants the Church to live by the historical truth of his Incarnation, so that through the work of witnesses the memory of his Death on the cross and of his Resurrection may always be alive and in her.
3. "And you also are witnesses" (Jn 15,27). Enlivened by the gift of the Spirit, the Church has always been keenly aware of this duty and has faithfully proclaimed the Gospel message in every time and place. She has done so with respect for the dignity of peoples, of their culture, of their traditions. Indeed, she knows quite well that the divine message entrusted to her is not hostile to the deepest human aspirations; indeed, it was revealed by God to satisfy, beyond every expectation, the hunger and thirst of the human heart. For this very reason the Gospel must not be imposed but proposed, because it can only be effective if it is freely accepted and lovingly embraced.
As happened in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost, in every age Christ's witnesses, filled with the Holy Spirit, have felt impelled to reach out to others in order to express in various languages the marvels God has accomplished. This continues to happen in our time as well, and is the emphasis of this Jubilee Day dedicated to "reflection on the duties of Catholics towards others: proclamation of Christ, witness and dialogue".
The reflection we are invited to make cannot fail to dwell above all on the work which the Holy Spirit carries out in individuals and in communities. It is the Holy Spirit who scatters the "seeds of the Word" in the various customs and cultures, preparing the peoples of the most varied regions to accept the Gospel message. This awareness cannot fail to instil in Christ's disciples an attitude of openness and dialogue towards those with different religious convictions. Indeed, it is only right to listen to what the Spirit can also suggest to "others". They can offer useful hints for reaching a deeper understanding of what the Christian already possesses in the "revealed desposit". Dialogue can thus open the way to a proclamation which is better suited to the personal conditions of the listener.
4. However, if the proclamation is to be effective, a lived witness remains crucial. Only the believer who lives what he professes with his lips has any hope of being heard. One must bear in mind that circumstances at times do not permit an explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of all. It is then that the witness of a life that is respectful, chaste, detached from riches and free from the powers of this world, in a word, the witness of holiness, can reveal all its convincing power, even if offered in silence.
1155 It is also clear that our firmness in being witnesses of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit does not prevent us from collaborating in the service of man with those who belong to other religions. On the contrary, it prompts us to work together with them for the good of society and peace in the world.
At the dawn of the third millennium, Christ's disciples are fully aware that this world appears as "a map of various religions" (Redemptor hominis RH 11). If the Church's children known how to remain open to the Holy Spirit's action, he will help them communicate Christ's one, universal saving message in a way that respects the religious convictions of others.
5. "He will bear wtiness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning" (Jn 15,26-27). The whole logic of Revelation and the faith by which the Church lives is contained in these words: the witness of the Holy Spirit, which flows from the depth of the Trinitarian mystery of God, and the human witness of the Apostles, linked to their historical experience of Christ. Both are necessary. To be more precise, it is a single witness: it is the Spirit who continues to speak to our contemporaries in the language and life of those who are Christ's disciples today.
On the day when we celebrate the memorial of the Church's birth, we want to express heartfelt gratitude to God for this twofold, and ultimately one, witness, which has involved the great family of the Church since the day of Pentecost. We want to give thanks for the witness of the first community of Jerusalem which, through the generations of martyrs and confessors, has become the inheritance of countless men and women down the ages around the world.
Encouraged by the memory of the first Pentecost, the Church today eagerly awaits a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Devoted with one accord to prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she never ceases to cry out: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth" (cf. Ps Ps 103,30).
Veni, Sancte Spiritus: Come, Holy Spirit, kindle in the hearts of your faithful the fire of your love!
Sancte Spiritus, veni!
Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
1. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call" (Ep 4,4).
One body! At these solemn Vespers, with which we open the International Eucharistic Congress, it is on the Apostle Paul's words that our attention is particularly focused this evening. One Body: our thoughts turn first of all to the Body of Christ. The Bread of life!
1156 At the Last Supper, Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary 2,000 years ago, wanted to leave us his Body and his Blood, sacrificed for all humanity. The Church, his Mystical Body, gathers round the Eucharist, the sacrament of his love for us. See: Christ and the Church, one body, one great mystery. Mysterium fidei!
2. Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine! - Hail, true Body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary! Born when the time had fully come, born of woman, born under the law (cf. Gal Ga 4,4).
In the heart of the Great Jubilee and at the beginning of this week dedicated to the Eucharistic Congress, we return to that historic event which marked the fulfilment of our salvation. Let us kneel as the shepherds did before the manger in Bethlehem; like the Magi who came from the East, let us adore Christ, the Saviour of the world. Like the aged Simeon, let us hold him in our arms, blessing God because our eyes have seen the salvation which he has prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel (cf. Lk Lc 2,30-32).
Let us retrace the stages of his earthly life to Calvary, to the glory of the Resurrection. In the days ahead, it will be in the Upper Room especially that we will pause to reflect on what Christ Jesus did and suffered for us.
3. "In supremae nocte cenae ... se dat suis manibus". At the Last Supper, while celebrating the Passover with his disciples, Christ offered himself for us. Yes, gathered for the International Eucharistic Congress, the Church returns in these days to the Upper Room and remains there in thoughtful adoration. She relives the great mystery of the Incarnation, focusing her gaze on the sacrament in which Christ gave us the memorial of his Passion: "This is my body which is given for you..... This cup ... poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (Lc 22,19-20).
Ave, verum corpus ... vere passum, immolatum!
We adore you, true Body of Christ, present in the Sacrament of the new and eternal Covenant, living memorial of the redeeming sacrifice. You, Lord, are the living Bread come down from heaven, who gives life to man! On the Cross you gave your flesh for the life of the world (cf. Jn Jn 6,51): in cruce pro homine!
The human mind is astonished at so sublime a mysery. But strengthened by divine grace, it dares to repeat with faith:
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
quae sub his figuris vere latitas.
I adore you devoutly, O Godhead unseen,
1157 who truly lie hidden
under these appeances.
4. "One body, and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call" (Ep 4,4).
In these words, which we have just heard, the Apostle Paul speaks of the Church, the community of believers gathered together in the unity of one body, enlivened by the same Spirit and sustained by sharing the same hope. Paul is thinking of the reality of Christ's Mystical Body, which finds in his Eucharistic Body its own vital centre from which the energy of grace flows to all its members.
The Apostle says: "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1Co 10,16-17). Thus all of us, the baptized, become members of that body and therefore individually members one of another (cf. 1Co 12,27 Rm 12,5). With heartfelt gratitude let us thank God, who made the Eucharist the sacrament of our full communion with him and with our brothers and sisters.
5. This evening, with the solemn Vespers of the Blessed Trinity, we are beginning an unusually full week which will see Bishops and priests, religious and lay people from every part of the world gathered round the Eucharist. It will be an extraordinary experience of faith and an eloquent testimony of ecclesial communion.
I greet you, dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in this Jubilee event, which can be regarded as the heart of the entire Holy Year. I extend my greeting in particular to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, our Diocese, which, under the guidance of the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishops, and with the collaboration of the clergy, the religious and many generous lay people, has prepared the various aspects of the Eucharistic Congress. It is ready to ensure that the Congress will run smoothly in the days ahead, conscious of the honour it has in hosting this central event of the Great Jubilee.
I would also like to extend a special greeting to the many confraternities meeting in Rome for a significant "Fraternity Walk". Their presence, made more impressive by the artistic crosses and precious sacred images carried on majestic "machines", creates a worthy setting for the Eucharistic celebration which has brought us here together.
The minds and hearts of so many of the faithful dispersed throughout the world converge on this square. I invite everyone, individual believers and ecclesial communities from every corner of the earth, to share with us these moments of sublime Eucharistic spirituality. I especially ask children and the sick, as well as contemplative communities, to pray for the happy and fruitful success of this world Eucharistic meeting.
6. The Eucharistic Congress also invites us to renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the altar: Ave, verum corpus!
At the same time, we receive the urgent appeal for the reconciliation and unity of all believers: "one body .... one faith, one baptism"! Divisions and disagreements still rend the body of Christ and prevent Christians of different confessions from sharing the one Eucharistic Bread. Therefore, let us pray together for the healing power of divine mercy, which is superabundant in this Jubilee Year.
1158 And you, O Christ, the only Head and Saviour, draw all your members to yourself. Unite them and transform them in your love, so that the Church may shine with that supernatural beauty which is resplendent in the saints of every era and nation, in the martyrs, in the confessors, in the virgins and in the countless witnesses to the Gospel!
O Iesu dulcis, o Iesu pie,
O Iesu, fili Mariae!
1. The institution of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Melchizedek and the multiplication of the loaves: this is the evocative triptych which the liturgy of the Word presents to us today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
In the centre is the institution of the Eucharist. St Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians which we have just heard, recalled the event in precise words, adding: "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1Co 11,26). "As often", hence this evening too, as we celebrate the Eucharist in the heart of the International Eucharistic Congress, we proclaim Christ's redemptive death and in our hearts rekindle the hope of our definitive encounter with him.
Conscious of this, we will acclaim after the consecration, as if in response to the Apostle's invitation: "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory".
2. Our gaze expands to include the other elements of the biblical triptych displayed for our meditation today: the sacrifice of Melchizedek and the multiplication of the loaves.
The first account, very short but of great importance, comes from the Book of Genesis and was proclaimed in the first reading. It tells us of Melchizedek, "king of Salem" and "priest of God Most High", who blessed Abram and "brought out bread and wine" (Gn 14,18). Psalm 109 refers to this passage, attributing to the Messiah-King an extraordinary priestly character that God has directly conferred on him: "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 109,4).
The day before his death on the Cross, Christ instituted the Eucharist in the Upper Room. He also offered bread and wine, which "in his sacred hands" (Roman Canon) became his Body and his Blood, offered in sacrifice. Thus he fulfilled the prophecy of the old covenant linked to Melchizedek's sacrificial offering. For this very reason - the Letter to the Hebrews recalls - "he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (5: 7-10).
1159 The sacrifice of Golgotha was anticipated in the Upper Room: the death on the Cross of the Incarnate Word, the Lamb sacrificed for us, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. In Christ's pain every person's pain is redeemed; in his passion, human suffering acquires new value; in his death, our death is vanquished forever.
3. Let us now turn our gaze to the Gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves, which completes the Eucharistic triptych brought to our attention today. In the liturgical setting of Corpus Christi, this passage from the Evangelist Luke helps us to understand better the gift and mystery of the Eucharist.
Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, blessed them, broke them and gave them to the Apostles to distribute to the crowd (cf. Lk Lc 9,16). "All", St Luke remarks, "ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces" (cf. ibid, v. 17).
This is an amazing miracle which marks in a way the beginning of a long historical process: the uninterrupted multiplication in the Church of the Bread of new life for the people of every race and culture. This sacramental ministry is entrusted to the Apostles and to their successors. And they, faithful to the divine Master's command, never cease to break and distribute the Eucharistic bread from generation to generation.
The People of God receive it with devout participation. With this Bread of life, a remedy of immortality, countless saints and martyrs were nourished and from it drew the strength to resist even harsh and prolonged sufferings. They believed in the words that Jesus once spoke in Capernaum: "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If any one eats this bread, he will live forever" (Jn 6,51).
4. "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven! ".
After contemplating the extraordinary Eucharistic "triptych" made up of today's readings, let us now turn our mind's eye directly to the mystery. Jesus calls himself "the Bread of life", adding: "The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6,51).
The mystery of our salvation! Christ - the only Lord yesterday, today and for ever - wanted his saving presence in the world and in history to be linked with the sacrament of the Eucharist. He wanted to make himself the bread which is broken so that everyone can be nourished by his very life through participation in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Like the disciples who listened in astonishment to his discourse at Capernaum, we also find this language hard to understand (cf. Jn Jn 6,60). We might sometimes be tempted to give it a reductive interpretation. But this would take us far from Christ, as was the case with those disciples who "after that no longer went about with him" (Jn 6,66).
We would like to stay with Christ and for this reason we say to him with Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68). With the same conviction as Peter, let us kneel today before the sacrament of the altar and renew our profession of faith in the real presence of Christ.
This is the meaning of today's celebration, which is given special emphasis by the International Eucharistic Congress in the year of the Great Jubilee. This is also the sense of the solemn procession which, as it does every year, will shortly make its way from this square to the Basilica of St Mary Major.
1160 With humble pride we will escort the Eucharistic Sacrament through the streets of the city, close by the buildings where people live, rejoice and suffer; between the shops and offices where they work each day. We will bring it into contact with our lives beset by a thousand dangers, weighed down by worries and sorrows, subject to the slow but inexorable wear and tear of time.
As we escort him, we will offer him the tribute of our hymns and prayers: "Bone Pastor, panis vere ... True Bread, Good Shepherd, tend us", we will say to him with trust, "Jesus, of your love befriend us, / You refresh us, you defend us, / Your eternal goodness send us. "You who all things can and know, / Who on earth such food bestow, / Grant us with your saints, though lowest, / Where the heavenly feast you show, / Fellow heirs and guests to be".
1. "Take; this is my body.... This is my blood" (Mc 14,22-23).
These words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper ring out today in our assembly, as we prepare to close the International Eucharistic Congress. They resound with unusual intensity, as a renewed command: "Take!".
Christ entrusts to us his Body given and his Blood poured out. He entrusts them to us as he did to the Apostles in the Upper Room before the supreme sacrifice on Golgotha. Peter and the others at the table were astonished and deeply moved at these words. But could they understand at the time how far these words would take them?
At that moment the promise Jesus had made at the synagogue in Capernaum was fulfilled: "I am the bread of life.... the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6,48). The promise was fulfilled on the very eve of the Passion in which Jesus would offer himself for humanity's salvation.
2. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mc 14,24).
In the Upper Room Jesus speaks of covenant. It is a term which the Apostles have no difficulty in understanding, since they belong to the people with whom Yahweh, as the first reading tells us, had made the old covenant during the exodus from Egypt (cf. Ex Ex 19-24). They vividly remember Mount Sinai and Moses, who had come down from that mountain carrying the divine Law engraved on two stone tablets.
They did not forget that Moses had taken the "book of the covenant" and read it aloud; and the people had agreed, saying: "All the Lord has said, we will heed and do" (ibid., 24: 7). Thus a covenant was made between God and his people, sealed with the blood of animals offered in sacrifice. For this reason Moses had sprinkled the people, saying: "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his" (ibid., 24: 8).
The Apostles, then, understood the reference to the old covenant. But what did they understand of the new? Certainly very little. The Holy Spirit will have to descend to open their minds: then they will understand the full sense of Jesus' words. They will understand and rejoice.
We heard a clear echo of this joy in the words proclaimed a few moments ago from the Letter to the Hebrews: "If the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ!" (9: 13-14). And the author of the Letter concludes: "Therefore Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance" (9: 15).
3. "This is the cup of my blood". On Holy Thursday evening the Apostles reached the threshold of the great mystery. When, at the end of the supper, they went out with him to the Garden of Olives, they could not know yet that the words he had pronounced over the bread and the cup would be dramatically fulfilled the following day, in the hour of the Cross. Perhaps not even on the tremendous and glorious day that the Church calls feria sexta in parasceve - Good Friday - did they realize that what Jesus had handed on to them under the appearances of bread and wine contained the paschal reality.
There is an illuminating passage in the Gospel of Luke. Speaking of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, the Evangelist notes their disappointment: "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel" (Lc 24,21). The other disciples must have also shared this sentiment before meeting the risen Christ. Only after the resurrection did they begin to understand that human redemption had been achieved in Christ's Passover. The Holy Spirit will later guide them into the full truth by revealing to them that the Crucified One had given his body and poured out his blood as a sacrifice of expiation for the sins of human beings, for the sins of the whole world (cf. 1Jn 2,2).
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews again offers us a clear synthesis of the mystery: "Christ ... entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (He 9,11-12).
4. Today we affirm this truth at the Statio Orbis of this International Eucharistic Congress, as, in obedience to Christ's command, we do again "in his memory" what he did in the Upper Room on the eve of his Passion.
"Take; this is my body.... This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mc 14,22 Mc 14,24). From this square we want to repeat to the men and women of the third millennium the extraordinary message: the Son of God became man for us and offered himself in sacrifice for our salvation. He gives us his body and blood as the food of a new life, of a divine life that is no longer subject to death.
With deep feeling we once again receive from Christ's hands this gift, so that through us it may reach every family and every city, places of suffering and the workshops of hope in our time. The Eucharist is the infinite gift of love: under the signs of bread and wine we acknowledge and adore the one perfect sacrifice of Christ offered for our salvation and that of all humanity. The Eucharist is really "the mystery that sums up all the marvels wrought by God for our salvation" (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, De sacr. Euch., chap. I).
In the Upper Room the Church's Eucharistic faith was born and is continually reborn. As the Eucharistic Congress now draws to a close, we want to return spiritually to these origins, to the moment of the Upper Room and of Golgotha, to give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, the priceless gift that Christ left us, the gift by which the Church lives.
5. Our liturgical assembly will soon disperse, enriched by the presence of faithful from every part of the world and made even more attractive by this extraordinary floral display. I greet you all with affection and cordially thank everyone!
Let us leave this gathering reinvigorated in our apostolic and missionary commitment. May participation in the Eucharist make you, the sick, more patient in your trials; you, married couples, more faithful in your love; you, consecrated persons, more persevering in your holy intentions; you, First Communion children, and especially you, dear young people, who are preparing to take personal responsibility for the future, stronger and more generous. From this Statio Orbis my thoughts are already looking ahead to the solemn Eucharistic celebration that will close the World Youth Day. I say to you, young people of Rome, Italy and the world: carefully prepare yourselves for this international youth gathering, in which you will be called to take up the challenges of the new millennium.
1162 6. And you, Christ our Lord, who "in this great sacrament feed your people and strengthen them in holiness, so that the family of mankind may come to walk in the light of one faith, in one communion of love" (Preface of the Holy Eucharist II), always make your Church more steadfast and united, as she celebrates the mystery of your saving presence.
Pour out your Spirit upon all who approach your sacred Table and make them bolder in bearing witness to the commandment of your love, so that the world may believe in you, who one day said: "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live" (Jn 6,51).
You, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Virgin Mary, are man's only Saviour, "yesterday, today and for ever"!
At the end of Mass the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. To the English-speaking faithful he said:
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims who have joined in our prayer of thanksgiving at this closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress. May the continuing celebration of the Great Jubilee ever increase the awareness and appreciation of the Lord's saving presence in your midst. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After greeting the other groups, the Holy Father added extemporaneously:
Lastly, I would especially like to thank the many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from around the world. This week we have felt united with the Person of Christ as the Apostles were in the Upper Room. Bring my heartfelt greeting and my Blessing to your faithful. A thousand thanks again to everyone!
1. "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16,15).
Jesus asks the disciples this question about his identity while he is with them in upper Galilee. It often happened that they would ask Jesus questions; now it is he who questions them. His is a precise question that awaits an answer. Simon Peter speaks for them all: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16).
The answer is extraordinarily clear. The Church's faith is perfectly reflected in it. We are reflected in it too. The Bishop of Rome, his unworthy successor by divine will, is particularly reflected in Peter's words. Around him and with him you are reflected in these words, dear Metropolitan Archbishops, who have come here from many parts of the world to receive the pallium on the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.
1163 I offer my cordial greetings to each of you, a greeting which I gladly extend to those who have accompanied you to Rome and to your communities who are spiritually united with us on this solemn occasion.
2. "You are the Christ!". Jesus replies to Peter's confession: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16,17).
Blessed are you, Peter! Blessed because you could not have humanly recognized this truth, which is central to the Church's faith, except by God's action. "No one", Jesus said, "knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11,27).
We are reflecting on this extraordinarily rich Gospel passage: the incarnate Word had revealed the Father to his disciples; now is the moment when the Father himself reveals his only Only-begotten Son to them. Peter receives inner enlightenment and courageously proclaims: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!".
These words on Peter's lips come from the depths of God's mystery. They reveal the intimate truth, the very life of God. And Peter, under the action of the divine Spirit, becomes a witness and confessor of this superhuman truth. His profession of faith thus forms the firm basis of the Church's faith: "On this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16,18). The Church of Christ is built on Peter's faith and fidelity.
The first Christian community was very conscious of this. As the Acts of the Apostles recount, when Peter was in prison it gathered to raise an earnest prayer to God for him (cf. Acts Ac 12,5). It was heard, because Peter's presence was still necessary for the community as it took its first steps: the Lord sent his angel to free him from the hands of his persecutors (cf. ibid., 12: 7-11). It was written in God's plan that Peter, after long strengthening his brothers in faith, would undergo martyrdom here in Rome together with Paul, the Apostle of the nations, who had also escaped death several times.
3. "The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it" (2Tm 4,17). These are the words of Paul to his faithful disciple Timothy: we heard them in the second reading. They testify to what the Lord accomplished in him after he chose him as a minister of the Gospel and "grasped" him on the road to Damascus (cf. Phil Ph 3,12).
The Lord had come to him in a blaze of light, saying: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? " (Ac 9,4), while a mysterious force threw him to the ground. "Who are you, Lord?", Saul had asked him. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!" (Ac 9,5). This was Christ's answer. Saul had been persecuting Jesus' followers, and Jesus told him that it was he himself who was being persecuted in them. He, Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One who Christians said had risen. If Saul now experienced his powerful presence, it was clear that God really had raised him from the dead. He, in fact, was the Messiah awaited by Israel; he was the Christ living and present in the Church and in the world!
Could Saul have understood with his reason alone all that such an event entailed? Certainly not! It was, in fact, part of God's mysterious plan. It would be the Father who would give Paul the grace of knowing the mystery of the redemption accomplished in Christ. It would be God who would enable him to understand the marvellous reality of the Church, which lives for Christ, with Christ and in Christ. And he, who had come to share in this truth, would continuously and tirelessly proclaim it to the very ends of the earth.
From Damascus, Paul would begin his apostolic journey which would lead him to spread the Gospel in so many parts of the then known world. His missionary zeal would thus help to fulfil the command Christ gave to the Apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ..." (Mt 28,19).
4. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate who have come to receive the pallium, your presence eloquently highlights the Church's universal dimension which sprang from the Lord's command: "Go ... and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19).
1164 You come, in fact, from 15 countries on four continents and were called by the Lord to be Pastors of Metropolitan Churches. The conferral of the pallium clearly stresses the special bond of communion which joins you to the See of Peter and expresses the Church's universal nature.
Whenever you wear these pallia, remember, dear Brothers, that as Pastors we are called to safeguard the purity of the Gospel and the unity of Christ's Church, founded on the "rock" of Peter's faith. The Lord calls us to this; this is our inescapable mission as far-sighted guides of the flock which the Lord has entrusted to us.
5. The full unity of the Church! I feel Christ's command echoing within me. It is a particularly urgent command at the beginning of this new millennium. Let us pray and work for this, without ever growing weary of hoping.
With these sentiments, I affectionately embrace and greet the Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has come to celebrate with us the liturgical feast of Peter and Paul. Thank you, Venerable Brothers, for your presence and for your heartfelt participation in this solemn liturgical celebration. May God grant us to achieve as soon as possible the full unity of all believers in Christ.
May we obtain this gift through the Apostles Peter and Paul, who are remembered by the Church of Rome on this day that commemorates their martyrdom and therefore their birth to life in God. For the sake of the Gospel they accepted suffering and death, and became sharers in the Lord's Resurrection. Their faith, confirmed by martyrdom, is the same faith as that of Mary, the Mother of believers, of the Apostles and of the saints of every age.
Today the Church again proclaims their faith. It is our faith, the Church's unchanging faith in Jesus, the only Saviour of the world; in Christ, the Son of the living God, who died and rose for us and for all humanity
S. John Paul II Homil. 1153