S. John Paul II Homil. 261
1. “S’il est vrai que, dans le Christ, on se réconforte les uns les autres, si l’on s’encourage dans l’amour si l’on est en communion dans l’Esprit, si l’on a de la tendresse et de la pitié, alors, mettez le comble à ma joie en restant bien unis, ayez le même amour . . . ne recherchez pas chacun votre propre intérêt, pensez aussi à celui des autres. Ayez entre vous les sentiments qui furent ceux du Christ Jésus” (Ph 2,1-5).
Ces mots de saint Paul aux chrétiens de Philippes, ils sont aussi pour vous, chers Frères et Soeurs de Moncton, de l’Acadie et de toute la province du Nouveau-Brunswick. Je vous encourage à former des communautés humaines exemplaires par leur pratique de la solidarité; je vous exhorte à garder à vos communautés ecclésiales la dignité que leur donne le Christ: conformez-vous à l’inspiration de l’Evangile, recherchez ce qui est juste aux yeux de Dieu. Ayez le courage de la foi, le dynamisme de la charité et la force de l’espérance chrétienne, quelles que soient les épreuves. Oui, ouvrez vos communautés à l’Esprit du Christ.
Pour approfondir cet appel, je vous propose l’exemple et les paroles du saint évêque que l’on fête aujourd’hui, l’un des plus célèbres des premiers siècles de l’Orient chrétien: saint Jean Chrysostome. Le psaume exprimait admirablement son âme: “Faire ta volonté, mon Dieu, voilà ce que j’aime . . . j’ai annoncé ta justice dans la grande assemblée; vois, je ne retiens pas mes lèvres, toi tu le sais” (Ps 40,9-10). Ce pasteur hors pair n’a cessé en effet d’ouvrir la bouche pour éclairer son peuple, pour le former, pour l’entraîner dans sa vocation chrétienne; on l’a appelé Chrysostome, c’est-à-dire “bouche d’or”. Et son enseignement, tout imprégné de la Parole de Dieu et de la contemplation du mystère du Christ, a su trouver une expression claire, persuasive, concrète, qui provoque les chrétiens de tous les temps aux choix essentiels à leur salut, à la réalisation de la “justice”.
2. A la fin du quatrième siècle, dans une Eglise en pleine croissance Jean vivait à Antioche de Syrie. Il aurait pu réussir dans le monde des tribunaux, du théâtre et des lettres, mais il préféra, après son baptême vers l’âge de vingt ans, s’initier à l’étude des livres saints et se consacrer au service de l’Eglise. Il essaya de vivre la contemplation et l’ascèse dans les solitudes montagneuses. Puis, durant onze ans, comme diacre et prêtre, il prêcha inlassablement l’Evangile aux foules d’Antioche. Il fut appelé en 397 à devenir Patriarche de Constantinople, où il ne put exercer librement son épiscopat que durant six ans. Devant ce milieu croyant et sensible à la piété, mais enclin aux passions, aux intrigues de cour, aux manifestations mondaines, au luxe des riches, au laisser-aller des moines et des clercs, il ne voulut en rien atténuer la vigueur et la clarté de l’Evangile, les exigences du baptême chrétien et de l’eucharistie, du sacerdoce, de la charité, de la dignité du pauvre. Vraiment, “il n’a pas retenu ses lèvres pour annoncer la justice”. Et pas davantage durant les deux exils que lui imposa l’impératrice Eudoxie après l’avoir fait déposer, aggravant encore sa deuxième déportation sur le chemin du Caucase, où il mourut le 14 septembre 407. On peut bien le considérer comme un martyr du courage pastoral. Mais ce que nous retiendrons surtout, c’est qu’il a su former un peuple chrétien, des communautés chrétiennes dignes de ce nom.
262 3. L’éloquence de sa “bouche d’or” venait de la puissance de sa foi. Avec saint Paul, il pouvait dire: “J’ai cru, c’est pourquoi j’ai parlé” (2Co 4,13). Et cette foi imprégnée d’amour entraînait son zèle apostolique. “Tout ce que nous vivons, c’est pour vous, afin que la grâce soit plus abondante; en vous rendant plus nombreux, elle fera monter une immense action de grâce pour la gloire de Dieu” (Ibid. 4, 15).
En fait, ce zèle du pasteur avait sa source dans l’union au Christ. Cette union était particulièrement vive lorsque le grand évêque de Constantinople devait connaître la souffrance et la persécution. Il pouvait dire lui aussi à la suite de saint Paul: “Nous portons sans cesse dans notre corps l’agonie de Jésus, afin que la vie de Jésus, elle aussi, soit manifestée dans notre corps” (Ibid. 4,10). L’union avec le Christ souffrant et agonisant a donné son efficacité à son service apostolique et en a fait une source de vie surnaturelle pour les autres: “La mort fait son oeuvre en nous, et la vie en vous” (Ibid. 4, 12).
4. Des jugements iniques, des vexations, des diffamations et des persécutions, Jean Chrysostome n’avait pas peur. Il n’en annonçait que plus fermement les exigences de l’Evangile, par fidélité au Christ et par charité pour ceux dont il voulait la conversion. Mais cette force inébranlable ne contredisait jamais la charité. Il a vraiment vécu les paroles de Jésus rapportées dans l’Evangile de Luc que nous venons d’entendre: “Aimez vos ennemis, faites du bien à ceux qui vous haïssent, souhaitez du bien à ceux qui vous maudissent, priez pour ceux qui vous calomnient” (Lc 6,27-28). Son éloquence lui attirait le succès auprès des foules - à Antioche, à Constantinople, même dans son exil en Asie Mineure -, mais sa franchise lui attirait aussi la haine d’un certain nombre. Il l’avait mise uniquement au service de la vérité et de la justice; il l’a payé très cher, souffrant profondément dans son coeur et dans son corps. Cela ne l’a pas détourné d’aimer et de chercher le bien des autres, car il donnait sans chercher à recevoir: “Faites du bien et prêtez sans rien espérer en retour . . . Donnez, et l’on vous donnera” (Lc 6,35 Lc 6,38). Plutôt que de voir ses partisans verser le sang de ses compatriotes, c’est lui qui se livra aux soldats.
Voilà le pasteur, chers Frères et Soeurs, qui a formé une génération de chrétiens dans une grande partie de l’Orient, par sa parole et par l’exemple de sa vie. Voilà le témoin qui vous est présenté aujourd’hui, à vous qui cherchez à fortifier vos communautés ecclésiales.
5. Le Concile Vatican II a parlé de la “communauté chrétienne”, signe de la présence de Dieu dans le monde: “Par le sacrifice eucharistique, elle passe au Père avec le Christ; nourrie avec soin de la Parole de Dieu, elle présente le témoignage du Christ; elle marche enfin dans la charité et est enflammée d’esprit apostolique” (Ad Gentes AGD 15). Puissent vos paroisses et vos diverses communautés réaliser ce programme! Mais pour le réaliser selon l’Evangile, il nous est bon d’écouter encore Jean Chrysostome exprimer sa foi: “Est-ce à ma propre force que je fais confiance? Je possède sa parole: voilà mon appui, voilà ma sécurité, voilà mon havre de paix” (S. Jean Chrysostome, Hom. avant le départ en exil, 1-3: ). Pénétrez-vous de cette parole, disait-il encore, “vous avez un besoin continuel de trouver votre force dans l’Ecriture”. Il demande aussi que l’on prie sans cesse, partout, dans le temple de Dieu qu’est le coeur humain.
Jean Chrysostome prend soin de préparer les candidats au baptême, et surtout d’aider les baptisés à comprendre la grandeur du don que Dieu leur a fait dans ce sacrement. Il parle avec enthousiasme de l’eucharistie qui nous fait participer à la victoire de Pâques. Mais il n’oublie pas que le “premier chemin de la conversion, c’est la condamnation de nos fautes. Commence toi-même par dire tes fautes pour être justifié” ().
6. Cette insistance de Jean Chrysostome sur le don de la grâce, sur la foi, la prière, les sacrements, débouche toujours sur les exigences de comportement chrétien qui s’en suivent nécessairement sous peine d’illogisme ou d’hypocrisie. Et c’est là qu’il parle avec une vigueur étonnante de la charité, de l’amour du prochain.
Cet amour est réconciliation: “Qu’aucun de ceux qui ont un ennemi n’approche de la Table sainte . . . va d’abord te réconcilier, puis reçois le sacrement” (S. Jean Chrysostome, Hom. au peuple d'Antioche).
Cet amour est volonté d’unité et de fraternit: “L’Eglise n’existe pas pour que nous restions divisés en y venant, mais bien pour que nos divisions y soient éteintes: c’est le sens de l’assemblée. Si c’est pour l’eucharistie que nous venons, ne posons aucun acte qui contredise l’eucharistie” (Eiusdem, Hom. sur 2Co 24,2 2Co 27,3-5).
Cet amour est respect et accueil du pauvre: “Tu veux honorer le Corps du Christ. Ne le méprise pas lorsqu’il est nu. Ne l’honore pas ici, dans l’église, par des tissus de soie, tandis que tu le laisses dehors souffrir du froid et du manque de vêtements . . . Dieu n’a pas besoin de calices d’or, mais d’âmes qui soient en or . . . Commence par rassasier l’affamé, et avec ce qui te restera, tu orneras l’autel” ().
L’amour est recherche de ce qui est utile au prochain: “Rien n’est plus froid qu’un chrétien indifférent au salut d’autrui” (Ibid. 60, 162-164). “Nous négligeons le salut de nos enfants. Nous recherchons seulement le profit. Nous nous occupons davantage des ânes et des chevaux que de nos fils . . . Qu’y a-t-il de comparable à l’art de former une âme?” (Ibid. 580-584).
263 L’amour est apostolat, il est zèle missionnaire jusqu’au bout du monde. “Dieu ne nous demande pas de réussir mais de travailler . . . Si le Christ, modèle des pasteurs, a travaillé jusqu’à la fin à la conversion d’un homme désespéré (Judas), que ne devons-nous pas faire pour ceux à l’égard desquels il nous a été ordonné d’espérer?” (S. Jean Chrysostome, Hom. sur la Cananéenne, 10-11). “Le levain, tout en disparaissant dans la masse, n’y perd pas sa force; au contraire, il la communique peu à peu . . . C’est le Christ seul qui donne au levain sa puissance . . . et quand la masse a fermenté, elle devient du levain à son tour, pour tout le reste” (S. Jean Chrysostome, XLVI hom. sur Mt 2-3).
Ces quelques paroles fortes de saint Jean Chrysostome vous disent la foi, la charité, le courage apostolique et l’espérance qu’il a voulu partager avec ses frères.
7. Dear brothers and sisters of New Brunswick: is it still necessary for the progress of your communities for these exhortations to be articulated in terms of challenges adapted to our times?
I know that your community spirit already allowed you to overcome many early difficulties in Acadia; still today you are known for your sense of fraternity, cordial hospitality and sharing. But your region, like many others, is undergoing a profound transformation which is a new test. Urban life is developing, an economic crisis affects the local communities, and likewise a spiritual crisis, a crisis of values. Meanwhile, you can look to the future with serenity if you stand firm in the faith of the Risen Christ, if you allow his Spirit to form within you the responses to the new challenges, if you show solidarity with one another, if you accept being a leaven in the Church and in society.
And your Christian communities will immediately take up the challenge if they are able to form and deepen the faith of their members through the catechesis of youth and of students, through the continuing formation of adults, through courses or retreats. It is a question of a faith that is a personal attachment to the living God and takes account of the whole creed. Do not allow religious ignorance to stand side by side with the prestige of secular knowledge! Your communities will progress and be renewed if you accord greater place to meditation on the Gospel, to prayer, to the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance.
Efforts in sharing, justice and charity - which one can call "social love" - run the risk of becoming simple philanthropy, if they are not rooted in the spiritual energy to which I have made reference in the writings of Saint John Chrysostom. And yet, he was speaking to a group of believers who had forgotten the ethical consequences of the faith. Today it is necessary in the first place to revive the faith which, for a certain number, has been shaken and questioned.
8. But it is evident that a well-understood faith involves all the commitments of charity of which the Pastor of Constantinople spoke and which today might be called:
- respect for persons, of their freedom, of their dignity, so that they may not be crushed by the new social constraints;
- respect for human rights, according to the charters already well known, and including the right to life from the moment of conception, the right to one’s reputation, the right to freedom of conscience;
- the refusal of violence and torture;
- concern for the less fortunate categories, for women, for labourers, for the unemployed, for immigrants;
264 - establishment of social measures for greater equality and justice, for all men and women, regardless of individual interests or privileges;
- the will to live a simple life and to share, in contrast with the present race for profit, consumption and artificial gratification, in such a way as not to be deprived of what is essential for oneself, while also permitting the poor, whoever they may be, to lead a dignified life;
- a more universal openness towards the basic needs of the less fortunate countries, in particular those that are referred to as the "South", the regions where each day thousands of human beings die because of the lack of peace or elementary care given to them; and hence concern to inaugurate, at the international level effective solutions for a more equitable distribution of goods and opportunities on the earth;
- missionary zeal for help among the Churches.
Thus your communities will be able to provide a generous sharing that begins in the immediate neighbourhood and that then opens up, without boundaries, to the world. You will not wait to settle your own social problems - that are certainly most real, and I am thinking in particular of unemployment - before living that fullness of charity described by Saint John Chrysostom.
All this activity of solidarity you will accomplish individually, or by your Christian associations, and also taking part in the initiative of the institutions of civil society (Gaudium et Spes GS 42-43). And with the Christian motivation which sees in the other person a brother or sister in God and a member of Christ, you will be the leaven that raises the dough to a level of greater justice, fraternal solidarity and social love.
9. Your ecclesial communities will be so much more stable and dynamic if everyone plays his or her own role, according to his or her vocation and charisms, as I said this morning in the Cathedral: Bishops, priests, religious, laity.
It is necessary without doubt that there be formed what you call the groupes-relais in order to manifest better the vitality of the Church in allowing specialized activities and truly human action. But all must be vigilant for unity within the common mission of evangelization, and here the parish plays a unique role. For all groups the parish’s vocation "is to be a fraternal and welcoming family home, where those who have been baptized and confirmed become aware of forming the People of God... From that home they are sent out day by day to their apostolic mission in all the centres of activity of the life of the world" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Catechesi Tradendae CTR 67).
10. Dear brothers and sisters: we are a people on a journey. We toil here below with courage and strong love to construct a new world more open to God and more fraternal, one that offers some sketch of the world to come (Gaudium et Spes GS 39). Let us take care not to forget the fullness to which God calls us!
Saint John Chrysostom, a disciple of the Lord, a successor of the Apostles, was strengthened during the whole course of his toilsome and difficult life by an eschatological hope - the hope of what lies beyond, of the new life promised by God - which Saint Paul announced in his Letter to the Corinthians: "Yes, the troubles which are soon over, though they weight little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory which is out of all proportion to them. And so we have no eyes for things that are visible, but only for things that are invisible; for visible things last only for a time, and the invisible things are eternal".
Let the voice of Saint Paul, let the voice of the great Saint of Constantinople continue to echo in your hearts, together with the voice of your own Pastors united with the Successor of Peter!
265 Que l’intercession de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, Notre-Dame de l’Acadie, permette à l’Eglise de Moncton et des autres diocèses de croître, de se fortifier, de rayonner, en cohérence avec son destin éternel: “Notre regard s’attache à ce qui ne se voit pas, à ce qui est éternel!”.
St. Mary's Cathedral (Halifax)
Thursday, 13 September 1984
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. The visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth is a very beautiful episode in the Gospel of Saint Luke. It is the dramatic encounter of two expectant mothers, two women, whose hearts are filled with joy in anticipation of the "human miracle" which is unfolding within their bodies. The account also has an important theological message: it shows how John the Baptist, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, bore witness to Jesus already from within his mother’s womb. It likewise focuses attention on Mary’s faith: "Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lc 1,45).
Together with these reflections we are brought to realize yet another meaning that this Gospel has for us. We are drawn to appreciate the touching human gesture of Mary as she reaches out in love to her cousin Elizabeth. She provides us with a model of service to others, an example of how we, as her spiritual sons and daughters, should open our hearts in compassion to those who yearn for Christ to come to them through us. For the idea of service, dear brothers and sisters, is essential to the lay apostolate and to all ministry. Service is at the very core of every vocation in the Church: the service of God and our neighbour which is at once zealous and humble, always motivated by a desire to fulfil God’s will as it is manifested through the guiding action of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church.
2. I wish to tell you how happy I am to be with you this evening. You have come from the farms, villages, towns and cities of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. By the grace of God each of you has been called to bear witness to Christ in a particular way. You have heard this call and have responded generously to it. I thank you for your active commitment to the Church, and I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the name of Mary his Mother in this Halifax Basilica dedicated to her.
3. We read in the Gospel: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on human flesh not "to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" Marc. 10, 45). After his Resurrection Christ appeared to his disciples, breathing his Spirit into them and sending them to continue his own mission: "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you" (Jn 20,21).
Thus we understand that the Church was founded on the Apostles to continue Christ’s mission, which is to lead all humanity through faith to eternal life. Every activity undertaken by the Church for this purpose forms part of her apostolate, and this apostolate is her response to the mission entrusted to her by Christ.
4. Through Baptism and Confirmation everyone is called to share in the saving mission of the Church. As a member of the living organism which is the Mystical Body of Christ, no Christian can play a purely passive part. Each person must participate actively in the life of the Church. For the Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate.
266 It is Christ the Head of the Body who personally commissions his members to the apostolate. By sharing in the Church’s mission, all the faithful share in Christ’s mission. Their effective contribution requires that they live by the faith, hope and charity that is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit. And the precept of charity, which is the Lord’s greatest commandment, urges everyone to work for the glory of God and for the communication of eternal life to all people, so that all may know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (Jn 17,3).
Among the members of the Church there exists a diversity of services within a unity of mission. To the Apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing in his name and by his power. But the laity have been given a share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly functions of Christ (Lumen Gentium LG 31). To fulfil the role proper to them, they must join their efforts to the ministry of the entire People of God and work in union with those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed to govern the whole Church (Ac 20,28). At the same time, on all Christians rests the obligation of working to bring the divine message of salvation to all people throughout the world.
As lay people you are called to bear witness to Christ within the context of your homes, neighbourhood, towns and cities. You contribute to the Church’s mission first of all by showing consistency between your conduct and your faith. In word and deed you must proclaim Christ the Light of the world. This is the general call to the apostolate which all Christians have received. As laity you also have the specific task of renewing the temporal order, by permeating it with the spirit of the Gospel.
Coming as you do from different cultural and social backgrounds, you are able to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and behaviour, the laws and structures of the community in which you live. Likewise, you exercise a special work and responsibility by engaging in the apostolate of "like towards like": families evangelizing families, students evangelizing students, young people leading young people to Christ. Especially here the witness of your lives is completed by the witness of your word (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 13). Through lives which manifest deep integrity and by your persevering practice of fraternal charity in dealing with others, those whom you encounter in your work and with whom you associate on various levels of social life can be profoundly influenced.
You have the very special mission of speaking to the world in a practical way: to manifest truth and justice in your own lives: to proclaim by action your respect for life, your social concern, your rejection of materialism and consumerism. You are called to exemplify purity of life and, if you are married, to be living signs of coniugal fidelity and of the indissolubility of marriage, just as Christ preached them. Never doubt, dear friends, that the word of God has power to bring this about in you: "You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14).
5. But more than that, to each of you has been given a charism, the gift of the Holy Spirit, enabling you to have a special aptitude for a particular service within the Church. As Saint Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit is given in a particular way to each person: "Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching" (Rm 12,6-7).
This exercise of the Christian apostolate may be done as individuals or as members of groups of people who work together for the same particular aim. Within the vast variety of the apostolate some are called to proclaim God’s word as catechists, teachers or as those who lead adults through the Rite of Christian Initiation. Some will minister to families, the sick, the imprisoned, the disabled, youth or the aged. Some will assist in the area of social justice or health care or ecumenism. Others exercise administrative talents in diocesan or parish councils, or in the various organisms needed to involve the wider Christian community. Specialized movements of spiritual renewal for individuals and groups, especially for families, are able to contribute greatly to the Church’s mission.
The role played by the family in the service of the Gospel is held in special honour by the Church. In my Apostolic Exhortation on the role of the Christian family in the modern world, I emphasized that "the ministry of evangelization carried out by Christian parents is original and irreplaceable" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Familiaris Consortio FC 53). In this regard, children too have a role to play and they should be encouraged to make their contribution. In the words of the Second Vatican Council: "They have their own apostolic work to do" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 12).
6. Since the primary aim of the Church’s apostolate is to announce to the world by word and action the message of Christ and to communicate to it the saving grace of Christ, the principal means of bringing this about is the ministry of the word and of the sacraments. This task is fulfilled in a specific way through the ordained ministries conferred by the Sacrament of Orders. Christ himself has instituted the ministerial priesthood to make available to the whole People of God the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is "the source and summit of the whole Christian life" (Lumen Gentium LG 11). Hence all ministry is directed to this Sacrifice as to its goal and centre.
Some lay people are called to be associated in a particular way with the activities of the bishops, priests and deacons, or to exercise certain pastoral or ministerial tasks in a stable manner. When there is a shortage of clergy, this aspect of lay ministry is particularly providential. Yet all the laity are permanently assigned by Christ himself to the service of his Gospel within the unity of his Church. The Church rejoices when clergy, religious and laity work together, each group according to its specific calling, to give a united witness to the world of a common mission - the mission of Christ.
7. There is so much to be done. There are whole areas of human life which seem to be withdrawn from any ethical or religious influences. In this situation we are reminded of Jesus: "When he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest’ " (Mt 9,36-37). The true disciple is eager to announce Christ by word, either to unbelievers so as to draw them to the faith, or to the faithful in order to instruct them, strengthen them and incite them to more fervent Christian lives (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 6). There is truly an urgent need in the Church today for more lay people engaged in teaching Christian doctrine to the young.
267 The diversities of human needs requires a diversity of response on the part of the Church. The Church is one, as is her saving Gospel and her Eucharist, but she counts on the diligence of her members to discover effective ways to face new problems and new needs. Paul VI has clearly stated the Church’s stand: "We cannot but experience a great inner joy when we see so many pastors, religious and lay people fired with their mission to evangelize, seeking ever more suitable ways of proclaiming the Gospel effectively" (Pauli VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 73).
8. We know that the foundation and the fruitfulness of every apostolate and ministry in the Church depends on our living union with Christ our Lord and Master. This life of intimate union with Christ is maintained and nourished by prayer. In a very real sense we can say that the apostolate is the unfolding of Jesus’ love for others from within ourselves. However, without that union with Christ which is fostered through prayer our energy flags, we lose fervour and we run the risk of becoming as "a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal" (1Co 13,1).
Moreover, all ministry requires the support of the whole Christian community, especially through our perseverance in prayer for each other. How we need to pray for each other! How I appreciate and need your prayers! How your bishops, priests and deacons count on your prayerful support! They know how much you contribute to the well-being of the entire Church, how much you do to promote the saving mission of the Church to the world.
9. De cette vie spirituelle et apostolique, nous trouvons un modèle dans l’humble Vierge de Nazareth, la Mère de Jésus, la Reine des Apôtres. Le Second Concile du Vatican dit d’elle: “Tandis qu’elle menait sur terre une vie semblable a celle de tous, remplie par les soins et les labeurs familiaux. Marie demeurait toujours intimement unie a son Fils et coopérait a l’oeuvre du Sauveur a un titre absolument unique. Aujourd’hui ou elle est au ciel, son amour maternel la rend attentive aux frères de son Fils dont le pèlerinage n’est pas achevé, et qui se trouvent engages dans les peines et les épreuves jusqu’à ce qu’ils parviennent a la patrie bienheureuse” (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 4)
10. Frères et soeurs, rendez grâce a Dieu pour la possibilité qu’il vous donne de servir le Christ et son Eglise. Servez avec reconnaissance et avec joie! Remerciez Dieu pour la foi que vous avez reçue dans vos foyers et vos communautés, et qui s’est répandue partout dans votre pays, et même autour du monde. Remerciez Dieu pour tous ceux qui l’ont servi avant vous, pour tous ceux qui ont annonce l’Evangile de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ au long de ces rivages de l’Atlantique. Remerciez Dieu pour vos parents, vos éducateurs et vos pasteurs qui ont été les premiers a vous initier a l’Evangile!
As a servant of Christ who loves you all, I urge you, my companions in the faith, fellow pilgrims in our journey to the Father, to listen again to the words which Saint Peter wrote to the early Christian community:
"Each of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen" (1P 4,10-11).
Central Commons (Halifax)
Friday, 14 September 1984
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you,
because by your Cross you have redeemed the world. Alleluia.
268 Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. As representatives of the People of God in the Archdiocese of Halifax, Cape Breton, all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, you are united in this acclamation of the liturgy with Archbishop Hayes and your other bishops, and with the Church throughout the world. The Catholic Church celebrates today the feast of the Triumph of the Cross of Christ. Thus the crucified Christ is lifted up by faith in the hearts of all who believe, and he too lifts up those same hearts with a hope that cannot be destroyed. For the Cross is the sign of the Redemption, and in the Redemption is contained the pledge of resurrection and the beginning of new life: the lifting up of human hearts.
At the very beginning of my service in the See of Saint Peter I endeavoured to proclaim this truth through the Encyclical "Redemptor Hominis". In this same truth I desire to be united with all of you today in the adoration of the Cross of Christ:
"Never forget the deeds of the Lord" (Ps 78,7).
2. To comply with this acclamation of today’s liturgy let us follow attentively the path traced out by these holy words in which the mystery of the Triumph of the Cross is announced to us.
In the first place, the meaning of the Old Testament is contained in these words. According to Saint Augustine, the Old Testament conceals within itself what is fully revealed in the New. Here we have the image of the bronze serpent to which Jesus referred in his conversation with Nicodemus. The Lord himself revealed the meaning of this image, saying: "The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him" (Jn 3,14-15).
During Israel’s march from Egypt to the Promised Land, God permitted - because of the murmuring of the people - a plague of poisonous snakes, as a result of which many died. When the others understood their sin they asked Moses to intercede before God: "Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents" (Nb 21,7).
Moses prayed and received the following order from the Lord: "Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live" (Ibid.21, 8). Moses obeyed the order. The bronze serpent set upon the standard became salvation from death for anyone who was bitten by the serpents.
In the Book of Genesis the serpent was a symbol of the spirit of evil. But now, by a startling reversal, the bronze serpent lifted up in the desert is a figure of Christ lifted up on the Cross.
The feast of the Triumph of the Cross recalls to our minds, and in a certain sense makes present, the lifting up of Christ on the Cross. This feast is the lifting up of the saving Christ: whoever believes in the Crucified One has eternal life.
The lifting up of Christ on the Cross gives a beginning to the lifting up of humanity through the Cross. And the final measure of this lifting up is eternal life.
269 3. This Old Testament event is recalled in the central theme of John’s Gospel.
Why are the Cross and the Crucified One the doorway to eternal life?
Because in him - Christ crucified - is manifested to the full the love of God for the world, for man.
In the same conversation with Nicodemus Christ says: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved" (Jn 3,16-17).
The salvific lifting up of the Son of God on the Cross has its eternal source in love. This is the love of the Father that sends the Son; he gives his Son for the salvation of the world. And at the same time it is the love of the Son who does not "judge" the world, but gives himself for the love of the Father and for the salvation of the world. Giving himself to the Father through the Sacrifice of the Cross, he gives himself at the same time to the world: to each person and to the whole of humanity.
The Cross contains in itself the mystery of salvation, because, in the Cross, Love is lifted up. This is the lifting up of Love to the supreme point in the history of the world: in the Cross Love is lifted up and the Cross is at the same time lifted up through Love. And from the height of the Cross, love comes down to us. Yes: "The Cross is the most profound condescension of God to man . . . The Cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man’s existence" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Dives in Misericordia DM 8).
4. To the event of John’s Gospel the Liturgy of today’s feast adds the presentation made by Paul in his Letter to the Philippians. The Apostle speaks of an emptying of Christ through the Cross; and at the same time of Christ’s being lifted up above all things - and this too had its beginning in the same Cross:
"Christ Jesus . . . emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names, so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Ph 2,6-11).
The Cross is the sign of the deepest humiliation of Christ. In the eyes of the people of that time it was the sign of an infamous death. Free men could not be punished with such a death, only slaves, Christ willingly accepts this death, death on the Cross. Yet this death becomes the beginning of the Resurrection. In the Resurrection the crucified Servant of Yahweh is lifted up: he is lifted up before the whole of creation.
At the same time the Cross is also lifted up. It ceases to be the sign of infamous death and becomes the sign of resurrection, that is, of life. Through the sign of the Cross it is not the servant or the slave who is speaking, but the Lord of all creation.
5. These three elements of today’s Liturgy - the Old Testament, the Christological hymn of Paul and the Gospel of John - form together the great wealth of the mystery of the Triumph of the Cross.
270 Finding ourselves immersed in this mystery with the Church, which throughout the world celebrates today the Triumph of the Holy Cross, I wish to share in a special way its riches with you, dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Halifax, dear people of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and all Canada.
Yes, I wish to share with all of you the riches of that Holy Cross - that standard of salvation which was implanted on your soil 450 years ago. Since that time the Cross has triumphed in this land; and, through the collaboration of thousands of Canadians, the liberating and saving message of the Cross has been spread to the ends of the earth.
6. At this time I wish to pay homage to the missionary contribution of the sons and daughters of Canada who have given their lives so "that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you" (2Th 3,1). I pay homage to the faith and love that motivated them, and to the power of the Cross that gave them strength to go out and fulfil Christ’s command: "Make disciples of all nations; baptize them in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28,20).
And in paying homage to your missionaries, I pay homage likewise to the communities throughout the world who have embraced their message and marked their graves with the Cross of Christ. The Church is grateful for the hospitality of a final resting place given to the missionaries, whence they await the definitive Triumph of the Holy Cross in the glory of resurrection and eternal life.
I express profound gratitude for the zeal that has characterized the Church in Canada, and I thank you for the prayers and contributions and various activities through which you support the missionary cause. In particular I thank you for your generosity to the mission aid societies of the Holy See.
7. Evangelization remains for all time the sacred heritage of Canada, which has indeed such a proud history of missionary activity at home and abroad. Evangelization must continue to be exercised through personal witness, by preaching hope in the promises of Jesus and by proclaiming fraternal love. It will forever be connected with the implantation and building up of the Church and have a deep relationship with development and liberation as expressions of human advancement. At the centre of the message, however, is an explicit proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ - that salvation brought about on the Cross. In the words of Paul VI: "Evangelization will also always contain - as the foundation, centre and at the same time summit of its dynamism - a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all people, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy" (Pauli VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 27).
The Church in Canada will be herself to the extent that in all her members she proclaims in word and deed the Triumph of the Cross - to the extent that she is at home and abroad an evangelizing Church.
Even as I speak these words there is Another who is speaking to the hearts of young people everywhere. It is the Holy Spirit himself and he is urging each one, as a member of Christ, to embrace and to speak the Good News of God’s love. But to some the Spirit is proposing the command of Jesus in its specific missionary form: Go and make disciples of all nations. Before the whole Church, I, John Paul II, proclaim once again the excelling value of the missionary vocation. And I assure all those called to the priesthood and religious life that our Lord Jesus Christ is ready to accept and make fruitful the special sacrifice of their lives, in celibacy, for the Triumph of the Cross.
8. Aujourd’hui l’Eglise, en annonçant l’Evangile, revit d’une certaine manière toute la période qui commence le Mercredi des Cendres, atteint son sommet lors de la Semaine Sainte et a Pâques, et se prolonge au cours des semaines suivantes jusqu’à la Pentecôte. La Fête de la Gloire de la Sainte Croix est comme un abrégé de tout le Mystère Pascal de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ.
La Croix est “glorieuse”, parce que sur elle le Christ est élevé.
Par elle, le Christ a “élevé” l’homme. Sur la Croix, chaque personne est véritablement élevée a sa pleine dignité - a la dignité de sa En dernière en Dieu.
271 Par la Croix aussi, est révélée la puissance de l’Amour qui élève l’homme, qui l’exalte.
Vraiment, tout le plan de Dieu sur la vie chrétienne, sur la vie humaine, est condense et repris ici d’une manière merveilleuse: le plan de Dieu et son sens! Donnons notre adhésion a ce plan de Dieu - et a son sens! Retrouvons la place de la Croix dans notre vie et dans notre société.
Parlons de la croix particulièrement a tous ceux qui souffrent, et transmettons son message d’espérance aux jeunes. Continuons a proclamer jusqu’aux extrémités de la terre son pouvoir sauveur: Exaltatio Crucis! la Gloire de la Sainte Croix!
Brothers and sisters: "Never forget the deeds of the Lord"! Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 261