S. John Paul II Homil. 566




Island of Gozo

Saturday, 26 May 1990

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

" My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord " (Lc 1,46).

1. These joyful words, drawn from the Responsorial Psalm of todayís liturgy, were first spoken by the Blessed Virgin Mary as she reflected upon the " great things " which God had done for her and for his Chosen People. How appropriate it is that the Church in Gozo should echo Maryís song of praise at this Shrine of Our Lady Taí Pinu, as we celebrate the ancient faith of the Maltese and Gozitan people and rejoice in the bonds of ecclesial communion which have always united them to the Apostolic See!

At this, the first Mass which I celebrate since my arrival in Malta, I give thanks for the many blessings which God has bestowed upon the people of these islands from the time when the Apostle Paul first preached the Gospel among you. In greeting you all with affection in the Lord, I assure you of my prayer that Christís peace will always find a dwelling place in your hearts and in your homes. To Bishop Cauchi I express my gratitude for his words of welcome, which have given voice to the traditional faith of the Gozitan people, their deep love of this beautiful land, and their hope that the blessings of nature which God has destined for all mankind may be safeguarded for the benefit of future generations.

2. This morning, we celebrate our communion with the Church of every time and place, that Church of which the Blessed Virgin Mary stands out as the pre-eminent member (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 53). At this venerable Shrine of Our Lady Taí Pinu, we give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for the loving presence and protection of his Virgin Mother which the Church in Malta and Gozo has experienced throughout its history. For centuries, the faithful of these islands have drawn near to Mary in prayer and have sought her loving intercession to aid them in their needs and to comfort them in their distress. In calling Mary blessed among women, they have echoed the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Cfr. Luc. Lc 1,28), and fulfilled the prophecy which she herself uttered to her kinswoman Elizabeth: "From this day forward all generations will call me blessed" (Ibid. 1, 48).

In a very special way, Mary has been the patroness of the Christian families of Malta and Gozo as they have sought to fulfil their unique role in Godís plan for the salvation of the human race. We may be confident that with a motherís love Mary has not failed to intercede for generations of parents and children, inspiring in them that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (Cfr. Ps. Ps 110 [109], 10) and accompanying them on their pilgrimage of faith.

Today, Maltaís families must still rely upon Maryís motherly protection and care, as they face new challenges to the fulfilment of their vital mission to individuals and all society! In Godís plan, the family is where children learn what it means to be responsible individuals and members of a larger community, where they first encounter the virtues of unselfish love and self-sacrifice, and where they first come to understand the mystery of Godís love as it is expressed in the love of their parents. Since the family is the "first and vital cell of society" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11), the spiritual health of its families will always be the fundamental measure of a societyís strength. May the families of Malta and Gozo never hesitate to look to Mary, the Mother of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Mother of all mankind in the order of grace (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 62), as a sure guide amid lifeís challenges and trials!

567 3. In the Gospel of todayís Mass, we are invited to reflect on Maryís maternal cooperation in the divine mission of her Son. Saint John tells us that at the wedding feast of Cana, when Jesus began his public ministry by turning the water into wine, he worked the miracle at the urging of his Mother, who was concerned for the needs of the guests. Meditating upon this passage of Scripture down the ages, the Church has come to understand that the confident words which Mary spoke to the servantsó " Do whatever he tells you " (Jn 2,5), are a mysterious indication of Maryís unique maternal role in the entire economy of Christís grace. As a mother, " Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and suffering " (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Mater RMA 21).

Out of loving concern for others, she brings all mankindís needs within the radius of Christís saving power.

Towards the end of Johnís Gospel, Mary appears once again, this time standing at the foot of the Cross. What more powerful image could the Evangelist have given us of Maryís profound spiritual union with the redemptive mission of her Son? When from the Cross Jesus says to the Beloved Disciple, "Behold your Mother!" (Jn 19,27), he entrusts Mary to us, to each one of his disciples, to be our Mother too. At the foot of the Cross, Mary is fully revealed as Mother of the Church, Mater Ecclesiae inviting each of us to trust in her prayers. Let us never hesitate to turn to her!

How often, in your families, do you feel powerless in the face of painful and apparently insoluble situations? How many people find it a constant struggle to forgive longstanding grudges, or to overcome deeply-rooted feelings of anger, hostility, jealousy or resentment? How many people desperately long for someone they love to abandon a way of life or a course of action which they know will only lead to frustration and unhappiness? And how frequently do our hearts go out to someone who is caught up in the toils of mental anguish or a bitter grief which knows no consolation? At moments like these, should we not trust in Maryís loving intercession, confident that the most hopeless of human situations can be transformed by the saving power of Jesus, who in answer to her request turned water into wine, who died on the Cross that we might live forever?

4. Maryís cooperation in the mystery of Godís plan as it unfolded in the Incarnation of her Son invites all Christian parents and children to think about their own vocation to be cooperators in the mystery of Godís grace at work within their families. Our faith teaches us that each human life, beginning at the moment of conception, is a gift from the Creator and endowed with an infinite value in his eyes. Our faith reminds us that all human beings have been created in Godís own image and likeness and given a vocation and destiny that will find their ultimate fulfilment beyond this earthly existence, in a communion of life and love with the Blessed Trinity. Faith also teaches us that we are united with all other members of the human race in a deep moral solidarity, that our actions and choices have consequences not only for ourselves but for others, and that we shall be judged by the measure of our love and concern for the least of our brothers and sisters.

Is it not in the life of their families that most people come to learn the magnificent truth which lies behind these profound affirmations of Christian faith? Unfortunately, it is easy for individuals and families to be so caught up in the many anxieties of daily life that they fail to stand back, put their lives in spiritual perspective, and rediscover the truth of their own vocation. How tragic this is, for without a spirit of prayer and meditation how can we discern Godís will for us, turn to him in obedience and love, and thus experience the happiness and peace for which he created us?

For this reason, I encourage all of you to pray constantly (Cfr. 1Th 5,17), especially within your families, in humble thanksgiving for everything that God in his goodness has done for you. Ask him every day to help you to remain faithful to the vocation which he has given you in Christ! Do not be afraid to bring before him all your hopes, your needs and concerns. Parents, pray for your children, that they may grow in the new life which they received in Baptism. Children, pray for your parents, for you too have a part to play in making them holy (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 48). Moreover, as members of a greater family, pray in union with Christís Body throughout the world for the needs of all humanity: for the sick and the oppressed, for the leaders of nations, for those who labour for justice and peace among peoples, and for those who promote responsible stewardship of the natural environment. Pray for all those who in any way give glory to God by humbly serving the needs of their brothers and sisters. And whether your work is at home, in the fields or at sea, in the factories or in Maltaís growing tourist industry, offer it to the Lord as a pleasing sacrifice in preparation for the coming of his kingdom!

In the past, Maltaís strong family life has provided a solid basis for the stability and harmonious development of society. In the present age can the families of Malta and Gozo continue to meet this urgent challenge? Like many societies, yours is not immune to a kind of spiritual disorientation caused by rapid social changes and the attraction of value systems and modes of behaviour which run counter to the deepest convictions which have moulded your identity as a people. Today, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Reconciliation and Queen of Peace, I ask all of you to pray with me that Maltaís families will be the crucible in which your society will forge a renewed commitment to the Gospel values which are its most precious inheritance from the past!

5. As "the Church journeys through time towards the consummation of the ages and goes to meet the Lord who comes... she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary, who Ďadvanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the Crossí" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Mater RMA 2). My brothers and sisters: As you seek to persevere in your own pilgrimage of faith, I commend your families to Maryís maternal protection and prayers. May she, who "pondered in her heart" (Lc 2,51), the mystery of Godís love as it was revealed in the life of her Son, guide parents and children to respond fully to the vocation which they have received as sons and daughters of God, redeemed by Christ and born again in the Holy Spirit (Cfr. Io. Jn 3,5). May she guide the Churchís pastors in their catechesis and ministry to young people and to those about to marry. And may she guide all those responsible in any way for the public welfare, that they may respect and support family life by wise and prudent legislation, rejecting as harmful to the good of society everything that would ignore or deny Godís plan for the family and lessen respect for the gift of human life.

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist at this Sanctuary which the love and devotion of generations of Maltese Catholics have raised to Mary the Mother of God, may our voices be joined to hers as we praise God for the many graces which he has bestowed upon his people in Malta and Gozo:

"The Almighty has done great things for me!".
568 Yes, "the Almighty has done great things" among us!
He has done "great things" for all his people! Amen.



Granaries Square, Floriana

Sunday, 27 May 1990

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. Today, the solemnity of the Lordís Ascension, is a day of great rejoicing! The Church throughout the world rejoices as Jesus Christ returns in glory to the right hand of the Father. Today the Catholics of Malta have a special reason to rejoice, for they are gathered around this altar with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, who has come to confirm his brethren in faith and love (Cfr. Luc. Lc 22,23). In the unity of the Spirit (Cfr. Eph. Ep 4,3), I greet with great affection and esteem Archbishop Mercieca and Bishop Cauchi, and all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo. My greetings go as well to the public authorities and all of Maltaís people, upon whom I invoke the grace and peace of the Risen Lord and the consolation of his Holy Spirit.

The glorious event which todayís liturgy recalls was still a vivid memory among the first disciples of Jesus when Christianity came to Malta through the preaching and witness of Saint Paul. Today, over nineteen hundred years later, belief in the Crucified and Risen Saviour has left a profound mark upon the soul of the Maltese people, and found eloquent expression in many aspects of your national life. It is appropriate that on this joyful occasion we should give thanks for the faith which Malta received from the Apostles, and for the "infinitely great power" (Cfr. Eph. Ep 1,19), with which the Lord Jesus Christ has brought forth abundant fruits of holiness in the lives of its people for so many centuries. As we meet at this altar, I ask God our heavenly Father to inspire in Maltaís Catholics an ever deeper unity of mind, heart and spirit, that you may worthily proclaim, in words and in deeds, the atonement and reconciliation which Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross and which he continues to accomplish through the ministry of the Church, his Body!

2. In the first Reading of todayís Mass, Saint Luke tells us that, after "Jesus gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit", he "was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight" (Ac 1,2 Ac 1,9). Just as in the Old Testament the cloud was frequently a sign of the saving presence of God among his people, so today, as it conceals Jesus, it is a reassuring sign that the Risen Lord, in returning to the glory that was his from the beginning, has not abandoned us at all. Instead, he remains truly present and at work in our midst, until the day when he will come again in glory. Although Jesus has left the earth and returned to his heavenly Father we have his word that he will never leave his Church. Jesus promises to be with us "always; yes, to the end of time" (Mt 28,20).

In the mystery of Godís plan for the Church and for all mankind, the Ascension marks a turning-point, the beginning of a new stage in Jesusí relationship to his disciples. Seated at Godís right hand in heaven, the Risen Lord is now present in "the Church, which is his body" (Ep 1,22-23), through the power of the Holy Spirit. By the indwelling of the Spirit in their hearts, believers in every age receive a share in that communion of perfect love that is the life of the Blessed Trinity. And they are given the grace to follow the Lord in a way that can overcome the world (Cfr. Io. Jn 16,33), and its ancient burden of hostility, sin and division.

The Holy Spirit dwells within the Church, and it is he who enables all believers to work effectively for the coming of the Kingdom, to witness to the truth of the Gospel and to the reality of the redemption which we have received through the blood of the Cross. Through the Spiritís power the Church is confident that she will indeed fulfil the solemn charge which Jesus left to his followers, to "make disciples of all the nations" and to "baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28,19). "Sent by Christ to reveal and communicate the love of God to all men and nations" (Ad Gentes AGD 10), the Church knows that only in the Spirit will she succeed in her divine mission of drawing all mankind to Christ, and in bringing to society the grace and peace which he won for us on Calvary.

3. Today, at the close of my visit, I invite the Church in Malta to meditate on the quality of its response to the great mission which Jesus gave his disciples as he returned to the Father: "You will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth" (Act. 1, 8). I ask you to reflect upon the noble witness of fidelity to the Gospel which the people of these islands have given through the centuries. Beginning with Saint Publius, a great army of confessors, many of whose names are known only to God, has stood fast and maintained the faith, handing it down from generation to generation, even in the face of persecution and adversity. And what of the vast numbers of missionaries who have gone forth from Maltaís shores, the many priests and religious whose apostolic labours have strengthened the Church at home, the parents whose faithful perseverance in the faith has borne such rich fruit in devotion and goodness among their children? Truly we can praise God for this witness in the words which Saint Paul himself uses in todayís second Reading: "How infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers"! (Ep 1,19).

569 But it is not enough to reflect with humility and gratitude upon Godís gifts to you in the past. Today, the Church in Malta must also listen to Christís voice as he challenges you to continue to bear witness to the power of his reconciling love. How many of you have shared with me your sorrow at the serious divisions which are felt at different levels of your society! Can any Christian believe that these divisions are from God? Does not our faith teach us that the root of all hostility among individuals and groups is sin, that ancient sin that ignores and rejects the image of God in our neighbour? In the end, are not all human divisions the fruit of a sinful "refusal of Godís fatherly love and of his loving gifts"? (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 10). In the light of the faith which we profess, can we ever justify hostility towards our neighbour or believe that we are exempted from the Lordís command to love our enemies and to forgive " from the heart " (Cfr. Matth. Mt 18,35), those who sin against us?

Dear Brothers and Sisters: in the name of Jesus Christ, I solemnly appeal to all of you today to examine yourselves (Cfr. 1Co 11,28), and to put an end to everything that prevents the healing of wounds which have been left open too long. In the name of Jesus Christ, I plead with you to make a new beginning of forgiveness and respect for one another. With confidence in the sovereign power of Godís grace, especially as it comes to you in the Sacrament of Penance, may you be sustained in the difficult work of restoring mutual respect and dialogue on every level of your national and social life. A major task for all of Maltaís Christians is to lay aside grudges and overcome division, whether it be in your families, your place of work, or in political life. Today, the Lord is challenging each of you to translate the faith which you have received into a living and vibrant witness to the power of his reconciling love. And he is asking you to join with all of your brothers and sisters, none excluded, in building a society worthy of Maltaís distinguished tradition of Christian faith and virtue!

4. In todayís liturgy, we have heard Saint Paul pray for the unity and peace of the Christians at Ephesus. I make his prayer my own as I address you, my dear brothers and sisters of the Churches of Malta and Gozo. I pray that God our Father will always "enlighten the eyes of your minds so that you can see what hope his call holds for you" (Ep 1,18-19).

May he enlighten you! In these last years of the Second Millennium, how clear it is that so many men and women need to be "enlightened"by Godís grace, so that they will recognize all that is inconsistent with their dignity as sons and daughters of God, made in his image and likeness (Cfr. Gen. Gn 1,26-27), and called to grow into a life that will have no end. In these days, as we look to Eastern Europe and observe the collapse of materialistic ideologies which sought to deprive man of his very soul, we cannot fail to notice elsewhere the rise of a practical materialism, a new idolatry, which also threatens to smother the spirit. How much do Christians need to be "enlightened" by Christ so they may reject as incompatible with authentic human freedom and dignity the new culture of consumerism, which glorifies pleasure as an end in itself, without reference to the moral law, and ultimately denies our solidarity with those in need!

May he enlighten you! More than once in her history, Malta has been admired and praised for her uncompromising defence of the Christian faith and her willingness to endure heroic sacrifices for the sake of the culture which that faith nourished and sustained. In our own days, as Europe prepares to enter a new period of its history, a period filled with fresh hopes and challenges, Malta is called to contribute to the spiritual unity of the Old Continent by offering her treasures of Christian faith and values. Europe needs Maltaís faithful witness too!

5. Our celebration of the Ascension reminds us that Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father as the Judge of the living and the dead, the Judge of all mankind and all history. "How infinitely great is his power!" (Ep 1,19). By his Death on the Cross, Jesus laid bare once and for all the tragic consequences of Adamís sin and brought reconciliation and peace to all mankind.

Never fail to trust in that power! Jesus has transformed the world and made it a new creation. In Jesus, the second Adam, each of you, by virtue of Baptism, has been called to cooperate in preparing this world for his coming in glory and the full establishment of his Kingdom "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace" (Missale Romanum, ęPraefatio in Sollemnitate Christi universorum RegisĽ). Never doubt that our Saviour, "who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Ep 3,20), will equip you for every good work and enable you to fulfil the mission to which he has called you!

"Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there" (Act. 1, 11). As the Church "waits in joyful hope" for her Lord to return in glory, I pray that in your families, in your local Churches, in your social and political life, each of you will cooperate faithfully in Christís work of building his Kingdom until the day, known only to the Father, when he will return in glory. Amen.

Remarks at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Celebration:

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

The power of the Almighty God brought the Apostle Paul to the shores of Malta. That was the beginning of a new era, of a Christian era, and it was here that he evangelized your forefathers, but his destination was Rome; and when he went to Rome, he joined Peter, and he probably spoke to the Apostle Peter about Malta. But it seems to me that it was necessary to wait almost 2,000 years until one of the successors of Peter in Rome could visit Malta.

570 What should I do now? It was not possible for Paul to remain in Malta. It is also, and more so, impossible for Peter to remain in Malta. So I shall return to Rome and I shall meet Paul. It is necessary to meet Paul and to tell him about Malta.

I shall say, "Paul, do you remember Malta? Do you remember that you founded a Church in Malta, and I found after so many centuries that it is wonderful church. It is a very strong people. Malta has good Catholic people; and returning to Rome, I shall say to the Italian people in the language you also understand 'Sia lodato Gesý Cristo'".

But where did I learn these words? The first time I pronounced these words was after my election, but I learned these words in my native country, and there are some Polish people here. I should say to them, but then you could not so easily understand...

So, after my visit in Malta I shall do all that in Rome and for the moment, I also, only for the moment, shall speak in your native language.




Dar-es-Salaam, Jangwani Grounds

Sunday, 2 September 1990

Yesu asema: "Mimi ndimi Mchungaji Mwema... autoaye uhai wake kwa ajili ya kondoo wake. Nawajua walio wangu, nao walio wangu wanijua mimi".

(Jesus says: "I am the Good Shepherd... who lays down his life for his sheep. I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10,11 Jn 10,14).

Ndugu zangu katika Kristu!
(Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ)!
Wanangu wapendwa!
571 (Sons and Daughters)!
Tumsifu Yesu Kristu!
(Praised be Jesus Christ)!

1. Ninayo furaha kubwa sana kuwa pamoja nanyi!
(I am very happy to be with you)!

Today, in Dar-es-Salaam, we join together in celebrating the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of the Churchís unity as the one flock of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Jesus is present in our midst! We hear His words, the words of everlasting life (Cfr. Io.
Jn 6,68), and we receive His Body and Blood, offered on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Yes, the Lord is among usó the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep!

The Pope, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, has come to Tanzania to pray with you and confirm you in your Catholic faith; to enter into a spiritual dialogue with all the people of this vast and beautiful country. Ninatoa salamu za upendo kwa Wakristu wote nchini Tanzania na kwa namna ya pekee ninamsalimu Mwadhama Kardinali Laurean Rugambwa na Askofu Mkuu Polycarp Pengo, wa Jimbo Kuu la Dar-es-Salaam, na ndugu zangu Maaskofu wa Majimbo ya Arusha, Dodoma, Mahenge, Mbulu, Morogoro, Moshi, Same, Tanga na Zanzibar.

(I greet with affection the members of the Church in Tanzania! My special greeting goes to Cardinal Laurean Rugambwa and Archbishop Polycarp Pengo of the Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam, and to my Brother Bishops of the Dioceses of Arusha, Dodoma, Mahenge, Mbulu, Morogoro, Moshi, Same, Tanga and Zanzibar).

I greet the clergy and religious from throughout Tanzania who are your guides in the way of faith, hope and love. I express also my deep gratitude and esteem to the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and to the civil authorities present at this Mass, and to all those who assisted in any way in the planning and preparation of my Pastoral Visit to your land.

In a particular way, my greeting goes to those who are being ordained to the priesthood. From their families and parishes these young men have been called to be configured to Christ, the eternal High Priest, in order that they in turn might become shepherds of His people, preachers of His word and ministers of His sacraments (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 28). Jesus gives them a share in His own priesthood so that they may act in His person to offer the sacrifice of the New Covenant in the Eucharistic liturgy, to exercise the ministry of reconciliation and help all the faithful to live in holiness and peace, according to the vocation that each one has received as a member of Christís Body, the Church (Cfr. ibid).

2. In todayís First Reading, the Lord tells the Prophet Jeremiah that his vocation was part of Godís eternal plan even before he was born:

572 "Neno la Bwana lilinijia, kusema,
Kabla sijakuumba katika tumbo nalikujua,
na kabla hujatoka tumboni, nalikutakasa,
nikakuweka kuwa nabii wa Mataifa".

("The Word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying):
(Before I formed you in the womb I knew you);
(before you came to birth I consecrated you);
(I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations") (Ier. 1, 4-5).

These words remind us that each person has a place in Godís plan and that each of us should carefully listen to Godís voice in prayer in order to discover the special calling we have received in Christ. In many other ways too we learn to know Godís will: through important events in our lives, through the example and wisdom of others, and through the prayerful judgment of His Church. Among all these channels of Godís grace, the family has a special role in fostering the Christian vocation of its members. In a very real way, each Christian family is a "school of Christ", a place where children first learn to know and love God, to obey His word and to respond to His call. In families "which are alive with the spirit of faith, love and reverence" (Optatam Totius
OT 2), the light of faith can shine forth in the lives of children, and the seed of a vocation can receive the nourishment it needs to blossom and grow strong.

Leo napenda kutoa heshima zangu kwa familia za kikristu hapa Tanzania.
(Today the Pope wishes to pay homage to the Christian families of Tanzania).

573 To all of you I express the Churchís deep esteem for your commitment to the vocation which you have received from God. At this Mass of Ordination, I also express my gratitude to the parents of those who will soon become priests. In the homes which you have created, these young men first discovered the mystery of Godís love. I pray that your homes will always be filled with the warmth and joy of that love!

3. Dear friends: let us think of the many concrete ways in which the Christian vocation, and the call to priesthood in particular, is fostered by Catholic families. In the first place, families are schools of prayer: Familia ni shule ya sala. A household marked by prayer will daily instill in children a lively sense of the need to turn to God with confidence at all times, and especially when lifeís inevitable difficulties and trials come their way. How important this lesson is for those who will become priests! Since the priest must teach others to pray, both as individuals and as a liturgical community, he must himself be a man of deep prayer and spiritual maturity.

Families are also schools of fidelity and love: Familia ni shule ya uaminifu na upendo. Within the Sacrament of Marriage, the fidelity of husband and wife in living out their marriage vows and in raising their children becomes an effective sign of the undying faithfulness of Christ to His Church. For his part, the priest is called to be faithful to a life of celibacy as a sign of his consecration to Christ and to the service of the Church. From his parents a priest can first learn the meaning and understand the value of life-long fidelity to Godís call; where marital fidelity is held in high esteem, the priest will value his calling and its demands all the more.

In a similar way, the relationship of love and sacrifice which unites parents and their children makes the family a school of obedience and trust: Familia ni shule ya utii na kuaminiana. These virtues, which are often first learned in the early years of oneís life, are paramount in the life and ministry of a priest, for he will often be called upon to submit his will freely to the decisions and judgment of his superiors for the sake of the Gospel and the good of the ecclesial community.

Finally, families are schools of mercy: Familia ni shule ya huruma. The priest is called to be a dispenser of Godís mercy, through the ministry of the sacraments, especially in his willing and sensitive encounter with souls in the Sacrament of Penance. If he has been raised in a loving Christian family, he will have learned the meaning of mercy from his parents, and especially from the acts of mercy and mutual forgiveness expressed in family life. For do we not learn to be merciful from the experience of mercy which we have received? Just as we freely receive forgiveness and new life in Christ from God "who is rich in mercy" (
Ep 2,4), so too we must generously share these gifts with others.

4. Na sasa niseme machache kwa hawa watakaopewa daraja ya Upadre.
(I now address a special word to those who are about to be ordained priests).

Dear young brothers in the Lord: how often have you heard the words of Saint Paul proclaimed in the Second Reading of todayís Mass? The Apostle says: "It is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesusí sake" (2Co 4,5). Take these words to heart as a programme for your life and ministry! "Kwa maana hatujihubiri wenyewe, bali Kristo Yesu". Yeye ni Bwana, nasi ni watumishi wake tusiostahili. (Yes, "it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus!" He is the Lord, and we are his unworthy servants).

In the end, as Saint Paul says, "we are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us" (Ibid. 7).

These words should inspire in each of you a deep humility as you realize that it is only "by an act of mercy" (Ibid. 1), that you have received this ministry from Christ. All Christians are called to die to sin and selfishness and live humbly the vocation that God has given them. How much more those who have been made "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Co 4,1)? And like all disciples, you must give evidence that you have learned to place Godís will above your own desires and projects and to spend yourselves generously in the service of your brothers and sisters, especially the weak and the poor.

5. Jesus says: "I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock and one shepherd" (Jn 10,15-16).

574 Dear sons: The one flock of which Jesus speaks is the Church, the assembly of those men and women of every time and place who have been gathered by Godís word and made holy by the Blood of the Lamb. The small group of disciples who gathered in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the Upper Room at Pentecost were the beginning of that one flock. And through the continued protection and prayers of Mary, Mother of the Church, that flock will continue to grow throughout the world, bringing the light of Christ to all peoples, until the end of time!

By Godís grace, you have been called to gather and feed that flock. Strengthened by the Sacrament which you are about to receive, you will be sent forth into the world to bring the Gospel message of peace and reconciliation to all whom you meet. Huu ndio wito wenu bora sana kama watumishi wa Yesu Kristu aliye Mchungaji Mwema. Ninarudia neno la Bwana alilosema kwa Nabii Yeremia: "Usiogope". (This is your sublime vocation as ministers of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd! Today, I repeat, to you the Lordís words to Jeremiah: "Do not be afraid!") (Ier. 1, 8).

Yes! Do not be afraid, for you have heard the Lordís promise: "I am with you to protect you... There! I am putting my words into your mouth!" (Ibid. 1, 8-9).

Through the power of His Spirit, God "has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of His glory, the glory on the face of Christ" (
2Co 4,6). As ministers of Godís grace in the Church, may you grow in the image of Him in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Cfr. Col. Col 2,9). To be an Alter Christus is not a title of human dignity but an obligation to be like Him "who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20,28).

May Almighty God help you to live fully the sublime vocation He has given you in Christ! Ninamwomba Mungu Mwenyezi, Baba, Mwana na Roho Mtakatifu, awashushie wingi wa baraka zake ninyi mtakaopewa daraja ya Upadre na nyote mlio hapa leo. Amina. (Upon you, dear brothers, and upon all present here today, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen).

S. John Paul II Homil. 566