S. John Paul II Homil. 1342


LENTEN STATION PRESIDED OVER BY THE HOLY FATHER

IN THE BASILICA OF ST. SABINA ON THE AVENTINE HILL

Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2002



1. "Rend your hearts and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and gracious" (Jl 2,13).

With these words of the prophet Joel, the liturgy today leads us into Lent. The liturgy assures us that the conversion of heart is the basic feature of the wonderful time of grace that we begin to live. Likewise, it suggests the deep motivation that makes us capable of getting back on the path toward God: it is the renewed appreciation that the Lord is merciful and that every human being is a son whom He loves and calls to conversion.

With great richness of symbols, the prophetic text just proclaimed recalls that our spiritual motivation is to be made concrete in decisions and actions; that authentic conversion should not be reduced to external forms or vague intentions, but calls for us to involve and transform our entire existence.

The exhortation "return to the Lord your God" implies that we detach ourselves from what keeps us far from Him. Our being detached is the necessary starting place for re-establishing with God the covenant broken by sin.

2. "We implore you in the name of Christ: be reconciled to God!" (2Co 5,20). The pressing call to be reconciled with God is found in the passage of the second Letter to the Corinthians that we have just heard.

At the centre of the entire course of the Apostle's argument, the reference to Christ shows that in Him the sinner receives the possibility of an authentic reconciliation. Indeed, "God made him who did not know sin to be sin so that in him we might become the justice of God" (2Co 5,21). Only Christ can transform a situation of sin into a situation of grace. Only he can create an acceptable time out of the time in which humanity is immersed in and swept away by sin, upset by divisions and hatred. "He is our peace, who has made both of us one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility ... to reconcile both with God in one body through the cross" (Ep 2,14-16).

This is the acceptable time! The time is offered today to us, who undertake with a penitent spirit the austere Lenten journey.

3. "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning" (Jl 2,12). With the words of the prophet Joel, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday exhorts to conversion older persons, mature men and women, young people and children. All have to ask pardon of the Lord for ourselves and for others (cf. ibid., 2,16-17).

1343 Dear Brothers and Sisters, following the custom of the Lenten stations, we are gathered here in the ancient Basilica of Santa Sabina, to respond to that pressing appeal. We, like the contemporaries of the prophet, have before our eyes and imprinted on our minds the images of suffering and of immense tragedies, often the fruit of irresponsible egotism. We also feel the weight of the disarray of so many men and women in the face of the suffering of the innocent and the clashes of humanity today. We need the help of the Lord to recover our confidence and joy of living. We should return to Him, who opens for us the portal of his heart, rich in goodness and mercy.

4. Today, at the centre of our liturgical celebration, there is a symbolic action, interpreted by the words that are used with it. It is the imposition of the ashes, whose meaning, as a pointed reference to the human condition, is focused by the first formula offered by the rite: "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return" (cf. Gen
Gn 3,19). These words taken from the Book of Genesis recall the fragility of our existence and invite us to consider the vanity of every earthly project for the human person who does not put his trust in the Lord. The second formula that the rite provides: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mc 1,15) focuses on the indispensable condition for progress in the Christian life: one needs to make a true interior change and to accept with confidence the word of Christ.

Today's rite can be considered to be a "liturgy of death"; it refers to Good Friday, when our rite will be fully completed. It is in Him, who "humbled himself making himself obedient unto death, even death on the Cross" (Ph 2,8) that we should die to ourselves to be reborn to eternal life.

5. Let us listen to the call that the Lord directs to us through the intense and austere rites and prayers of the liturgy of Ash Wednesday. Let us accept the call with the humble and confident attitude of the Psalmist: "Against you only have I sinned, and I have done what is evil in your sight". Again, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within" (cf. Ps Ps 50).

May the Lenten season be for all a renewed experience of conversion and of deep reconciliation with God, with ourselves and with our brothers and sisters. May Our Lady of Sorrows obtain it for us. In our Lenten journey we contemplate her associated with the suffering and redemptive passion of her Son.



PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH OF ST. HENRY

First Sunday of Lent

17 February 2002




1. "Have mercy on us, Lord, for we have sinned!". The invocation of the responsorial psalm which we have just heard, expresses the sentiment that motivates us on this First Sunday of Lent. We are at the beginning of a special journey of penance and conversion. We realize that this is a favourable opportunity to recognize sin that clouds our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. "I recognize my sin", the Psalmist proclaims, "for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight" (Ps 50 [51],5-6).

The passage from the Book of Genesis that we have just heard (cf. Gn Gn 3,1-7), clearly shows what sin is and what are its consequences for the life of the human being. Our first parents gave in to the enticement of the tempter, abruptly breaking off their dialogue of confidence and love with God. Evil, suffering and death entered the world and one will have to wait for the promised Saviour to re-establish, even more wonderfully, the original plan of the Creator (cf. ibid., 3,8-24).

By turning to the will of the Father, Christ resists the threefold temptation of the Evil One
2. The Messiah did not avoid the insidious action of the Evil One, as St Matthew tells in today's Gospel: "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Mt 4,1). In the desert, He is subjected to a threefold temptation, which however, he resisted with firmness. Jesus firmly asserted that it is not lawful to put God to the test; it is not permissible to worship any other god; one cannot determine by oneself one's own fate. For every believer the final source of guidance is the Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

1344 In these few lines I have outlined the programme of our Lenten journey. We too are called to cross the desert of everyday life, facing the recurring temptation to create distance between ourselves and God. We are invited to imitate the attitude of the Lord, who willingly obeys the Word of his heavenly Father, and in this way re-establishes the hierarchy of values according to the original plan of God.

3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, of St Henry's parish! Yours is the 301st parish that I have the joy of visiting, continuing my pastoral pilgrimage in our diocese. As I already had the opportunity to underline, these welcome Sunday meetings give me a special opportunity to "exercise my mission as Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter, in a more concrete way" (Letter to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, L'Osservatore Romano, p. 4, 16 December 2001).

I greet Cardinal Ruini, the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, Bishop Dieci, your busy parish priest, Fr Romano Esposito, and the young parish vicars. With a grateful thought to all who welcomed me at the beginning of this celebration, I now greet the members of the Pastoral Council, of the Council for the Economic Affairs, and other parish associations. I affectionately salute each one of you here present, and I bring to mind all the members of this young and promising Christian community, and those who live in this part of Rome.

4. Yours is a young community, born in 1998 from the "mother Parish" of Saint Alexander. It consists mainly of recently formed families, who settled in this neighbourhood in the last decade. Only since June 1999 does it have a real parish church. A flock of children and young people live here who bring life and cheer it it up.

I am thinking of those who belong to the "Ardent Marian Youth Group" (Gioventý Ardente Mariana), of those who are following the journey of re-discovering their own Baptism, of the Caritas group and of the Centre for the elderly and immigrants, of the "Community of love", that desires to help young married and engaged couples to live the Christian sacrament of Marriage. I am thinking of all the lectors, altar servers and choir members, who contribute to fill the liturgical celebrations with life and participation.

I also know that you are working to support families, and that you are concerned with the education of children, first of all, with those who are preparing to receive the sacraments of Chrisian initiation, and then with those who use the parish recreational centre. To involve the parents while you are catechizing their children is undoubtedly an excellent method for helping families to live together these sacramental events.

I know that with equal generosity you prepare to collaborate in the various initiatives that the Diocese of Rome is planning: the ecclesial congress on the subject of vocations, that will be held in June, and other events like the one for young persons in St Peter's Square this coming 21 March. Continue your generosity and God will make your work fruitful for the good of all.

5. "As through the disobedience of one man all have been made sinners, so now through the obedience of one man all have been made just " (
Rm 5,19). This consoling word of the Apostle Paul to the Romans comforts us on our spiritual journey. Over the world, in which evil and sin often hold sway, the light of Christ shines victoriously. With his passion and resurrection he has defeated sin and death, opening to believers the gates of eternal salvation. The liturgy today gives us this encouraging message.

To participate fully in the victory of Christ, relying on the light of the word of God, we should dedicate ourselves to changing our way of thinking and acting.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me" (Ps 50 [51],10). Let us make our own the prayer of the Psalmist. It is a most fitting prayer for the time of Lent.

Create, Lord, a clean heart in me! Renew us in your love! O Virgin Mary obtain for us a new heart and a steadfast spirit. May we come to celebrate Easter, renewed and reconciled with God and our brothers and sisters.





MASS FOR THE PHILIPPINE COMMUNITY

GATHERED AT THE BASILICA OF ST PUDENZIANA


READ BY CARD. CAMILLO RUINI


1345
Second Sunday of Lent

24 February 2002




"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!"

1. With the Apostle Peter, I also say, "It is good for us to be here" (
Mt 17,4), gathered as they were then around the Lord Jesus. His face shines with a light that comes into this ancient Basilica of St Pudentiana. While we continue our Lenten pilgrimage towards Easter, we feel ourselves wrapped in a shining cloud. From the heights of heaven the Father says to us: "Listen to Jesus". However, like Peter, James and John, we are sometimes afraid. We prefer other voices, earthly voices, because it is easier to listen to them and they seem to make more sense. But only Jesus can lead us to life. His alone is the word of eternal life. With grateful soul we accept his invitation: Do not be afraid! Listen to my voice!

2. With great joy I greet those who are involved in the pastoral care of Filipino Catholics here in Rome, better known as "Sentro Pilipino" that coordinates 38 pastoral centres spread throughout the city, to take care of the spiritual, moral and social needs of thousands of Filipino immigrants.
I also warmly greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, and Cardinal Josť Sanchez, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy. I also greet the Auxiliary Bishop Luigi Moretti and the Philippine Ambassadors to the Holy See and to Italy. I thank your spiritual guide, Fr Remo Bati, and those who help him with the pastoral care. I also greet Mons. Gino Amicarelli, the rector of the Basilica, the faithful present for this Eucharistic Liturgy, those involved in the work of the International Catholic Association for the service of young people, the Daughters of the Oratory and Oblates of the Child Jesus, who celebrate the 330th year of the foundation of their Congregation.

I warmly greet all the Filipinos who live in Rome, Italy, and in every part of the world. Dear brothers and sisters, I know well how attached you are to your traditions and how you keep your faith alive with the regular practice of your religion. I thank the Lord for this and I encourage you always to walk on the path of full fidelity to Christ.

3. And here this morning Jesus speaks to us of blessing. He points forward to the supreme blessing of Easter and he looks back to the blessing promised to Abraham and his descendants.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, God promised Abraham two things which seemed impossible: a son and a land. Abraham was a rich man, but without the Lord's promise, he was a man whose life would simply end in death. In blessing Abraham with a son and a land, God offers him a life that is greater than death. God assures "our father in faith" that the last word will belong not to death but to life. This promise finds its ultimate fulfilment at Easter, when Christ is raised from the dead. It is not enough that Sarah's barren womb should give birth to Isaac, for death will still hold sway. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled only when death itself is destroyed; and death is destroyed when Christ is raised to new life.

4. We must remember too that the promise was made not just to Abraham, but to his descendants as well: that is, to us! During Lent, therefore, we bring to God all that is barren and dead in ourselves, all our sorrows and our sins, trusting that God who gave Sarah a son and who raised Jesus from the dead will turn all that is barren and dead in our lives into new and wonderful life. But this means that we must leave behind much that is familiar.

"Leave your country, your family and your father's house!" God says to Abraham. Many of you have done just that: you have left home and family, so that in your own way you may become a blessing for those you love back in the Philippines, contributing to their economic support, providing greater opportunities culturally and socially for your children and families. The separation is difficult and the cost is high, but it is a price that you are willing to pay in a difficult and often unjust world.

1346 Because we live in a sinful world, Lent itself must become a kind of separation. We are called to leave behind our old ways of sin, which make our lives sterile and condemn us to spiritual death. Yet these sinful ways are often so deeply rooted in our lives that it is painful to leave them behind and set out for the land of blessing which God promises. This repentance is difficult; but it is the price that must be paid if we are to receive the blessing which the Father promises to those who listen to the voice of Jesus.

We bring to God all that is dead in our world: war, violence, disease, poverty, famine
Remember too God's promise that "all the families of the earth will be blessed" in Abraham. The blessing of life will embrace the whole world. Therefore, in these days of Lent and in these troubled times, we bring to God all that is barren and dead in the world. We bring the curse of war, violence, disease, famine, poverty and injustice to the God of all blessing. We beg him to touch these evils and to turn them to life.

5. Listening to Jesus, we make ourselves available for what St Paul calls "the power of God that saved us". This power makes us able to meet him. We can then give witness to him with our lives, in the force of the grace that transforms us interiorly. We will become as resplendent as the sun "not in virtue of our works, but in virtue of his own purpose and his grace", as the Apostle writes to Timothy (
2Tm 1,9).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, here is the meaning of Lent: our lives, renewed through prayer, penance and charity, are opened to hear God and to the power of his mercy. Thus at Easter we will be able to come down from the holy mountain and put to flight the darkness of the world with the splendid light that shines on the face of Christ (cf. 2Co 4,6).

This is the promise of the Lord! May he who began the good work in us bring it to completion (cf. Phil Ph 1,6). May the Virgin Mary, the Woman of docile listening and the model of daily holiness obtain it for us.



MASS AT THE ROMAN PARISH OF ST GELASIUS I


READ BY CARD. CAMILLO RUINI


Third Sunday of Lent

3 March 2002




1. "Lord ... give me this water, that I may not thirst " (Jn 4,15 cf. Gospel Acclamation). The request of the Samaritan woman marks a crucial turning-point in her long and intense conversation with Jesus that takes place at Jacob's well, near the city of Sychar. St John recounts it in today's Gospel.

Christ asks the woman "Give me a drink" (v. 7). His material thirst symbolizes a far deeper reality: it expresses his ardent desire that his dialogue partner and her fellow-citizens will open themselves to faith. The Samaritan woman, when she asks Christ for water, is basically revealing the need for salvation present in every heart. And the Lord is revealed as the one who offers the living water of the Spirit, that satisfies forever the infinite thirst of every human being.

The liturgy for this Third Sunday of Lent presents a splendid commentary on the Johannine episode when it says in the preface that Jesus "so deeply thirsted" for the salvation of the Samaritan woman that "he set on fire in her the flame of God's love".

1347 2. The episode of the Samaritan woman charts the journey of faith that we are all called to pursue. Even today Jesus continues "to thirst", namely, to desire humanity's faith and love. From our personal encounter with him, if we recognize and receive him as the Messiah, come our attachment to his message of salvation and the desire to spread it in the world.

This is what happens in the rest of the Gospel passage. The bond with Jesus totally transforms the life of the woman who hurries without delay to proclaim the good news to the people in the nearby village: "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" (
Jn 4,29).

Revelation received with faith asks to become a word proclaimed to others, witnessed in the concrete choices of life. This is the mission of believers, coming from and growing in their personal meeting with the Lord.

3. Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of St Gelasius! I cordially greet Cardinal Ruini, Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishop of the sector, Fr Albino Marin, your dear parish priest, the curate, and all of you, members of the parish community who are celebrating your 30th anniversary this year. I warmly greet all who live of this densely populated area of Rebibbia.

I congratulate you on what you are doing, above all, in the work of catechesis, the liturgy and charity. In fact, they are the permanent pillars of Christian life and are to be developed with the aid of the support and services of organization and formation offered by pastoral offices of the Vicariate. Indeed, every parish community grows more united and active when it walks in affective and effective communion with its legitimate Pastors and the entire diocesan family.

Pay special attention to families, so that they may fully realize their vocation. Even if they should encounter difficulties in conjugal life or in the education of their children, may they never cease to remember the fundamental "yes" that husband and wife declared on their wedding day. God never lets those who trust in him lack the support of grace.

4. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, continue to carry out with dedication that specific apostolic work that is so necessary for the life of the Church: the permanent Mission. This is a precious heritage, the result of the City Mission and the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Taking on the problems of those who live in this area gives you the possibility of offering them the concrete witness of God's infinite love. In addition to the visits to families and the efforts to build friendly relations with people, may you also take pains to intensify fruitful experiences of formation that benefit children and young people, such as the children's choir and the after-school recreation centre. If you inculcate confidence in these boys and girls, they will be generous apostles among their peers and actively cooperate in the parish projects.

Dear young people, I make an appointment with you along with your other friends from other Roman parishes, for the meeting we will celebrate in St Peter's Square 21 March to prepare for the World Youth Day that will take place in Toronto this July. There is also the Diocesan Ecclesial Convention in June on the subject of vocations. Your parish community is preparing for this event with community reflection and, above all, prayer. May God raise up among you many holy priestly, religious and missionary vocations, that are essential for the life and future of the Church.

5. "Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).

The words of the Apostle Paul in the second reading refer to the gift of the Spirit, symbolized by the living water, that Jesus promises to the Samaritan woman. The Spirit is the "pledge" of the definitive salvation that God has promised to us. Man cannot live without hope. Many hopes go down when they crash against the rocks of life. However Christian hope "does not disappoint" because it is based on the solid foundation of faith in the love of God revealed in Christ.

To Mary, Mother of hope, I entrust your parish and the Lenten journey towards Easter. May Mary, who followed her Son Jesus to the Cross, help us all to be faithful disciples of the one who makes well up in our hearts the water for eternal life (cf. Jn Jn 4,14).



PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

24 March 2002

1348
17th World Youth Day

"You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14)



1. "Pueri Hebraeorum, portantes ramos olivarum.... The Jewish children went to meet the Lord waving olive branches".

This is the antiphon that we sing in the solemn procession as we carry our branches of olive and palm on this Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday. We have relived what took place on that day: in the midst of the crowd rejoicing around Jesus who entered Jerusalem riding a donkey there were crowds of children. Some Pharisees would have wanted Jesus to have them keep quiet, but he answered that if they would have been silent, even the stones would have cried out (cf. Lk Lc 19,39-40).

Even today, thanks be to God, there is a multitude of young people here in St Peter's Square. The "children of Jerusalem" have become young men and women of every nation, language and culture. Welcome, dear friends! I warmly greet each one of you! Today's gathering directs us toward the coming World Youth Day, that will take place in Toronto, Canada, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The World Youth Day Cross is already there. Last year on Palm Sunday, Italian young people entrusted it to their Canadian peers.

2. The Cross is the focus of the liturgy today. Dear young people, with your attentive and enthusiastic participation in this solemn celebration, you show that you are not ashamed of the Cross. You do not fear the Cross of Christ. Indeed, you love and venerate it because it is the sign of the Redeemer who died and rose again for us. Those who believe in Jesus, crucified and risen, carry the Cross in triumph as an indisputable proof that God is love. With the total gift of himself on the Cross, our Saviour decisively conquered sin and death. Therefore we joyfully proclaim: "Glory and praise to you, O Christ who has redeemed the world with your Cross".

3. "Christ became obedient for us even to death, death on the Cross. Therefore God raised him on high and gave him a name above every other name" (Gospel acclamation).
We have used these words of the Apostle Paul, just heard in the Second Reading, as our acclamation before we begin the reading of the Passion. They express our faith: the faith of the Church.

However, faith in Christ can never be taken for granted. The reading of his Passion sets us before Christ, living in his Church. The Easter Mystery that we will relive during the days of Holy Week is always present. Today we are contemporaries of the Lord and, like the multitude in Jerusalem, like the disciples and the women, we are called to decide if we are to be with him, or flee, or just be spectators at his death.

Every year in Holy Week the curtain rises once again on the great scene in which the definitive drama is decided, not only for one generation, but for all humanity and for each one.

4. The Passion narrative points out the fidelity of Christ, contrasted with human infidelity. In the hour of his trial, while the disciples and even Peter abandon Jesus (cf. Mt Mt 26,56), He remains faithful, willing to pour out his blood to bring to fulfilment the mission the Father has entrusted to him. Beside him is Mary, silent and suffering.

1349 Dear young people! Learn from Jesus and from his and our Mother. The real strength of a man lies in the fidelity of his witness to the truth and in his resisting flattery, threats, misunderstandings, blackmail, even harsh and relentless persecution. This is the path on which our Redeemer calls us to follow him.

Only if you are ready to do this, will you become what Jesus expects of you, that is, "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (
Mt 5,13-14). As you know, this is the theme for the coming World Youth Day. The image of salt "reminds us that, through Baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed, because it has been "seasoned' with the new life which comes from Christ (cf. Rom Rm 6,4)" (Message for the 17th World Youth Day, n. 2).

Dear young people, do not lose your flavour as Christians, the flavour of the Gospel! Keep it alive by meditating constantly on the Easter Mystery: may the Cross be your school of wisdom. Boast of nothing else save this sublime throne of truth and love.

5. The liturgy invites us to climb towards Jerusalem with Jesus, hailed by the young Jews. In a little while he "will have to suffer and on the third day rise from the dead" (Lc 24,46). St Paul has reminded us that Jesus "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Ph 2,7) to obtain for us the grace of divine sonship. From him springs the true spring of peace and joy for each one of us! Here is the secret of the Easter joy that is born from the hardship of the Passion.

I hope that each one of you will share in this joy, dear young friends. The One you have chosen as Teacher is not a merchant of deceptions, not a powerful one of this world, not a ready and skilled debater. You know who it is you have chosen to follow: the Crucified is risen! The Crucified is risen! Christ died for you, Christ rose for you.

The Church assures you that you will not be disillusioned. Indeed, no one else other than he can give you that love, peace, and eternal life for which your heart so deeply yearns. Blessed are you young people if you will be faithful disciples of Christ! Blessed are you who are ready to witness on every occasion that this man is truly the Son of God (cf. Mt Mt 27,39).

May Mary, Mother of the incarnate Word guide and go with you, ready to intercede for everyone who comes into the world.



CHRISMAL MASS

Holy Thursday, 28 March 2002



1. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me" (Is 61,1).

The words of the prophet Isaiah are the dominant motif of the Chrism Mass, that on Holy Thursday morning in every diocese sees the entire presbyterate gathered round the bishop. In the course of this solemn rite, that takes place at the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, the oils are blessed that will bring the balm of divine grace to the Christian people.

"The Lord has anointed me". These words recall above all the messianic mission of Jesus, who was consecrated by virtue of the Holy Spirit and became the eternal High Priest of the New Covenant, established in his blood. All the Old Testament figures of the priesthood are fulfilled in him, the one, definitive mediator between God and men.

1350 2. "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lc 4,21). This is how in the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus comments on Isaiah's prophetic proclamation. He affirms that he is the One whom the Spirit of the Lord has anointed, the One whom the Father has sent to bring to men and women freedom from sin and to bring glad tidings to the poor and the afflicted. It is he who has come to proclaim the time of grace and mercy. The Apostle, in his Letter to the Colossians, notes that Christ "is the first-born of all creation", and "the first-born of the dead" (1,15.18). By accepting the call of the Father that he assume our human condition, he brings with him the spirit of the new life and gives salvation to all who believe in him.

3. "The eyes of all ... were fixed on him" (Lc 4,20).

Like the people in the Synagogue of Nazareth, we too keep our gaze fixed on the Redeemer, who "has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father" (Ap 1,6). If all the baptized share in his royal and prophetic priesthood "to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God" (1P 2,5), priests are called to share his sacrifice in a special way. They are called to live it in service to the common priesthood of the faithful. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament by which the mission entrusted by the Master to his Apostles continues to be carried on in the Church until the end of time: it is the sacrament of the apostolic ministry that includes the degrees of the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate.

Dear brothers, today we renew our personal consciousness of the distinctive ministry that has been conferred upon us. In the Eucharist, the divine Teacher has entrusted to us the celebration of his own sacrifice: calling us in a closer way to follow him. For this reason, in today's celebration, together we confirm our fidelity and our love for him, and confiding in the power of his grace, we renew the promises we made on the day of our Ordination.

By using the sacrament of penance priests will make more visible the joy and mercy of Christ
4. How great is this day for us! On Holy Thursday Jesus made us ministers of his sacramental presence among men. He put his pardon and mercy in our hands and gave us the gift of his priesthood forever.

Tu es sacerdos in eternum! (You are a priest forever). This challenging call echoes in our hearts making us conscious of how our own life is indissolubly united with his. Forever!

While we give thanks for this mysterious gift, we cannot not confess our infidelities. As you know I send a Letter to priests every year; this year in the Letter I recalled that: "all of us - conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace - are called to embrace the "Mysterium Crucis' (mystery of the Cross) and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness" (n. 11). Dear Brothers, let us not forget the value and importance in our lives of the Sacrament of Penance. It is intimately linked with the Eucharist and makes us dispensers of the divine mercy. If we make use of this source of forgiveness and reconciliation, we will be able to be true ministers of Christ and spread around us his peace and love.

5. "For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord " (Responsorial Psalm, liturgy of the Chrism Mass).

Gathered round the altar on the tomb of the Apostle Peter, as we give thanks for the gift of our ministerial priesthood, let us pray for those who have been precious instruments of the divine call in our regard.

First, let us think of our parents, who by giving us life and asking for us the grace of Baptism, incorporated us into the People of salvation and with their faith, taught us to be ready and attentive to the voice of the Lord. After them, let us remember those who guided us in the discernment of our vocation with their witness and their wise advice. And what can be said of all the lay faithful who accompanied us on our way to the priesthood and continue to be close to us in our pastoral ministry? May the Lord reward them all.

1351 Let us pray for all priests: especially those who must work in the midst of difficulties or who suffer persecution, with a special thought for those who with their blood have paid for their fidelity to Christ.

Let us pray for those of our confreres who did not abide by the commitments they assumed with priestly ordination, or who are passing through a period of difficulty or crisis. In choosing us for so sublime a mission, Christ will not let us lack the grace and joy of following him, on Tabor and on the Way of the Cross.

May Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, accompany and sustain us whom the Lord did not call "servants" but "friends". To Jesus, our Master and Brother, be glory and power for ever and ever (cf. Apoc
Ap 1,6)! Amen.



S. John Paul II Homil. 1342