S. John Paul II Homil. 697

Sunday, 2 March 1997

698 1. “Lord, you have the words of eternal life” (cf. Jn 6,68).

The responsorial psalm proclaimed a few moments ago leads us to the heart of the message of today’s liturgy. The power of the divine word was manifested for the first time in the creation of the world, when God said: “Let there be” (cf. Gn Gn 1,3), calling all creatures into existence. But the biblical readings for this Third Sunday of Lent shed light on another dimension of the power of the word of God: that which concerns the moral order.

Yahweh gave the Ten Commandments to the chosen people on Mount Sinai, a mountain which has unique symbolic value in salvation history. This is precisely why a meeting on that mountain has been proposed for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 53). Today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus particularly develops the first three commandments given to Israel, those of the so-called “first tablet”: “I am the Lord, your God.... You shall have no other gods before me.... You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain.... Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex 20,2-3,7).

The first commandment, in which the oneness of God is solemnly affirmed, is fundamental: there are no other divinities besides him. The invisible God, to whom no image made by human hands can do justice, manifests himself in the law given to Moses. With the incarnation of the Word, God became man, and thus the invisible God became visible and, from that moment, humanity can contemplate his glory. The question of the artistic portrayal of God was extensively examined at the Second Council of Nicaea and it was then made clear that, since the invisible God became man in the incarnation, it was legitimate for Christians to portray him in art.

Connected with the first commandment is the second, which does not only condemn the abuse of God's name, but is also meant to warn people against the idolatry that was widespread in pagan religions.

With regard to the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex 20,8), the law is detailed and refers back to the original model of rest God gave us when he had completed creation.

On the other hand, the commandments of the so-called “second tablet” are described concisely.

3. “Lord, you have the words of eternal life”. The words spoken by God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ, the incarnate Word of God. In the Old Covenant, God’s creative power in the moral sphere was expressed in the Ten Commandments; however, in the New Covenant it is Christ who is the fulfilment of this power: thus it is not a written law but the very Person of the Saviour.

This is a truth expressed to great effect by St Paul when he writes to the Galatians and the Romans: he contrasts justification by observance of the law with justification by faith in Christ. Today, however, in the second reading taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians, we read: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Co 1,22-24).

The power and wisdom which God showed in creating the world and man made “in his image and likeness” (cf. Gn Gn 1,26) are fully expressed in the moral order. The latter is therefore in service to man's good and that of human society. This is confirmed in the New Testament, which clearly establishes the role of morality in serving man’s eternal salvation.

This is why in the Gospel acclamation the words Jesus used in his nocturnal conversation with Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him ... might have eternal life” (Jn 3,16), were proclaimed. Not only the commandments, but above all the eternal Word who became man is the source of eternal life.

699 4. Dear brothers and sisters of St Julian Martyr Parish! I am pleased to be here with you today, to celebrate the Eucharist on the Third Sunday of Lent. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary of the area, your zealous parish priest, Fr Luciano D’Erme, the parochial vicar, the religious who live in this area and all of you who belong to this parish community, dedicated in a special way to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Merciful Heart of Jesus.

Today we naturally remember our venerable and beloved Brother, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, who died a few days ago. This parish, established in 1980, was one of more than 70 built by him during his long service to the Diocese of Rome. As I thank the Lord once again for having given me this capable Vicar General, I invite you all to pray for him, commending this chosen soul to God's mercy.

I am following the progressive phases of the mission with affection and attention, especially the distribution of St Mark’s Gospel to families and the practice of the Spiritual Exercises, which are taking place during this season of Lent. The programme of Spiritual Exercises is truly fitting, for they are an important help to Christians, who are called to “be renewed in spirit ... and [to] put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (
Ep 4,23-24). Fruit of the Church's rich spiritual tradition, the Spiritual Exercises are a genuine answer to man's profound questions. I therefore recommend them to young people as part of their journey of vocational discernment, to Christian married couples, to families and to all who are sincerely searching for God.

5. “He spoke of the temple of his body” (Jn 2,21).

In the Gospel we again read the story about the driving of the merchants from the temple. St John’s description is vivid and eloquent: on one side there is Jesus, who, “making a whip of cords, drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple” (Jn 2,14-15), and on the other are the Jews, particularly the Pharisees. The contrast is so strong that some of those present ask Jesus: “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” (Jn 2,18).

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2,19), Christ answers. To which the people reply: “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (Jn 2,20). They had not understood —St John notes — that the Lord was talking about the living temple of his body, which, during the paschal events, would be destroyed by his death on the cross but would be raised up on the third day. “When therefore he was raised from the dead”, the Evangelist writes, “his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (Jn 2,22).

It is the paschal event that gives authentic meaning to all the various elements of today’s readings. At Easter the power of the incarnate Word is fully revealed, the power of the eternal Son of God, who became man for us and for our salvation.

“Lord you have the words of eternal life”.

We believe that you are truly the Son of God.

And we thank you for having made us sharers in your own divine life.




Fourth Sunday of Lent

Sunday, 9 March 1997

1. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (
Jn 3,16).

These words, spoken by Jesus during his conversation with Nicodemus, effectively summarize the main theme of today’s liturgy. Indeed, they refer to the salvation brought to the world by the only-begotten Son of God, revealing it in its profound meaning as a work of the “God who is rich in mercy”: Dives in misericordia.

St Paul, writing to the Ephesians, echoes the Gospel: “God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ep 2,4-5). Thus we are brought to a paschal perspective: in fact, what is salvation if it is not participation in Christ’s death and resurrection?

The Apostle then presents the work of salvation, showing the fruits of good that it produces in the life of believers. He considers redemption a new creation; that creation roots man in Jesus Christ, enabling him to perform good deeds according to God’s plan (cf. Eph Ep 2,10).

2. Salvation and redemption, which God offers man through the death of his only-begotten Son, are described in the first reading and in the responsorial psalm as deliverance from slavery, with a reference to the slavery in Babylon experienced by the children of Israel after the collapse of the kingdom of Judah. This sad experience is poetically re-ehoed in the psalmist’s lament:

“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (cf. Ps Ps 137 [136]:1). The author of this psalm evokes with vivid imagery the suffering of exile and the nostalgia for Jerusalem felt by the deported: “Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” (cf. Ps Ps 137 [136]: 5-6).

The Second Book of Chronicles reminds us that the deportation to Babylon was a punishment inflicted by Yahweh on his people for their grave sins, especially that of idolatry. Nonetheless, the period of slavery was meant for their repentance and conversion, and it ended when Cyrus, King of Persia, permitted the Israelites to return to their land and rebuild the temple that had been torn down in Jerusalem.

In a certain sense, Cyrus represents the Messiah awaited by Israel. He is an image of the promised Redeemer who was to set the People of God free from the slavery of sin and bring them into the kingdom of true freedom.

3. Dear brothers and sisters of St Gaudentius Parish in Torre Nova, I am very glad to celebrate the Eucharist today in this new parish church with your young community. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar and the Vicegerent, your dear parish priest, Fr Virginio Bolchini, the parochial vicar and all the priests who work with him in leading the parish. Your parish priest comes from the Diocese of Novara and this gives me the opportunity to express my warm gratitude to the Bishop and to the whole Diocese of Novara for its generosity in offering the Church in Rome several priests to carry out their ministry among us.

701 I also extend a special greeting to the Sisters of Mary Help of Christians and of Our Lady of Ransom, and especially to the members of the Sant'Egidio Community who have supported, enlivened and promoted pastoral care and charity in this neighbourhood since 1977.

The new church is dedicated to St Gaudentius, patron of Novara. How can we fail at this time to think of the late Cardinal Ugo Poletti, another native of that beloved Diocese, whom God has recently called to himself? Under the protection of St Gaudentius, this distinguished and generous co-worker began his priestly and episcopal ministry in Novara and then continued it in this Church of Rome, which was so dear to him. May the Lord reward him for his tireless service to the Gospel, given generously throughout his life!

4. Dear friends, yours is a young community. The parish is young because it was only recently founded and young indeed are the parishioners, including a substantial number of young men and women. Attention to the new generations must therefore be one of your pastoral priorities. All too frequently young people, so rich in potential and talent, find themselves without work, without adequate training, without the support of a real family. Thus they are often easy prey to loneliness, to the lack of goals, to disappointment, when they do not end up in the snare of drug addiction, crime and other forms of delinquency.

Your parish community was recently founded, but the first settlement in this area dates back to 1600, when Beatrice Cenci had a tower built in the castle and a church dedicated to St Clement. These became a natural stopping place for pilgrims wishing to visit the memorials of the Apostles, as they approached the city of Rome. In the next few years a great number of believers and tourists will be flocking to Rome for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. I hope they will find welcoming communities of living faith. May the city mission, which is also being celebrated in this parish with enthusiasm and generosity, be like a construction site of the Spirit, open and industrious, for building a diocesan community of ever greater generosity and solidarity.

5. “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light” (
Jn 3,19).

Today’s Liturgy of the Word presents the antithesis between slavery and freedom, illustrated by the Old Testament readings, alongside the antithesis between darkness and light, developed in the Gospel. The latter contrast is proposed by Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus, and expresses in a discursive form one of the characteristic features of John’s Gospel, already present in the very first words of the Prologue: “In the beginning was the Word.... In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1,1).

This same radical contradiction between light and darkness is present in the discussion with Nicodemus: “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.... For every one who does evil hates the light.... But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God” (Jn 3,19-21).

How can we not emphasize the reference to divine judgement? Man is judged not only by an external judge, but by that interior light which is made known through the voice of an upright conscience. This is what the Second Vatican Council recalled in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes: “Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.... His conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (n. 16).

Dear brothers and sisters, in our Lenten journey to Easter, which is now close at hand, let us be guided by the voice of God who calls us through our conscience. Thus we can go out to meet him with a holy life rich in good works, always in conformity with his will and according to his heart.



of San Salvatore in Lauro IN RomE

Sunday, 16 March 1997

1. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12,24).

With these words, today’s liturgy invites us to prepare for the season of the Lord's Passion, which we will enter next Sunday. Christ spoke them when some Greeks, who wished to approach him, asked Philip: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21). Christ then delivered a speech whose contents at first glance seem difficult and obscure: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.... He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12,23).

Actually these words contain a summary of the essential meaning of the events of Holy Week. That “hour” in which the Son of man is to be glorified is the “hour” of his passion and death on the cross. Precisely in that “hour” the grain of wheat that has fallen into the earth, that is, the Son of God made man, will die to bear the priceless fruit of the redemption. In him death will lead to the triumph of life.

The Gospel passage proclaimed a few moments ago speaks of Jesus' fear on the threshold of the paschal mystery. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” (Jn 12,27-28). This text seems almost to re-echo the prayer of Gethsemane, when Jesus, experiencing the drama of loneliness and fear, asks his Father to take away the chalice of suffering. At the same time, however, he agrees to fulfil his will. After having said: “Father, save me from this hour”, he immediately continues: “No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12,27-28).

2. The second reading also speaks of the paschal mystery. It recalls how Christ “in the days of his flesh, ... offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear” (He 5,7). We might wonder: in what way was Christ heard, if he who could have saved him allowed him to undergo the tragic experience of Good Friday?

Further on in the holy text we find the answer: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (He 5,8-9). Christ was heard therefore as the Redeemer of the world, having become the source of eternal salvation for all who believe in him. This is made clear in the passage from St John: “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also” (Jn 12,26).

3. Dear brothers and sisters of the parish of San Salvatore in Lauro, I am pleased to be among you today, to celebrate the Lord's day. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop for this area, your parish priest, Fr Antonio Tedeschi, and those who assist him, including — for so many years now — Bishop Luigi De Magistris, Regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary. I greet the representatives of the various groups and associations that are active in this community and all of you, dear parishioners, who have wanted to be present at this celebration.

A special thought goes to the president, chaplain and members of the Pious Sodality of Piceno, to Archbishop Sergio Sebastiani and Bishop Elio Sgreccia, also to all the people from the Marches region who are present here, linked by deep ties of faith and cultural tradition to this ancient and beautiful church. This church is a testimony to centuries of history and, above all, to the ancient devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Loreto, so venerated here. I address a special thought to Cardinal Pietro Palazzini.

Dear friends, yours is a small parish situated in the historical centre of Rome, and like many others surrounding you, in its pastoral activities it feels the effects of the phenomena typical of these city neighbourhoods, such as the lack of new families and young people, the reduced number of residents caused by the high cost of housing and by the numerous shops and offices that have gradually replaced it, the scattering of the faithful in the many neighbouring churches of the city centre. All this almost inevitably affects the parish's pastoral care. While it is necessary to continue the ordinary services for the few residents in the area who are involved in keeping the characteristics of old Rome alive, and to provide human and spiritual assistance to all those who serve the families in the area, you must commit yourselves to a renewed pastoral care that responds in an increasingly suitable way to the new requirements of the area.

4. I am thinking, for example, of what you already admirably do when you host arts and crafts fairs and other similar displays, which appeal to a large number of people in the parish territory. Keeping your beautiful church always open even in the evening so that it can welcome visitors up to a late hour, offering them the chance to participate in a carefully-prepared liturgy and to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, is a practical, effective way to evangelize.

703 On the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the centre of Rome will be visited by many pilgrims. Having the opportunity to visit churches that are hospitable and ready to offer special spiritual and cultural experiences will be an important occasion for meeting the Church in Rome, and for the faithful of the city it will be a stimulus to create new ways of proclaiming the Gospel, undertaking that widespread missionary work that the city mission is increasingly meant to be.

I am also aware that you are moving in this direction in your parish. May the city mission, which already spurs you to work together in pastoral zones, help and foster the efforts you are making for an increased and more incisive evangelizing presence in Rome.

5. “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant” (
Jr 31,31).

With this evocative vision of the New Covenant, the prophet Jeremiah, in the first reading proclaimed a few moments ago, announces the future renewal of the relations between God and his people through the sacrifice of Christ.

The prophetic text bases this decisive saving intervention of God on the gift of a new law: “Says the Lord: I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jr 31,33).

In order for God's definitive law, that is, the Decalogue completed by Jesus in the commandment of love, to be written in the human heart, that Sacrifice, to which the liturgy of these days is leading us, was necessary. In the light of Christ's passion and death, even the words of King David which we heard in the responsorial psalm acquire a new and deeper meaning: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your holy spirit take not from me” (Ps 51 [50]:12-13).

These are words that find their fulfilment in the paschal mystery. In fact, Redemption coincides with the new creation because, through it, the joy of salvation is restored to the sinner and he is given the gladness of the Holy Spirit.

As we are now hastening towards the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord, let us make our own the prayer of the prophet David:

Lord give us too the joy of being saved; a generous heart sustain in all your faithful.

Renew the steadfastness of our spirit, so that we can teach your ways to our brothers and sisters (cf. Ps Ps 51 [50]:13-14) and that everyone may return to you and enjoy together the fruits of your Redemption.



Palm Sunday, 23 March 1997

1. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.... Hosanna in the highest!” (
Mc 11,9-10).

These acclamations of the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover accompany the entry of Christ and the Apostles into the holy city. Jesus enters Jerusalem mounted on a colt, according to the words of the prophet: “Tell the Daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass” (Mt 21,5).

The animal chosen indicates that it was not a triumphal entry, but that of a king meek and humble of heart. However the multitudes gathered in Jerusalem, almost unaware of this expression of humility or perhaps recognizing in it a messianic sign, greet Christ with words full with joy: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21,9). And when Jesus enters Jerusalem, the whole city is in agitation. People are asking themselves, “‘Who is this?’ And the crowds [say], ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Mt 21,10-11).

This was not the first time that the people recognized Christ as the king they expected. It had already happened after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, when the crowd wanted to carry him in triumph. Jesus knew however that his kingdom was not of this world; for this reason he had fled from their enthusiasm. He now sets out for Jerusalem to face the trial that awaits him. He is aware that he is going there for the last time, for a “holy” week, at the end of which the passion, cross and death await him. He faces all this with complete willingness, knowing that in this way the Father’s eternal plan will be fulfilled in him.

Since that day, the Church throughout the world has repeated the words of the crowd in Jerualem: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. She repeats it every day while celebrating the Eucharist, shortly before the consecration. She repeats it with particular emphasis today, Palm Sunday.

2. The liturgical readings present the suffering Messiah to us. They refer first of all to his sufferings and his humiliation. The Church proclaims the Gospel of the Lord’s passion according to one of the Synoptics; the Apostle Paul, instead, in his Letter to the Philippians, offers us a marvellous synthesis of the mystery of Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (2:6-11).

This hymn of inestimable theological value presents a complete synthesis of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through Good Friday to the Sunday of the Resurrection. These words from the Letter to the Philippians, progressively repeated in an ancient responsory, will accompany us throughout the Triduum Sacrum.

St Paul's text contains the announcement of the resurrection and glory, but the Liturgy of the Word for Palm Sunday concentrates primarily on the passion. Both the first reading and the responsorial psalm speak of it. In the text, which is part of the so-called “songs of the Servant of Yahweh”, the moment of his scourging and his crowning with thorns are sketched out; in the psalm the painful agony of Christ on the cross is described with impressive realism: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22 [21]:2).

These words, the most disturbing, the most moving, uttered from the cross at the time of his agony, today resound in loud, obvious antithesis to that “Hosanna”, which also re-echoes during the procession with palms.

3. For several years Palm Sunday has become the great world day of youth. It was the young people themselves who paved the way for it: from the beginning of my ministry in the Church of Rome, on this day thousands of them have met in St Peter’s Square. Over the years, the World Youth Days have grown out of this event, whose celebration has spread throughout the Church, in parishes, in Dioceses, and every two years in a place chosen for the whole world. Since 1984, these world meetings have been held at two-year intervals: in Rome; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Czêstochowa-Jasna Góra, Poland; Denver, the United States; and Manila, the Philippines. Next August the meeting has been set for Paris, France.

705 This is why last year during the celebration of Palm Sunday, representatives of young people from the Philippines handed over to their French peers the pilgrim cross of “World Youth Day”. This act has its own particular eloquence: it is a rediscovery as it were by young people of the significance of Palm Sunday, when they in effect take the lead. The liturgy recalls that “pueri hebraeorum, portantes ramos olivarum...”, “the children of Jerusalem ... carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Antiphon).

It can be said that the first “World Youth Day” occurred precisely in Jerusalem, when Christ entered the holy city; from year to year we are linked with that event. The place of the “pueri hebraeorum” has been taken by young people of various languages and races. All, like their predecessors in the Holy Land, want to accompany Christ, to share in the week of his Passion, of his Triduum Sacrum, of his Cross and Resurrection. They know that he is that “Blessed” One who “comes in the name of the Lord”, bringing peace on earth and glory in the highest. What the angels sang above the stable in Bethlehem on Christmas night, today resounds with a loud echo on the threshold of Holy Week, in which Jesus prepares to complete his messianic mission, achieving the world’s redemption through his Cross and Resurrection.

Glory to you, O Christ, Redeemer of the world! Hosanna!


Thursday, 27 March 1997

1. Iesu, Pontifex quem Pater unxit Spiritu Sancto et virtute — miserere nobis.

These words of the Litany of Christ the Priest and Victim come to mind as we celebrate the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday. During this liturgy, which is distinguished by its uniqueness and intensity, we bless the sacred chrism, together with the oil of the catechumens and that of the sick. These oils will then serve for conferring the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.

The readings of today’s liturgy speak of the anointing, a visible sign of the invisible gift of the Holy Spirit. In the reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we read: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Is 61,1-2).

The Lord Jesus was to refer to these words of Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth, at the beginning of his messianic mission. On that day, as the Gospel passage has reminded us, Jesus stood up to read. He was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Opening it he found the passage where the words cited above were written. Jesus read those words. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (cf. Lk Lc 4,16-21).

2. We must transpose this “today” of Nazareth to Holy Thursday, which we are now celebrating. On this day, with Holy Mass in Cena Domini, the Church begins the Triduum Sacrum, the three holy days that make Christ’s paschal mystery present.

Holy Thursday is the day of the institution of the Eucharist and, together with it, the sacrament of the priesthood. These seem to indicate the words of Revelation, re-echoed in the second reading in a special way: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever” (Ap 1,5-6). This doxology is addressed to Christ, “priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek” (cf. Heb He 5,6). Melchizedek was king and priest of the Most High God. He did not offer living beings in sacrifice, but bread and wine. In the Upper Room Christ instituted the Eucharist in which, under the appearances of bread and wine, he made the sacrifice of his death on the Cross present until the end of time.

The Church continuously renews in an unbloody manner the bloody sacrifice of her Lord, the immolation of his Body and his Blood. Looking with the eyes of faith, all those who participate in the Eucharist know that they are taking take part mystically in the sacrifice of the Cross which culminated in the piercing of Christ's side by a Roman soldier. St John, re-echoing the prophet Zechariah, writes in his Gospel: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19,37); and in Revelation: “every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Ap 1,7).

706 3. Dear brother priests, Holy Thursday is a special day for our priesthood. It is the feast of its institution. For this reason all the Bishops, in their respective Dioceses dispersed throughout the world, will concelebrate the Eucharistic liturgy with the priests of their communities. The Bishop of Rome also does it. With our souls full of gratitude, let us renew together the promises we made on the day of our ordination, when we received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that the grace of that anointing will never leave us and that it will comfort us. Indeed, may it accompany us every day of our ministry so that, faithful to Christ who has called us, we may serve the Christian people with apostolic zeal and reach the end of our days vigilant and active.

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.

Christ, you are “the Alpha and the Omega ... who is and who was and who is to come” (
Ap 1,8).


S. John Paul II Homil. 697