S. John Paul II Homil. 652
Tuesday, 19 September 1995
"Let us praise the Lord, the source of life".
653 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. Last year, the Special Session for Africa of the Synod of Bishops held its working session in Rome, close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter. Now, a year later, the results of the Synod have been gathered in the Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa”, and the Successor of Peter comes to the Church in Africa to encourage everyone to heed the Synod’s message and to put it into practice. I gladly greet my dear Brother, Cardinal Otunga, and the members of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, as well as the Bishops of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa. I greet the priests, deacons, seminarians, the Religious Sisters and Brothers, the lay men and women, young and old alike. I extend a cordial welcome to the members of the other Christian denominations and the followers of other religious traditions. I extend a special greeting to His Excellency the President as well as to the others authorities of city and state for their welcome presence.
With heartfelt gratitude to God I am making this journey through Africa. Each stage of this journey of celebration emphasizes one or other of the guiding themes of the Synod: at Yaoundé in Cameroon, the vital question of the evangelization of culture and inculturation; at Johannesburg in the Republic of South Africa, the question of peace and justice in society and in the Church; and now here in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, we direct our attention to the agents of evangelization, and especially the family.
2. "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,3).
With these words from the Letter to the Ephesians this whole Eucharistic Assembly turns to the Father, to whom the Church prays each day with the words of the Lord’s Prayer. We turn to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, the Eternal Word, Africa – the continent of families, races and peoples – like the whole of human history, is brought into God’s eternal plan realized in Christ, the only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts turn to the Father who, in Christ, has bestowed on us every spiritual blessing, choosing us in him before the world began, and predestining us in love, through Christ, to be his own adopted children (Cf. ibid. 1: 4-5). Because of the Son’s unfailing love for us, we have been redeemed and our sins have been forgiven through his blood. Therefore we say: "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".
The Crucified and Risen Lord has become the Head of the Church, his Mystical Body, which makes its pilgrim way to the fullness of time, the final coming, when the whole of creation will be filled with the glory of the living God. This is the faith we profess each day in the Eucharist, when we say after the consecration: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
3. I ardently wish to associate with this Eucharistic Celebration here in Nairobi, the whole great family of the peoples of Africa, beginning with the people of Kenya.
Kristu ndiye Amani Yetu. Watu wa Kenya msichoke kuomba Amani na kufanya kazi inayoleta amani.
(Christ is our peace! People of Kenya, never tire of praying for peace and of working for peace).
Je voudrais réunir autour de cet autel les peuples du Cameroun et de la République sud-africaine que je viens de quitter; les peuples du Zaïre, qui peinent encore pour rassembler de manière démocratique leurs différentes composantes, et ceux du Congo; ceux du Malawi et du Mozambique, de Zambie et du Zimbabwe, du Lesotho et du Swaziland, du Botswana et de Namibie. J’invite à venir près de cet autel les peuples de l’Angola, meurtris par de longues années de guerre civile. J’appelle les peuples du Sénégal, du Cap-Vert, de São Tomé et Príncipe; les peuples de la région du Sahel, du Burkina-Faso, du Niger, du Mali et de Mauritanie.
J’appelle la Tunisie, le Maroc et l’Algérie-pays à majorité musulmane mais qui ont connu une présence du christianisme dès ses premiers siècles. J’appelle la Côte-d’Ivoire, le Ghana, le Togo et le Bénin; la Gambie, la Guinée-Bissau, la République de Guinée, la Guinée équatoriale, le Gabon, la Sierra Leone et le Libéria. Me tournant vers le centre de l’Afrique, j’invite les peuples nombreux du Nigéria, avec près de cent millions d’habitants; la République centrafricaine, et l’Ouganda des Martyrs.
654 J’appelle l’Egypte, la Libye, et le Soudan où, il y a quelques années, j’ai honoré les reliques de la bienheureuse Joséphine Bakhita: enfant, elle avait été vendue comme esclave; après avoir été rachetée, elle fut baptisée et devint religieuse; elle mena une vie exemplaire et fut élevée à l’honneur des autels pour devenir la patronne céleste de son pays d’origine si troublé, Patronne céleste du Soudan.
J’appelle les peuples du Burundi et du Rwanda. J’ai de vifs souvenirs de mes visites dans ces pays magnifiques en des temps de paix, alors qu’aujourd’hui, nous pensons tous avec tristesse, avec préoccupation, au terrible conflit ethnique encore latent après avoir englouti tant de victimes innocentes. Pendant le Synode africain, nous, les Pasteurs de l’Église, nous avons ressenti le devoir d’exprimer notre consternation, notre préoccupation et de lancer un appel au pardon et à la réconciliation: c’est la seule manière de dissiper les menaces qui planent sur l’Afrique de l’ethnocentrisme qui, ces derniers temps, a si brutalement touché le Rwanda et le Burundi.
A cette grande assemblée eucharistique, j’appelle les peuples du Tchad, et des terres antiques de l’Éthiopie, qui sont venus, en cette deuxième partie de la liturgie, aujourd’hui avec nous, de la Somalie, de l’Érythrée et de Djibouti. Nos pensées vont aussi à la Tanzanie, au pied du Mont Kilimandjaro. Je salue Madagascar et les Iles de l’Océan indien, avec leurs peuples d’origine africaine et indienne, Maurice, la Réunion, les Seychelles et les Comores.
4. In the past I have been able to visit most of these countries, meeting the great African family of peoples. Where it has not yet been possible I hope some day to go. The question is often asked: why does the Pope visit Africa so often? One reason stands out: Africa is the continent of the family, and the future of the Church’s evangelizing mission passes through the family.
At the highest point of his creative work, God called man into existence; "male and female he created them" (Gn 1,27). The Book of Genesis goes on to say: "A man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body" (Ibid. 2: 24). Through the union of husband and wife, the miracle of creation is renewed over and over again; the miracle by which the Creator calls into life a new being, made in his own image and likeness. The married couple, man and woman united before God, form a singular unity which must be permanent and indissoluble if the familyis to become a true community of life and love, if it is to guarantee the future of its children, if it is to be the "domestic church" and the principal place of evangelization, as called for by the African Synod.
The family is fundamental in Africa! African society is deeply rooted in the family! This is a treasure which must be preserved and never underestimated, since every weakening of the family is the source of intractable problems. If a utilitarian and materialistic notion of the family prevails, its members tend to have expectations and make individualistic demands which sunder its unity and its capacity to build harmony and educate in solidarity.
On the contrary, where the family is seen as a value in itself, the members realize that their personal good coincides with their duty to love, respect and help each other. Their affective bonding and mutual support help them to face all kinds of challenges together and to overcome many difficult moments.
5. Cana in Galilee tells us about the family and evangelization. Jesus went there with his Mother and the Apostles for a wedding feast. When his Mother pointed out that there was no more wine, he changed the water into wine. Mary played a special part in this first miracle of Jesus. Her maternal sensitivity wanted to save the couple from shame, for she knew that her Son would not let her down. So she says to the waiters: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5). Jesus orders them to fill the jars with water, and to take some to the steward. When the steward had tasted it, hecalled the bridegroom and said: "People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now" (Ibid. 2: 10). What is indeed striking about this passage is the very fact that the Lord started his messianic activity from the family.
Cana in Galilee tells us that the family is the first place of evangelization. It tells us that while both parents are responsible in all things for the family, it is the mother who is generally the first evangelizer. It was Mary who declared: "Do whatever he tells you" (Ibid. 2: 5). Experience shows that it is often Christian mothers who are the first to teach the truth about God, the first to join their children’s hands in prayer and to pray with them. Mothers teach their children to distinguish good from evil. They teach them the commandments of God, both the commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the commandments of love of God and love of neighbour which Jesus put at the heart of the Christian moral life. The magnificent vocation and responsibility of parents, and in the first place of mothers, consists not only in bringing children into the world, but also in leading them to spiritual maturity. The family is the natural environment in which this task can be fulfilled. The educational role of the family is never easy, but it is always a sublime and noble human enterprise.
Even before parishes and schools, mothers and fathers are the teachers of the Beatitudes enunciated in today’s Gospel. The Beatitudes are the full programme of the Christian life: of life in spirit and in truth (cf. Jn. Jn 4,23). They teach us to show mercy, to preserve purity of heart, to love one another and build peace. They teach poverty of spirit, which is a person’s greatest wealth. They teach us to console the afflicted; to hunger and thirst for what is right. They teach us meekness, which is that inner silence which gives us control of ourselves and of our circumstances. Likewise, the Beatitudes teach us to suffer persecution for the sake of justice. This is the law of those who journey towards the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (Cf. Ap 21,4). For this reason, Jesus says: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven" (Mt 5,12).
6. In transmitting the Gospel spirit, Christian families have a perfect model in the Holy Family of Nazareth. We should not imagine that the Holy Family was exempt from problems, trials and suffering. The Holy Family knew poverty, danger, persecution and flight. Hard work provided the repetitive context of its daily life. It is not the absence of hardships that is the measure of a happy family life, but the courage and fidelity and love – for one another and for God – with which the family members meet trials, and either overcome them or accept them as expressions of God’s will, and as opportunities to share in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
655 In our faith and in our devotion, the Holy Family stands out as the living Gospel of Life, the Gospel of Work and the Gospel of Love.At the opening and closing of the recent Year of the Family, an initiative of the United Nations which the Holy See adopted as a spiritual and moral challenge, a Pontifical Legate went to Nazareth to dedicate that Year in a special way to the Holy Family. It was during that Year that the working session of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was held. It was a providential incentive for the Synod Fathers to underline the importance of the family in evangelization and to see the Church herself as the Family of God in Africa and in the world.
7. May African families find in the Holy Family of Nazareth the path of their safe journey through the upheavals of social change which threatens to uproot them materially and spiritually from their healthy roots!
May the Christian families of this Continent experience an outpouring of the strength and joy of the Holy Spirit, for the great task of being evangelized in order to be evangelizers.
Njoo Roho Mtakatifu, Uzijaze Roho za Waumini wako, na uwashe moto wa mapendo yako ndani Mwao. Alleluia. Amina.
(Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia. Amen).
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Newark
Wednesday, 4 October 1995
Dear Archbishop McCarrick, and my other Brother Bishops,
Dear Brother Priests,
Dear Seminarians, Men and Women Religious, and Lay Faithful
of the Family of God which is the Church in Newark!
656 1. We are gathered in this Cathedral dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to give thanks to the Most Blessed Trinity for the bonds of faith and love which unite us in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The presence of the President of the United States at this Evening Prayer helps us call to mind that it is precisely our service of God which inspires and motivates the healthy pride which we all feel in our native land. This evening let us thank God for the extraordinary human epic that is the United States of America.
This magnificent building stands in the heart of Newark as a powerful reminder of God’s steadfast love for his People and as a sign of faith in Christ, our "hope of glory" (Col 1,27). The Cathedral made of stone is the symbol of the living Church, "God’s household" (1Tm 3,15), which is open to everyone without exception, to men and women "of every race and tongue, of every people and nation" (Ap 5,9). You – the People of God in Newark and throughout New Jersey – are the "living stones" (1P 2,5) which make up the Body of Christ in the midst of your City and State. Wherever you are – in your families, neighborhoods, places of work or recreation – you are called to build up the Church in faith, hope and love.
2. The Church is alive in you! God, who is the Master Builder of his holy Temple – has poured his love into your hearts through the Holy Spirit! (cf. Rom. Rm 5,5) You have received the gift of new life. You have been charged with bringing the Good News "to all creation" (Mc 16,5).
The stirring challenge of the new evangelization – the aim of which is to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the center of history, the hope of humanity and the joy of every heart (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 45) – was faced by last year’s Archdiocesan Synod. I greet with affection all of you who so zealously took part as Delegates in that important assembly. The Synod wisely called for a great mobilization of resources so that all Catholics would receive the solid spiritual and doctrinal formation needed in order to bear convincing witness to their faith and assume their full role in the Church’s mission. I pray that, as a result of the Synod, the Archdiocese of Newark will become ever more "of one heart and one mind" (Ac 4,32) – a community joyously united with its Bishops and priests in attentively listening to the Word of God, devoutly celebrating the Sacraments, and generously meeting the needs of others.
3. With special affection I greet my brothers in the Priesthood, and thank each one of you for your dedicated service of the Gospel! The Lord has chosen you to be "in the forefront" in bringing souls to him (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 27). Like Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church, you must know, tend and offer your life for your flock (cf. Jn. Jn 10,11-16). Ordination configures you to Christ the Servant – to him who humbly washed his Apostles’ feet because he came among us "not to be served but to serve" (cf. Mk. Mc 10,45). Such selfless service is the model of all ministry in the Church. As you return to your parishes or to the various apostolates in which you are engaged, I pray that – in the words of Saint Paul – God will make you "worthy of his call, and fulfill by his power every honest intention and work of faith" (2Th 1,11).
To the Seminarians – and how heartening it is to know that your number is increasing! – I offer a special word of encouragement. The new evangelization of America calls for a great spiritual maturity on your part. The gift of the Priesthood demands that you follow Christ "even unto death on a Cross" (cf. Phil. Ph 2,8). Without the virtues of self-discipline, diligent contemplation of the truth, simplicity of life and joyful dedication to others you will not have the inner strength to combat the culture of death which is threatening the modern world. I urge you to pray each day: "O good Jesus, make me a priest like unto your own Heart". Christ himself is your inheritance (cf. Ps. ). He will never abandon you or disappoint you!
4. With profound gratitude for your immense contribution to the Church’s life, I embrace all the men and women Religious. Whether "your life is hidden with Christ in God" (cf. Col. Col 3,3) in solitude, penance and contemplation, or whether you are actively engaged in the world, the whole ecclesial community looks to you to see what it means to love the Lord with an undivided heart. The recognition of the "genius of woman" and of the specifically feminine charisms which women Religious bring to the Church’s life and mission is a providential sign of our times. If in the past these gifts were sometimes insufficiently esteemed or thwarted in their legitimate expression, now is the time for all of us to work together to follow where the Lord leads, in love and fidelity. May the Holy Spirit "strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father" (1Th 3,13), so that you may serve his People with ever greater joy!
To the whole Church in Newark and New Jersey I repeat the words of encouragement found in the First Letter of Peter: "There is cause for rejoicing here... because you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation" (1P 1,6).
5. Dear friends in Christ, the First Letter of Peter exhorts us to be clothed with humility in our dealings with one another; we read: "Bow humbly under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time he may lift you high" (Ibid. 5: 6). This lowliness and humility is explained as abandoning ourselves into the hands of God: "Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you" (Ibid. 5: 7). Yes, God holds humanity in the highest esteem! God reveres everything that is authentically human-everything that affects individuals and societies, nations and States!
As you well know, I have come to the United States in connection with the Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. That Organization exists to serve the common good of the human family, and therefore it is fitting that the Pope speak there as a witness to the hope of the Gospel (cf. Col. Col 1,23). The United Nations is an instrument of dialogue and peace. The criteria of its actions ought always to be the integral well-being of people. The challenge which is permanently before its member States, agencies and personnel is similar to the challenge which confronts every individual: "In your relations with one another clothe yourselves with humility" (1P 5,5). In particular, the powerful and the mighty ought to show meekness in their dealings with the weak. The powerful always need to remember that they owe their position to God – to the One who "is stern with the arrogant but who shows kindness to the humble" (Cf. ibid.). Nations and governments – like individuals – need to acknowledge that the Lord "rules the world with justice; with fairness he rules the peoples and guides the nations" ().
657 6. The First Letter of Peter also recalls the need for watchfulness: "Stay sober and alert" (1P 5,8). Fifty years ago, after the end of the incredible destruction caused by the Second World War, the United Nations Organization was established as an international forum of vigilance at the service of peace and justice in the world. The United Nations has a necessary role to play in preventing and relieving the enormous sufferings which the world’s peoples and nations inflict on each other, sufferings which in the Twentieth Century have reached unprecedented proportions in wars and conflicts, and in political and ideological oppression caused by the greed and arrogance of those who plot evil in their hearts.
The history of the world in the last fifty years cannot be written without reference to the United Nations. Is it not still needed, to watch and warn and exhort when conflict and injustice threaten the tranquillity of order? Should it not be strengthened as the guarantor of peace, justice and humanitarian concern – whether in the Balkans, in Africa or in any place where these values are threatened? Should it not be reformed to ensure that it will be guided by an objective assessment of the international situation, in order to be a credible forum in which to address issues of fundamental importance for the building of a more human and just world?
7. Our prayer for peace is therefore also a prayer for the United Nations Organization. Saint Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today, shines forth as a great lover and artisan of peace. Let us invoke his intercession upon the United Nations’ work for justice and peace throughout the world.
May the God of all grace, who has called us to everlasting glory in Christ, confirm and strengthen all who work and suffer for the peace and well-being of the human family. He alone is the Lord of life and history. To him we pray:
"O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help" ().
To him we commend the Church in the United States, and the local Church of Newark and the surrounding Dioceses. To him be honor, glory and praise! Amen.
Giants' Stadium, Newark
Thursday, 5 October 1995
658 "Thy Kingdom come!" (Mt 6,10).
Dear Archbishop McCarrick and my other Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. Each day in the "Our Father" we pray: "Thy Kingdom come!" (Cf. ibid. 6: 9-13). And in today’s Gospel we have heard about Jesus sending out his disciples to proclaim that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" (cf. Lk. Lc 10,9).
Today we are celebrating the Good News of God’s Kingdom here in Giants Stadium, in the Archdiocese of Newark, in New Jersey – the Garden State. I greet the whole Catholic community of Newark, in a special way your Pastor and my faithful friend, Archbishop McCarrick, whom I thank for his warm words of welcome. I greet God’s beloved people from all of New Jersey – the Bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, women and men Religious, parents, children, the young, the old, the sick; these greetings include our brothers and sisters of Eastern Rite Dioceses, whose presence gives vibrant witness to the rich diversity of God’s Holy Church. I am also grateful to the civic leaders of City and State and the representatives of the various religious denominations who have wished to share this moment of prayer with us.
What is this Kingdom which Jesus announced and which the Church continues to proclaim down the centuries? First, it is the affirmation of God’s dominion over all creation. As Creator, he reigns over the world he has made. But the Kingdom means more. It means that God is present as Lord in this world. The Kingdom is present above all in Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son, who became flesh and dwelt among us (cf. Jn. Jn 1,14). Furthermore, the Kingdom embraces us all: by his Death on the Cross and his Resurrection from the dead, Christ redeemed us from our sins and gave us new life in the Spirit. Through the Paschal Mystery – as Saint Paul writes – God "has rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col 1,13).
2. Like the people of Israel spoken of in the first reading, who gathered around the priest Ezra and listened to the word of God with profound emotion (cf. Neh. Ne 8,5), we have stood to hear the message of God’s presence and love which the Liturgy presents to us this evening. Nehemiah is speaking of the time after the Babylonian Captivity, when the Jewish people returned to their homeland. At the end of the reading, "Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered: ‘Amen, Amen’" (Ne 8,6). This great "Amen" is echoed at every Mass when, at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, we offer glory and honor to the Father through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. With this "Amen" the whole community acknowledges the real presence on the Altar of Jesus Christ, the living and eternal Word of the Father. In the spirit of this great "Amen", all of us gathered here in Giants Stadium praise Jesus Christ for the newness of life (cf. Rom. Rm 6,4) which he gives us in the Holy Spirit! Praised be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
3. The Gospel shows us Jesus sending his disciples to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk. Lc 10,1). He tells them openly that some people will ignore or reject their message. But such human resistance will not prevent the coming of the Kingdom (Cf. ibid. 10: 10-11). The Kingdom is always present because the Father himself has brought it into the world through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. From the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit never ceases to communicate the power of Christ’s Kingship, and to invite men and women to find salvation in the One who is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (cf. Jn. Jn 14,6).
In order to bring us this salvation, Jesus established the Church to be "a kind of sacrament – a sign and instrument – of intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind" (Lumen Gentium LG 1). Among the many magnificent images which the Bible uses to describe the Church, one of the most beautiful is that of the house in which God dwells with his people (Cf. Ep 2,19-22 1Tm 3,15). The Lord wants his Church to "make a home" in the midst of every people, grafting the gifts of salvation on to the history and culture of each nation. In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples into people’s houses, to bring them his peace (Lc 10,5). In every place where people make their homes and live their lives, a disciple of Jesus must arrive to say: "The Kingdom of God is at hand" (Cf. ibid. 10: 9).
4. Tonight we give thanks to God for the way in which the Church has "made a home" in America. From the beginning, in this new land the Church grew out of the faith of peoples from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, embracing the indigenous people and settlers alike. Everywhere we see the results of the labors of countless priests, Religious sisters and brothers, Christian families and individual lay men and women who made the Church present in American society through a great network of parishes, schools, hospitals and charitable institutions. This proud heritage should serve as an inspiration and an incentive for you as you seek to meet the challenges of our own times.
The Church must continue to build God’s spiritual house in America! Here in the Church in Newark, last year’s Archdiocesan Synod put the whole Catholic community in a state of mission. In particular, the Synod appealed to the laity to work for God’s Kingdom by their efforts to shape society in accordance with God’s designs. No aspect of life – whether in the family, in the workplace, in schools, in economic, political or social activities – can be withdrawn from God’s dominion (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 36). As we prepare to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of Christ’s Birth, your Synod, like the whole Church, recognized the need for a new evangelization, a new and vital proclamation of the Gospel aimed at integrating your faith ever more fully into the fabric of your daily lives. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, wherever there is little concern for seeking what is true and good, and wherever conscience is blinded by being accustomed to sin (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 16), there the Church must make a supreme effort to teach the objective truths of the moral order, form consciences, call people to conversion and make present the inexhaustible riches of God’s mercy in the Sacraments, and especially in the Sacrament of Penance.
659 5. The Christian life is a dynamic reality: the seed of faith sown in our hearts through Baptism must ripen and mature into a rich harvest of union with God and good works in the service of others. Jesus uses the image of the harvest to describe the Church’s role in the world. From generation to generation, in every time and place, the seed sown by God in human history through the Death and Resurrection of Christ continues to mature and awaits the harvest.
Jesus reminds us that more workers for the harvest are urgently needed, and he commands us to pray for them: "The harvest is rich but the workers are few; therefore ask the harvest-master to send workers to his harvest" (Lc 10,2). The question of vocations is vital to the Church. Everyone has a vocation: parents, teachers, students, workers, professional people, people who are retired. Everyone has something to do for God. We must pray that young people especially will listen to the Lord’s call to serve as priests, as Religious sisters and brothers, as missionaries at home and in other lands. Young people of Newark and New Jersey, young Americans, the Lord needs you! The Church needs you!
6. Compared to many other parts of the world, the United States is a privileged land. Yet, even here there is much poverty and human suffering. There is much need for love and the works of love; there is need for social solidarity. Early Americans were proud of their strong sense of individual responsibility, but that did not lead them to build a radically ‘individualistic’ society. They built a community-based society, with a great openness and sensitivity to the needs of their neighbors.
Quite close to the shores of New Jersey there rises a universally-known landmark which stands as an enduring witness to the American tradition of welcoming the stranger, and which tells us something important about the kind of nation America has aspired to be. It is the Statue of Liberty, with its celebrated poem: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me". Is present-day America becoming less sensitive, less caring towards the poor, the weak, the stranger, the needy? It must not! Today, as before, the United States is called to be a hospitable society, a welcoming culture. If America were to turn in on itself, would this not be the beginning of the end of what constitutes the very essence of the "American experience"?
To a great extent, the story of America has been the story of long and difficult struggles to overcome the prejudices which excluded certain categories of people from a full share in the country’s life: first, the struggle against religious intolerance, then the struggle against racial discrimination and in favor of civil rights for everyone. Sadly, today a new class of people is being excluded. When the unborn child – the "stranger in the womb" – is declared to be beyond the protection of society, not only are America’s deepest traditions radically undermined and endangered, but a moral blight is brought upon society. I am also thinking of threats to the elderly, the severely handicapped and all those who do not seem to have any social usefulness. When innocent human beings are declared inconvenient or burdensome, and thus unworthy of legal and social protection, grievous damage is done to the moral foundations of the democratic community. The right to life is the first of all rights. It is the foundation of democratic liberties and the keystone of the edifice of civil society. Both as Americans and as followers of Christ, American Catholics must be committed to the defense of life in all its stages and in every condition.
7. Dear Sisters and Brothers: Christ pointed the Church and the whole human family toward the future when he rolled away the stone from the entrance to the tomb and unveiled the mystery of new life. In his Resurrection, the Lord revealed the new creation, the promise of new heavens and a new earth (cf. 2Pt. 2P 3,13). As Christians, we live y faith and in hope. We wait for the return of the Lord as the judge of the living and the dead. We await his return in glory, the coming of God’s Kingdom in its fullness. That is the constant invitation of the Psalms: "Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord" ().
Our confidence in the future which God has opened before us enables us to see this earthly life in its proper light. In the perspective of God’s Kingdom we discern the true value of all the accomplishments of human civilization and culture, of all our achievements, our struggles and our sufferings. As Americans, you are rightly proud of your country’s great achievements. As Christians, you know that all things human are the soil in which the Kingdom of God is meant to take root and mature! To the Church in the United States, to you, the Church in Newark, I make this appeal: Do not make an idol of any temporal reality! "Know that the Kingdom of God is at hand" (cf. Lk. Lc 10,11). "Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted" (). Hope in the Lord! Amen
S. John Paul II Homil. 652