S. John Paul II Homil. 1323



Tuesday, 6 November 2001

1. God the Father "has regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1P 1,3). Guided by these words of the Apostle Peter, we remember in a spirit of hope the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who left us in the course of these months. They lived their earthly day with labour and toil in the vineyard of the Lord; now they rest in the sleep of peace awaiting the final resurrection.

On the wall of the shadow of death, faith projects the radiant light of the Risen One, the first fruit of those who have passed from the fragility of the human condition and now share in God the gift of life without end. With his Cross, Christ has given new meaning to death. In him, in fact, death becomes the sublime act of obedient love to the Father, and the supreme witness of mutual love for humanity. And so in the light of the mystery of Easter, the end of human existence can no longer be considered to be a condemnation without possibility of appeal, but the passage to full and final life, that consists of perfect communion with God.

The Word of God, which resounded in this sombre celebration, opens our hearts to the perspective of a "living hope": in the face of the passing scene of this world, it offers the promise of an "inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading".

2. With these sentiments, as we gather around the altar, we remember our brothers who have recently returned to the house of the Father. Called to the grace of faith in Baptism, they were chosen as Successors of the Apostles to be guides of the People of God and, as the Synod recently reminded us, "servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world".
In the real and mysterious communion between the Church in her pilgrimage on earth and the Church triumphant, we are close to them in charity and certain that they will continue to be spiritually close to the Christian community on pilgrimage.

Let us recall the deceased Cardinals Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, Giuseppe Casoria, José Alí Lebrún Moratinos, Pierre Eyt, Thomas Joseph Winning, Silvio Oddi, Giuseppe Maria Sensi, and the Patriarch Maximos V Hakim. We also wish to remember in this celebration all the Archbishops and Bishops who have left us in the last months. These beloved brothers in the Episcopate are now in the hands of God, having spent their lives in the service of the cause of the Gospel and for the good of their brothers.

3. "Come to me...Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 1,28-29). The words Jesus spoke to his disciples sustain and comfort us at the beginning of the month of November as we commemorate our dear departed ones. If their departure saddens our spirit, the promise of Christ consoles us. He is with us and guides us toward the full knowledge of the Father: "No one knows the Father except the Son and him to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11,27). Such knowledge, which continually progresses throughout the journey of life on earth, will reach its full realization when we shall contemplate face to face the countenance of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that, thanks to the obedience of Christ, Christian death takes on a positive meaning, as our passing from this world to the Father: "Through Baptism, the Christian has already "died with Christ' sacramentally in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ's grace, physical death completes this "dying with Christ' and so completes our incorporation into Him in his redeeming act" (n.1010).

4. We remember with particular affection our deceased Brothers, who in Baptism were incorporated into Christ, and, were made like him by means of the fullness of the Priesthood, and we pray fervently to the Lord for them. May the Father of mercy free them definitively from the remains of human frailty in order to make them enjoy eternally the heavenly reward promised to the good and faithful workers of the Gospel.

1324 We wish to entrust their chosen souls to the motherly care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom they devotedly honoured and loved when they were on earth, so that she may open the gates of Paradise to them. May Mary, Mother of Hope, turn her merciful eyes to these brothers of ours and show them, after this exile, Jesus the blessed fruit of her womb. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen!



Sunday, 11 November 2001

1. "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, all live for him" (Lc 20,38).

On 2nd November, we celebrated the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. The Liturgy of the 32nd Sunday of ordinary time returns again to this mystery, and invites us to reflect on the comforting reality of the resurrection of the dead. Biblical and Christian tradition, based on the Word of God, affirms with certainty that, after this earthly existence, a future immortality awaits the human person. It is not a generic affirmation, which intends to meet the aspiration of human beings for life without end. Faith in the resurrection of the dead is founded on the fidelity of God, as the Gospel today reminds us, God who is not the God of the dead, but of the living, who communicates to those who trust in him the same life he possesses in its fullness.

2. "We will be satisfied, Lord, when we contemplate your countenance!" (Respons. Psalm ).

The refrain of the responsorial psalm propels us into life beyond death, which is the goal and full realization of our pilgrimage here on earth. In the First Testament we witness a progression from the obscure survival of human souls in sheol to the more explicit doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The Book of Daniel (cf Da 12,2-3) and the Second Book of Maccabees, which we heard in the first reading, all witness to it. In an age in which the chosen people were fiercely persecuted, seven brothers with their mother did not hesitate to face together suffering and martyrdom so that they might not fail in their faithfulness to the God of the Covenant. They conquered in the terrible trial because they were sustained by the expectation of the "fulfillment of the hope of being raised up again by him" (2M 7,14). While we admire the example of the seven brothers in the Book of Maccabees, we firmly renew our faith in the resurrection of the dead and in the face of critical contemporary approaches. It is a fundamental point of Christian doctrine that sheds a comforting light on the whole of earthly existence.

3. Dearly beloved Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with great joy I am happy to be welcomed by your parish community, which meets in the Don Orione Centre of Monte Mario, where I had the joy of visiting you fifteen years ago. I am happy to return among you and to greet you cordially.

Above all, I am happy to see the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishop of the sector. I am also happy to see the General Director of the Sons of Divine Providence with the Provincial Director. I greet your zealous parish priest, Don Savino Lombardi, the parochial vicars, the Community of the Theological Institute, and all the religious who belong to the family of Don Orione, and work in this vast complex in the service of the poor. I greet your collaborators, the volunteers and the laity who are occupied with many pastoral and social activities. I greet the women religious of five Institutes who live in the area. Such a rich array of charisms and consecrated persons constitute a great gift for the whole Parish.

I affectionately embrace all of you young men who live in the Don Orione Institute. You are the heart of the Work in which the spirit of the Founder is well reflected. I also greet the sick, the persons who live alone, the elderly and all those who live in the area.

4. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! I know that you prepared for the visit today by reflecting together on the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte. Listen to Christ's invitation to Peter, "Put out into the deep" (Lc 5,4). Put out into the deep and do not be afraid, parish of the Mother of God, breathing the desire to serve Christ and to witness to his Gospel of salvation! In this vast apostolic effort, all who work in a variety of pastoral sectors, from catechesis to liturgy, from culture to charity should know how to work together.

Many professionals, journalists and university lecturers live in your parish. This offers you the opportunity to attempt a useful pastoral experience, involving so many experts and agents of communication in a journey of reflection and exploration of the fundamental themes of Christian doctrine. The relation between faith and life constitutes one of the more complicated challenges for the new evangelization today.

1325 In the Centre, which is the heart of the Parish, we experience the impact of Blessed Luigi Orione, untiring apostle of charity and fidelity to the Church. Beloved, follow in his footsteps, imitating his faithful obedience to the Church, in the indefatigable search for the good of souls, by taking care of the poor and the needy. The "old" and the "new" poverty's live alongside each other, and await your generous service.

5. I dedicate a special reflection to you, young men and women. I know that many of you were occupied in preparing and celebrating the World Youth Day during August last year. At the end of the unforgettable Prayer Vigil of Tor Vergata, I invited the young people of the world to be "the sentinels of the morning at the dawn of the Third Millennium". I renew this exhortation to you so that you will be wise and vigilant sentinels who keep alive the desire for Christ. Be missionaries to your contemporaries, without being discouraged in the face of difficulties, seek ways of evangelizing the world of youth.

I think of the good you have accomplished for years now at the "Don Orione Sports Centre", perfectly integrated into the life of the parish, as well as the apostolic opportunities offered by the Centres for Professional Formation. I also congratulate you, young people of the parish, for having started a wonderful initiative, an alternative New Year's Eve that involves many of your contemporaries. At the end of December you bring together, for an event of prayer and celebration, boys and girls from all over Italy. Your idea has even spread to other countries in other parts of the world.

With youthful enthusiasm, prepare yourselves for the next World Youth Day, to be held in Toronto in July of 2002, by reflecting on the Message taken from the Gospel: "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world" (
Mt 5,13-14).

6. God the Father, who in Jesus Christ "loved us and in his mercy gave us eternal consolation and hope, console your hearts and strengthen them for every good work and word" (2Th 2,16-17).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with these words of the Apostle Paul, that we just heard in the liturgy, I encourage you to persevere every day in your Christian life. For an apostolate that will be productive of great good, be faithful to prayer and stay anchored to the solid rock which is Christ.

May Blessed Luigi Orione help you on your spiritual journey. May Our Lady whom you honour with the wonderful title of Mother of God help you, as she watches over the City from this place.

To her, Mother of God and of the Church, I entrust you. May she protect and guide you every day. Amen.


Sunday, 18 November 2001

1. "By your perseverance you will save your souls" Lk 21,19. We have just heard the words that express the spiritual message of the Liturgy of the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.

While we are coming to the close of the liturgical year, the Word of God invites us to recognize that divine Providence governs and directs the last events of history. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi describes the day of the Lord (cf. Mal. Ml 3,19) as the decisive intervention of God, that brings about the defeat of evil and the establishment of justice, by punishing the wicked and rewarding the just. More clearly yet, the words of Jesus, that St Luke reports, take away from our hearts every kind of fear and anguish, opening us to the consoling certainty that the life and history of humanity, despite numerous tragic setbacks, remain firmly in God's hands. The Lord promises salvation to the person who puts his trust in him: "Not a hair of your head will perish" (Lc 21,18).

1326 2. "If anyone will not work, let him not eat" (II Thes 3,10). In the second reading, St Paul teaches that, to prepare the coming of the Kingdom of God, believers must take seriously their vocation and, in view of deviant interpretations of the Gospel message, the Apostle vigorously recalls the concrete need to be busy working. With an energetic comment, the Apostle singles out for condemnation the inactivity of those who claim that the Day the Lord was close at hand and, as a result, gave way to a spirit of inaction and evasion instead of living and readily witnessing to the Gospel.

He who believes, must not behave like that! But he must work in an ongoing and conscientious way, eagerly awaiting the definitive coming of the Lord. Here is the correct life style of the Lord's disciples, that is brought out in the chant before the Gospel: "Watch and be on guard, because you do not know on what day the Lord will return" ( cf. Mt
Mt 24,42 Mt Mt 24,44).

3. My dear parishioners of St Alessio at the Case Rosse, thank you for your warm welcome. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector. I greet your active parish priest, Don Giancarlo Casalone, the parochial vicar, those who belong to the parish and those who live in this neighbourhood.

I am happy to celebrate Mass in your new and beautiful parish church. Thanks be to God and to the generous contribution of the Vicariate, of your priests and of many persons of good will, that, after about 20 years, your community now has an adequate parish complex. I am sure that it favours the identity and growth of the community and its apostolic activity in this area. It is important to have a place to come together to pray, to receive the sacraments, and to establish relations of friendship and fraternity. In this way, it is easier to form the children, to meet with young people, to help families and support the elderly. The parish creates the spirit of acceptance and of solidarity which our world needs so much.

4. While we thank the Lord for this church and the whole complex, I beg you, brothers and sisters, to continue to build together your parish community, made up of living stones placed upon the cornerstone which is Christ. You have many groups and associations which make up the parish and which gather here to pray, to be formed at the school of the Gospel, and to receive the Sacraments-especially those of Penance and the Eucharist-and to grow in communion and service. Among others, I mention the Scouts, various youth groups, those of Charismatic Renewal, the Lectio Divina, and the persons who run the listening centre, Caritas. Dearly beloved, walk together and make your generous contribution to the permanent diocesan mission. Oppose negative messages, set out by certain cultural movements of present day society, and be builders of hope and bear Christ everywhere.

Isn't this the pastoral programme of our diocese? In order that the Spirit of Christ may penetrate everywhere, you have to dedicate yourselves again to an organic and ongoing pastoral work for recruiting vocations. You must educate family and youth to prayer and to making their lives a gift to others. For such activity on behalf of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, you can benefit from contact with the diocesan Seminaries, from the involvement of religious Institutes, and the support of the services offered by the Vicariate for the apostolate with youth, with university students, and with the family.

5. Everyday you should ask: Lord, what do you wish me to do? What is your will for us as family, as parents and as children. What do you expect from me as a young person who is open to life and wants to live with and for you? Only in answering such personal questions will you fully realize the will of God: to be the "light" and "salt" that enlightens and gives savour to our beloved City.

Jesus exhorts us to be watchful and to be on guard (cf. chant before the Gospel). He calls us to conversion and to constant watchfulness. May our lives be formed by such an exhortation. When our road seems hard and laborious, when fear and anxiety seem to prevail, it is especially then that the Word of God should be our light and our strong support. In this way faith becomes strong, hope remains alive and the ardour of divine love is intensified.

May Mary be your support and your guide. She is the faithful Virgin who can teach us ever to "rejoice in the service of the Lord", as we prayed at the beginning of Mass and she can obtain for us the grace "to persevere in our dedication to God", the author of every good thing. Thus we shall achieve "a full and lasting happiness". Amen.


Sunday, 25 November 2001

1. "There was an inscription over his head,"This is the King of the Jews" (Lc 23,38).

1327 That inscription, which Pilate had placed on the cross (cf. Jn Jn 19,19), contains the motive of the condemnation and the truth about the person of Christ. Jesus is king ... he affirmed it ... but his kingdom is not of this world (cf. Jn Jn 18,36-37). Before him humanity is divided into two parts: those who reject him on account of his apparent failure, and those who recognize him as theChrist, "the image of the invisible God, begotten before all creation" (Col 1,15), according to the expression of the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Colossians, that we have heard.

Before the Cross of Christ, the great scene of the world is opened up and the drama of our personal and collective history takes place. Under the gaze of God, who in his Only begotten Son immolated for us, has become the measure of every person, institution, and civilization, each one is called to decide for or against Christ.

2. Those who were just proclaimed saints: Joseph Marello, Paula Montal Fornés de San José de Calasanz, Leonie Frances de Sales Aviat and Maria Crescenzia Höss come before the crucified divine king. Each of them entrusted himself/herself to his mysterious kingship, proclaiming with their entire life: "Jesus, remember me when you enter into your kingdom" (Lc 23,42). And in an absolutely personal way, each received the reply from the immortal King: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lc 23,43).

Today! That "today" belongs to the time of God, to the plan of salvation, of which St Paul speaks in the Letter to the Romans: "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined ... he also called ... justified ... glorified" (Rm 8,29-20). That "today" contains the historical moment of today's canonization, in which these four exemplary witnesses of evangelical life are raised to the glory of the altars.

3. "It pleased God to make every fullness dwell in him Christ" (Col 1,19). St Joseph Marello participated in that fullness, as priest of the clergy of Asti and as Bishop of the Diocese of Acqui. Fullness of grace, fostered in him by an intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; fullness of the priesthood, which God conferred on him as gift and mission; fullness of holiness which he ahieved, by being conformed to Christ, the Good Shepherd. Bishop Marello was formed in the golden period of holiness in the Piedmont area, when, in the midst of numerous forms of hostility against the Church and the Catholic faith, the champions of the spirit and of charity flourished, Sts Cottolengo, Cafasso, Don Bosco, Murialdo and Allamano. Joseph was a good and intelligent young man, enthusiastic about cultural and social movements, but our saint only found in Christ the synthesis of every ideal and was consecrated to him in the priesthood. "To take care of the interests of Jesus" was his motto inlife, and for this reason he wanted to imitate St Joseph, the spouse of Mary, the custodian of the Redeemer. What strongly attracted him to St Joseph was the life of hidden service, joined with deep interior life. He knew how to transmit this style to the Oblates of St Joseph, the Congregation he founded. He liked to repeat to them, "Be extraordinary in ordinary things" and he added, "Be Carthusians inside your house and apostles outside". The Lord wanted to use his robust personality for his Church, calling him to govern the Diocese of Acqui, where, in the span of a few years, he spent himself for his flock, leaving a memory that has only grown with time.

4. "I say to you: today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lc 23,43). St Paula Montal Fornés de San José de Calasanz, foundress of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary, Sisters of the Pious Schools, was received in paradise, into the fullness of the kingdom of God, after a life of holiness. First in her native city, Arenys del Mar, she was involved in many apostolic activities and in prayer and interior devotion she was led into the mystery of God; then as foundress of a religious family, inspired by the slogan of St Joseph Calasanz "Piety and Letters", she gave herself to advancing women and the family with her ideal: "Save the family, educating the young girls in a holy fear of God"; in the end, she was to give proof of the authenticity, the firmness and the beauty of her spirit, a spirit shaped by God during the 30 years of hidden life in Olesa de Montserrat.

The new saint belongs to the group of founders of religious orders who in the 19th century came forward to meet the many needs that were present and that the Church, inspired by the Gospel and by the Spirit, wanted to respond to for the good of society. The message of St Paula is still valid today and her educational charism is a source of inspiration in the formation of the generations of the third Christian millennium.

5. The loving plan of the Father "who has made us enter the kingdom of his beloved Son" found a splendid realization in St Frances de Sales Aviat: who lived her self offering to the end. At the heart of her dedication and of her apostolate, Sister Frances de Sales put prayer and union with God, where she found the light and the energy to overcome trials and difficulties, and to persevere to the end of her life in the life of faith, desiring to be led by the Lord: "O my God, let my happiness be found in sacrificing my will and my desires for you!". The resolution which distinguished Mother Aviat so well, "Forget oneself completely", is also for us an appeal to go against the current of egotism and easy pleasures, and open ourselves to the social and spiritual needs of our time. Dear Oblate Sisters of St Francis-de-Sales, at the school of your foundress, in profound communion with the Church and wherever God has placed you, be determined to receive the present graces and to benefit from them, for it is in God that we find the light and the help necessary in every circumstance! Trusting in the powerful intercession of the new saint, accept with joy the invitation to live, with renewed fidelity, the intuitions which she so perfectly lived.

6. Give glory to Christ the King: this wish inspired St Maria Crescenzia Höss from her childhood. It was for his service that she used her talents. God gave her a beautiful voice. Already as a young lady she could sing a solo part, not to display herself but to sing and to play for Christ the King.

Her knowledge of her fellow men she placed at the service of the Lord. This Franciscan was an esteemed advisor. To her convent came many visitors: both simple men and women, princes and empresses, priests and religious, abbots and bishops. In a certain way she became a kind of "midwife" and helped those seeking counsel to bring forth the truth in their hearts.

Sorrow did not spare the saint. "Mobbing" took place in her time. She endured the intrigues of her own community, without ever doubting her own vocation. The long period of suffering allowed her to grow in the virtue of patience. That was helpful for her when she became superior: for her to direct meant spiritually to serve. She was generous with the poor, motherly with her sisters, and kind to all who needed a kind word. St Crescenzia lived what the Kingdom of Christ means: "Whatever you do to the least of your brothers, that you do to me" (Mt 25,40).

1328 7."Let us give thanks with joy to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col 1,12). Never as at the present time do the words of St Paul find an echo in our hearts! Truly the communion of saints gives us the foretaste of the Kingdom of heaven, and, at the same time, inspires us, following their example, to build it in the world and in history.
"He must reign" (1Co 15,25), the Apostle wrote referring to Christ.

"He must reign", you repeat to us with the example of your lives, St Joseph Marello, St Paula Montal Fornés de San José de Calasanz, St Leonie de Sales Aviat and St Maria Crescenzia Höss. May your example inspire us to living contemplation of Christ the King, crucified and risen. May your support help us to walk faithfully in the footsteps of the Redeemer, to share one day with you together with Mary and all the saints, his eternal glory in heaven. Amen.


Tuesday, 11 December 2001

"Behold, the Lord comes with might" (Is 40,10).

In the Advent season that we are living, the Prophet's words can have a far-reaching impact. Advent is the season of watching and waiting for the Messiah, who "comes with might" to set his people free and whom we will welcome in a few days in the poverty of Bethlehem. He will come as a victorious King at the end of time, but now he returns continally "to renew the world". We must learn to read the "signs" of his presence in the events of history.

Do not keep quiet about Christ's truth: cry it out loudly!

Let me repeat once again, especially to you: "Do not be afraid!". "Put out into the deep", and go to meet Jesus confidently, since in him you will be free and safe, even when the paths of life become steep and threatening. Trust in him, young university students from various European nations. Welcoming him means that you open to him the treasures of each culture and nation, with its originality, in the dynamic process of a dialogue enriched by a peaceful exchange of the rich cultural multiplicity you represent.

"A voice says, "Cry'" (Is 40,6). The Prophet's exhortation rings out strongly in our congregation. It is addressed to you, who make up the university and cultural world. You too must cry out, dear friends. Indeed, it is impossible to keep quiet about Christ's truth. It asks to be announced, not arrogantly but firmly and proudly. This is the parrhesia of which the New Testament speaks; the cultural allegiance of Christians must bear its mark.

Cry out, young university students, by witnessing to your faith! Do not be satisfied with a mediocre life without spiritual enthusiasm that is bent only upon achieving your own immediate personal advantage.

Europe needs a new intellectual vitality. A vitality that creates plans for an austere life, capable of commitment and sacrifice, that is simple in its legitimate aspirations, clear in its realization, transparent in its acts. It needs new and bold thought, free and creative, quick to grasp, in the perspective of faith, life's demands and challenges, to set forth clearly the central truths of the human person.

1329 "All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field" (Is 40,6).

The Liturgy of Advent directs our eyes towards the eternal truths that make us face daily events with realistic wisdom. Furthermore, the Prophet's words ring out as an invitation not to give in to the illusions of a progress that does not conform to the divine plan. In fact, however amazing modern scientific and technological development may be, however promising it appears for humanity's future, it sometimes brings with it terrifying shadows of destruction and death, as we have recently realized. Everyone must respect the inviolable limits that reference to morality can offer us. When men and women lose their sense of these limits and set themselves up as legislators for the world, they forget that they are on this earth like the grass and the flowers of the field that fade away.

May the divine light enlighten all who labour in the important fields of biological, chemical and physical research and progress, so that they may come close to man and creation with humility and wisdom. May academics and scientists always be aware of the lofty mission that Providence entrusts to them! Dear brothers and sisters, you too cooperate in this wonderful mission. In investigating the secrets of the cosmos and of the human being, you are drawing ever closer to the unfathomable mystery of God.

May the constant intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, and attentive Mother sustain you. May she guide you in your quest for goodness and truth, in an attitude of ever docile listening, like her, to the life-giving Word of God.



Sunday, 16 December 2001

1. "Let the desert and the dry land be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom" (Is 35,1).
The Liturgy of the Third Sunday of Advent, gives the name Gaudete to the Sunday because the first word of the Introit Gaudete invites us insistently to rejoice. "Rejoice", "be glad"! Along with vigilance, prayer and charity, Advent calls us to rejoice because our Saviour is close at hand.

In the first reading, we find a wonderful hymn to joy. The prophet Isaiah foretells the wonders that the Lord will accomplish for his people, freeing them from slavery and leading them back to their homeland. With his coming there will be the new and more telling exodus, that will make the people live fully the joy of communion with God.

For many who are discouraged, the "good news" of salvation resounds: "They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (cf. Is 35,10).

2. "Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God.... He will come and save you" (Is 35,4). The Messianic prophecy restores our confidence by giving us a glimpse of the true and complete liberation, brought about by Jesus Christ. In fact, in the Gospel passage just proclaimed, in his answer to the question of the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus applies to himself what Isaiah had said: He is the awaited Messiah. Here are his words, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them" (Mt 11,4-5).

This is the real reason for our joy: Christ has brought the time of waiting to fulfillment. God has finally brought salvation for every man and woman, for humanity. In this spirit we can get ready to celebrate the feast of Christmas, the extraordinary event that rekindles in our hearts spiritual joy and hope.

1330 3. Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of St María Josefa of the Heart of Jesus! The joy of being with you today is particularly strong. It is the delight of being able to visit the 300th parish community of the beloved Church of Rome. From the beginning of my Pontificate, I have made a priority of exercising the ministry of Bishop of Rome, even by visiting the parish communities of the Diocese.

In a special way I want to thank the Cardinal Vicar, who together with the Vicegerent and the Auxiliaries, has always been with me on these Sunday visits. With great fondness I recall the late Cardinal Poletti, the Bishops who have served the Diocese, the many parish priests and parochial vicars, as well as the thousands of faithful whom I have met on my pilgrimage through the various sections of our metropolis. For this occasion, I put my feelings on paper in the Letter that I addressed to the Cardinal Vicar, and through him, to the entire family of the Diocese, to share with him and with all of you my happiness on this extraordinary event.

On the visits I am amazed at the great amount of good, of spiritual fervour and of pastoral, apostolic and charitable creativity that I have witnessed! Each visit is a wonderful chance to give and to receive encouragement. While I desire to continue such an enriching pastoral experience, that takes me to parishes that are still waiting to meet their Bishop, I thank God for the mission he has entrusted to me. He has called me to be the Successor of the Apostle Peter, Bishop of the Church of Rome, of the Church that presides over the universal communion of charity (cf. Ignatius of Antioch, Introduction to the Letter to the Romans). I ask you to pray so that I may know how to correspond adequately to this mission.

4. Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish, thank you for your welcome. I want to greet you warmly. I greet your Parish Priest, Fr Angelo De Caro, and the Montfort Missionaries who cooperate with him in the care of the parish. I thank those who at the beginning of Mass greeted me in your name. I thank the faithful, who cooperate in supporting the outreach of the parish, to the young persons, to families, the sick, the senior citizens and all who live in this outlying area of a City in constant expansion.

I wish to thank the Institute of the Servants of Jesus who, with a genuine ecclesial spirit, made possible the construction of this new church, consecrated last 27 January, that is dedicated to their foundress, St María Josefa of the Heart of Jesus.

May the example of this Saint, who was animated by an intense love of the Eucharist and for her neighbour in difficulty, be a stimulus for you, dear Sisters, to grow in devotion to the Eucharist and in the care of their older sick and needy neighbours.

Let the Saint encourage you, dear parishioners, to work untiringly to transform your neighbourhood into a truly human environment and to remove the risks of moral delinquency and disaffection that we find so often in the big cities.

6. The Diocese of Rome today observes the day of the collection to build new churches. Here we can experience the benefits that a whole parish complex brings to a neighbourhood. In your area, in fact, your church serves as a providential centre for bringing people together where they can be formed to listen to the call of God and to the service of their neighbour. Here too one can instill a missionary and vocational spirit that sensitizes the young above all, to an awareness to local and worldwide challenges. May the praiseworthy work of the Vicariate to build a parish centre in every area that needs one find a generous response in the people of every parish especially those who have greater resources and in religious congregations and institutes and in private and public entities.

7. "Be patient until the coming of the Lord" (
Jc 5,7).

Advent invites us to rejoice, and at the same time, it exhorts us to wait with patience for the coming of the Lord now approaching. It exhorts us not to be discouraged, to resist every kind of adversity, with the certainty that the Lord will not delay his coming.

This vigilant patience, as the Apostle James stresses in the second reading, favours the strengthening of human ties in the Christian community. The faithful realize that they are little ones, who are poor and in great need of God's help, and they come together to receive the Messiah who is about to come. He will come in the silence, the humility, the poverty of the crib, and will bring his joy to all who welcome him with open hearts.

1331 So let us advance with joyful hearts and minds towards Christmas. Let us make our own the inner reflections and prayers of Mary who awaited her Redeemer in prayer and silence and carefully prepared his Birth in Bethlehem. Amen!

S. John Paul II Homil. 1323