GENERAL AUDIENCE 1998 64
1. A deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church and in the world encourages us to pay attention to the “signs of hope present in the last part of this century, even though they often remain hidden from our eyes” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46). It is true, in fact, that our century is marked by very serious crimes against humanity and is darkened by ideologies that have encouraged neither the liberating encounter with the truth of Jesus Christ nor integral human development. But it is also true that God’s Spirit, who “fills the world” (Sg 1,7 cf. Gaudium et spes GS 11), has not ceased to scatter abundant seeds of truth, love and life in the hearts of the men and women of our time. These seeds have produced fruits of progress, humanization and civilization, which are authentic signs of hope for humanity on its journey.
2. In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, among these signs I first mentioned “scientific, technological and especially medical progress in the service of human life” (TMA 46). Without doubt, human life in our world, at the social and personal level, has known and continues to experience remarkable improvement, thanks to extraordinary scientific developments.
Technological progress, when it respects authentic and integral human advancement, must also be accepted with gratitude, even if — as is obvious — science and technology are not enough to satisfy man’s deepest longings. Among today’s technological developments showing particular promise for humanity’s future, I would like to mention those that have occurred in the medical field. In fact, when they improve man's overall life by lawful means, they eloquently reflect the creative and saving plan of God, who wanted man in Christ to have the fullness of life. Nor can we forget the enormous progress in the area of communications. If the mass media are handled in such a way that they are under full democratic control and are used to convey authentic values, humanity will be able to enjoy many benefits and will feel it is one great family.
3. Another sign of hope is represented by a “greater awareness of our responsibility for the environment” (ibid. TMA 46). Today, in part as a reaction to the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources that has often accompanied industrial development, human beings are rediscovering the meaning and value of the environment as a hospitable dwelling (oîkos), where they are called to live their life. The threats that hang over humanity’s future, because of the lack of respect for the balance of the ecosystem, are spurring men of culture and science, as well as the competent authorities, to study and implement various measures and projects. They aim not only at repairing the damage caused thus far, but especially at mapping out a social development that is in harmony with respect for and appreciation of the natural environment.
This keen sense of responsibility for the environment must also encourage Christians to rediscover the deep meaning of the creative plan revealed by the Bible. God wanted to entrust man and woman with the task of filling the earth and having dominion over it in his name, as his representative (cf. Gn 1,28), extending and in a certain way bringing to completion his own creative work.
66 4. Among the signs of hope in our time, we must also recall the “efforts to restore peace and justice wherever they have been violated, a desire for reconciliation and solidarity among different peoples, particularly the complex relationship between the North and the South of the world” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46). In the century now drawing to a close, we have witnessed the terrible tragedy of two world wars and today there are further wars and tensions resulting in great suffering for peoples and nations thoughout the world. Never as in this century have such enormous masses of people experienced and continued to experience conditions of life unworthy of man — due in part to pernicious mechanisms of exploitation.
For this reason too, the human conscience, urged by the mysterious action of the Spirit, has grown in its resolve to make peace and justice indispensable priorities. Today conscience sees the persistance of unjust conditions, underdevelopment and the violation of human rights as an intolerable crime. Moreover, war is rightly rejected as a way to resolve conflicts. There is a growing understanding that only the paths of dialogue and reconciliation can heal the wounds caused by history in the life of nations. They alone can lead to a positive resolution of the problems which still arise in international relations.
The contemporary world is definitely being structured into a system of interdependence at the economic, cultural and political levels. It is no longer possible to reason solely on the basis of the interests, however legitimate, of individual peoples and nations: a truly universal awareness must be achieved.
5. For this reason my venerable Predecessor Pope Paul VI wanted prophetically to focus humanity's sights on the goal of a “civilization of love”, in which it would be possible to achieve the ideal of one human family, while respecting the identity of each of its members and with a mutual exchange of gifts.
On the way towards this “civilization of love”, believers, docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, are called to make their irreplaceable contribution, radiating in history the light of Christ, the Word of God made flesh. As the Council recalls, he “reveals to us that ?God is love’ (1Jn 4,8), and at the same time teaches that the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love. He assures those who trust in the charity of God that the way of love is open to all men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood will not be in vain” (Gaudium et spes GS 38).
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we approach the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, “there is need for a better appreciation and understanding of the signs of hope present in the last part of this century” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 46). Such signs include developments in science, technology and medicine, so long as they respect the ethical demands of human life and dignity. Another reason for hope is the increasing sense of responsibility for the environment, which is an invitation to Christians to rediscover the deeper meaning of God’s plan in creation. We can also perceive the Holy Spirit’s work in efforts to safeguard peace and justice, and to overcome conditions of underdevelopment and the violation of human rights.
In a world marked by growing economic, cultural and political interdependence, the challenge is to bring about a new sense of solidarity, that will make everyone more aware of the needs and interests of others. Christians have a particular responsibility to build such a civilization of love, and in this task they must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us that the fundamental law of human perfection is none other than Christ’s new commandment of love.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:
I extend a special greeting to the NATO Defense College. At a time when tension and conflict continue to threaten certain parts of the world, I encourage you always to see your professional commitment in terms of the preservation and promotion of peace. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Finland, Sweden and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. In the previous catechesis we reflected on the “signs of hope” present in our world. Today we would like to continue our reflection, examining some of the “signs of hope” present in the Church so that Christian communities can have an ever better understanding and appreciation of them. They stem from the action of the Holy Spirit who, down the centuries, “by the power of the Gospel ... permits the Church to keep the freshness of youth. Constantly he renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse” (Lumen gentium LG 4).
Among the ecclesial events that have left a deep mark on our century, the most important is the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Through it the Church took from her treasury “what is new and what is old” (cf. Mt 13,52) and experienced in a certain way the grace of a renewed Pentecost (cf. Address of John XXIII at the close of the Council's first period, III, in Discorsi, Messaggi, Colloqui V [1962/1963], p. 29). If we look closely, the signs of hope which enliven the Church’s mission today are closely connected with this abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the Church experienced in the preparation, celebration and application of the Second Vatican Council.
2. Listening to what “the Spirit is saying to the Church and to the Churches” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 23 cf. Ap 2,7ff.) is expressed in acceptance of the charisms which he distributes in abundance. Their rediscovery and appreciation has developed a more intense communion between the various vocations of the People of God, such as a renewed, joyful enthusiasm for evangelization.
Today especially, the Holy Spirit is spurring the Church to promote the vocation and mission of the lay faithful. Their participation and co-responsibility in the life of the Christian community and the many forms of their apostolate and service in society give us reason, at the dawn of the third millennium, to await with hope a mature and fruitful “epiphany” of the laity. A similar expectation concerns the role that woman is called to assume. As in civil society, so in the Church the “feminine genius” is becoming more and more apparent, and it must be increasingly promoted in ways appropriate to the vocation of woman according to God’s plan.
Moreover, we cannot forget that one of the gifts the Spirit has generously bestowed in our time is the flourishing of ecclesial movements, which from the beginning of my Pontificate I have continued to point to as a cause of hope for the Church and for society. They “are a sign of the freedom of forms in which the one Church is expressed, and they represent a sound newness, which still waits to be adequately understood in all its positive effectiveness for the kingdom of God at work in the present moment of history”, (Insegnamenti VII/2 , p. 696).
3. Our century has also seen the seed of the ecumenical movement blossom and grow. In this movement the Holy Spirit has led the members of the various Ecclesial Communities to seek the ways of dialogue in order to re-establish full unity.
In particular, thanks to the Second Vatican Council, the search for unity and ecumenical concern have unquestionably become “a necessary dimension of the whole life of the Church”, and a priority commitment to which the Catholic Church “wants to contribute in every possible way” (Insegnamenti VIII/1 , 1991,1999). The dialogue of truth, preceded and accompanied by the dialogue of charity, is gradually achieving remarkable results. There is also a stronger awareness that the real soul of the movement to restore Christian unity is spiritual ecumenism, that is, conversion of heart, prayer and holiness of life (cf. Unitatis redintegratio UR 8).
4. Lastly, among the many other signs of hope, I would like to mention “the increased interest in dialogue with other religions and with contemporary culture” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46).
As to the former, one need only recall the prophetic significance that the Second Vatican Council's Declaration Nostra aetate on the Church's relations with non-Christian religions has gradually assumed. Many experiences of meeting and dialogue at various levels have taken place and are taking place in every part of the world between representatives of the different religions. I am pleased to mention in particular the great progress that has been made in the dialogue with the Jews, our “elder brothers”.
68 An important sign of hope for humanity is that the religions are trustingly engaged in dialogue and feel the urgent need to join forces to encourage progress and to contribute to the moral commitment of nations. Faith in the constant action of the Spirit gives us hope that also by this path of mutual concern and esteem it will be possible for everyone to be open to Christ, the true Light that “enlightens every man” (Jn 1,9).
As for the dialogue with culture, the attitude expressed by the Second Vatican Council is showing its providential effectiveness: “Just as it is in the world’s interest to acknowledge the Church as a social reality and a driving force in history, so too the Church is not unaware of how much she has profited from the history and development of mankind” (Gaudium et spes GS 44). Contacts made in this area have already overcome unwarranted prejudices. The new attention paid by the various cultural currents of our time to religious experience, and to Christianity in particular, spurs us to persevere on the path we have chosen towards a fresh meeting between the Gospel and culture.
5. In these many signs of hope, we cannot fail to recognize the action of God’s Spirit. However, in full dependence upon and in communion with him, I also like to see in them the role of Mary, “as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature” (Lumen gentium LG 56). Mary intercedes for the Church as a mother and leads her on the path of holiness and docility to the Paraclete. At the dawn of the new millennium, we can joyfully discern that “Marian profile” of the Church (cf. Insegnamenti X/3 , p. 1483) which epitomizes the deepest meaning of conciliar renewal.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we reflect on some of the “signs of hope” present in the Church. These signs are closely connected to the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the Church experienced in the preparation, celebration and application of the Second Vatican Council.
Among other things, the fruits of the Council have included a better understanding of the specific vocation and mission of the laity, a more active role for women in the Church, and the spread of various ecclesial movements. Ecumenism too has grown, and Christians have become more aware that unity requires prayer, conversion of heart and holiness of life.
With the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary always before us, may all Christ’s faithful be ever obedient to the Spirit as they continue along the path of authentic renewal.
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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I warmly greet the many English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this audience, especially those from the United States, Canada and India. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. - December 1998
1. The Holy Spirit is the source of the “hope that does not disappoint” (Rm 5,5). In this light, after examining some of the “signs of hope” present in our time, today we would like to reflect on the meaning of Christian hope in this season of waiting and preparation for the coming of the kingdom of God in Christ at the end of time. In this regard, as I emphasized in my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, we must remember that “the basic attitude of hope, on the one hand, encourages the Christian not to lose sight of the final goal that gives meaning and value to life, and on the other, offers solid and profound reasons for a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God’s plan” (TMA 46).
2. Hope in the definitive coming of God’s kingdom and the commitment to transform the world in the light of the Gospel have, in reality, one and the same source in the eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit. “The pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption” (Ep 1,14), he awakens a longing for full and definitive life with Christ, and at the same time imbues us with the strength to spread the leaven of God’s kingdom throughout the earth.
This is an anticipation, in a way, of the coming of God’s kingdom among men through Christ’s Resurrection. In him, the Incarnate Word who died and rose for us, heaven descended to earth, and earth, in his glorified humanity, ascended to heaven. The risen Jesus is present among his people and in the heart of human history. Through the Holy Spirit, he fills those who open themselves to him in faith and love; indeed, he gradually transfigures them, making them share in his own glorified life. They now live and act in the world with their gaze always focused on the final goal: “If then you have been raised with Christ”, St Paul urges, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3,1-4). Believers are therefore called to be witnesses in the world to Christ’s Resurrection and, at the same time, builders of a new society.
3. The sacramental sign par excellence of the ultimate realities, already anticipated and made present in the Church, is the Eucharist. In the Eucharist the Spirit, invoked in the epiclesis, “transubstantiates” the sensible reality of the bread and wine into the new reality of Christ's Body and Blood. In the Eucharist the risen Lord is truly present and, in him, humanity and the universe receive the seal of the new creation. In the Eucharist we have a taste of the definitive realities, and the world starts to become what it will be at the Lord's final coming.
The Eucharist, the summit of Christian life, does not only shape the personal life of the Christian but also the life of the ecclesial community and, in some way, that of all society. In fact, the People of God receive from the Eucharist that divine energy which prompts them to live deeply the communion of love signified and brought about by participation in the one table. This also results in a desire to share material goods in a spirit of brotherhood, using them to build the kingdom of God (Ac 2,42-45). In this way the Church becomes “bread broken” for the world: for the people among whom she lives and especially for the most needy. The celebration of the Eucharist is the source of the various works of charity and mutual aid, of missionary activity and the different forms of Christian witness, by which the world is helped to understand the Church’s vocation according to God’s plan.
In addition, by keeping alive the call not to be conformed to this world’s mentality and to live in expectation of Christ “until he comes”, the Eucharist teaches the People of God the way to purify and perfect their human activities by immersing them in the paschal mystery of the Cross and Resurrection.
4. This is how we understand the true meaning of Christian hope. In turning our gaze towards the “new heavens and a new earth” in which righteousness dwells (cf. 2P 3,13), “far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come” (Gaudium et spes GS 39).
The message of hope offered by the Christian community, in particular, should be kneaded into the cultural, social, economic and political involvement of the lay faithful as leaven of the Resurrection.
If it is true that earthly progress must be distinguished from the growth of God’s kingdom (cf. ibid. GS 39), it is also true that in God’s kingdom, brought to completion at the end of time, “charity and its works will remain (cf. 1Co 13,8 Col 3,14)” (ibid. GS 39). This means that everything accomplished in the love of Christ anticipates the final resurrection and the coming of the kingdom of God.
70 5. Thus Christian spirituality appears in its true light: it is not a spirituality of flight from or rejection of the world, nor can it be reduced to mere temporal activity. Imbued by the Spirit with the life poured out by the Redeemer, it is a spirituality of the transfiguration of the world and of hope in the coming of God’s kingdom.
As a result, Christians can discover that when the achievements of thought and art, of science and technology, are lived in a Gospel spirit, they witness to the spreading of God’s Spirit in all earthly realities. Thus the voice of the Spirit and the Bride who cry out: “Come! ... Come, Lord Jesus” (Ap 22,17-20) can be strongly heard, not only in prayer but also in our daily effort to prepare God’s kingdom in history. It is the stupendous conclusion of Revelation and, we can say, the Christian seal on history.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I extend a special welcome to the Flying Hospital organization, and I wish to encourage you in your medical and humanitarian work. I greet those taking part in the International Cardiological Symposium. I welcome the FIRES Marriage Encounter group, as well as the youth pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Australia, Japan and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As the Church looks forward in hope and expectation to the Great Jubilee, we are reminded to be always prepared for the coming of God’s Kingdom at the end of time. The Holy Spirit prompts Christians to look forward to the fullness of life which Christ will bring, but in the meantime he gives them the strength to extend the Kingdom throughout the world. For this task the Spirit transforms those who believe and hope in Christ, making them sharers in the grace of Christ’s glorified existence.
The Eucharist is the great sacramental sign of the ultimate realties which are already anticipated and made present in the Church. The Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life, and the source of all forms of witness and evangelical love.
While Christian hope directs our gaze to “the new heavens and a new earth” (cf. 2P 3,13), it calls on us to be committed to bringing the transforming power of the Resurrection to bear on the cultural, social, economic and political realities of the present. In our prayer and our efforts to spread God’s Kingdom, let us join our voice to the voice of the Spirit and the Bride who say “Come Lord Jesus!” (Ap 22,20).
“As the bond with Mary grows deeper, so the action of the Spirit in the life of the Church becomes more fruitful”, the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 9 December, as he reflected on Mary’s co-operation with the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation. The Pope stated that “the humble servant of the Lord does not compete with the role of the Holy Spirit; on the contrary, she is called by the same Spirit to co-operate in a maternal way with him”. Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis, which was the 28th in the series on the Holy Spirit and was given in Italian.
71 1. To conclude our reflection on the Holy Spirit in this year dedicated to him on our journey to the Great Jubilee, we lift our eyes to Mary. Her consent given at the Annunciation 2,000 years ago represents the starting point of humanity’s new history. The Son of God, in fact, became incarnate and began to dwell among us when Mary said to the angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lc 1,38).
Mary’s co-operation with the Holy Spirit, shown in the Annunciation and the Visitation, is expressed in an attitude of continual docility to the Paraclete’s inspirations. Conscious of the mystery of her divine Son, Mary lets herself be guided by the Spirit to act in a way appropriate to her mission as mother. As a true woman of prayer, the Virgin asks the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun at conception, so that her child will grow “in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lc 2,52). In this way Mary is presented as a model for parents by showing the need to call upon the Holy Spirit to find the right way in the difficult task of education.
2. The story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple coincides with an important intervention of the Holy Spirit. Mary and Joseph went to the temple to “present” (cf. Lc 2,22), that is, to offer Jesus according to the law of Moses, which prescribed the redemption of first-born sons and the purification of the mother. Experiencing the profound meaning of this rite as an expression of sincere offering, they were enlightened by the words Simeon spoke under the special impulse of the Holy Spirit.
Luke’s account explicitly stresses the influence of the Holy Spirit on the life of this elderly man. He had been promised by the Spirit that he would not die without having seen the Messiah. And so, “inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple” (Lc 2,27), just as Mary and Joseph were bringing the child there. Thus it was the Holy Spirit who arranged the meeting. It was he who inspired in the elderly Simeon a canticle celebrating the future of the child who came as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” and “for glory to your people Israel” (Lc 2,32). Mary and Joseph marveled at these words which widen Jesus’ mission to include all peoples.
And again it was the Spirit who led Simeon to make a sorrowful prophecy: Jesus will be “a sign of contradiction” and “a sword will pierce [Mary’s] soul” (Lc 2,34 Lc 2,35). With these words the Holy Spirit prepared Mary for the great trial which awaited her and gave to the rite of presenting her child the value of a sacrifice offered for love. When Mary took her son from Simeon’s arms, she understood that she was receiving him in order to offer him. Her motherhood would be involved in Jesus’ destiny and any opposition to him would touch her heart as well.
3. Mary’s presence at the Cross is the sign that the mother followed to the end the sorrowful way marked out by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Simeon.
In the words Jesus spoke on Calvary to his Mother and to the beloved disciple, we see another feature of the Holy Spirit’s action: he ensures that the sacrifice is fruitful. Jesus’ words themselves reveal a “Marian” aspect of this fruitfulness: “Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn 19,26). In these words the Holy Spirit does not explicitly appear. But since the event of the Cross, like Christ’s entire life, takes place in the Holy Spirit (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem, DEV 40-41), it is precisely in the same Spirit that the Saviour asks his Mother to consent to her Son’s sacrifice in order to become the mother of a multitude of children. He ensures that this supreme offering of Jesus’ Mother will have immense fruit: a new motherhood destined to spread to all men and women.
From the Cross the Saviour wished to pour out upon humanity rivers of living water (cf. Jn 7,38), that is, the abundance of the Holy Spirit. But he wanted this outpouring of grace to be linked to a mother’s face, his Mother’s. Mary now appears as the new Eve, mother of the living, or the Daughter of Zion, mother of all peoples. The gift of a universal mother was included in the Messiah’s redeeming mission: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished ...”, the Evangelist writes after the two statements: “Woman, behold, your son!” and “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19,26-28).
From this scene we can sense the harmony of God’s plan regarding Mary’s role in the saving action of the Holy Spirit. In the mystery of the Incarnation, her co-operation with the Spirit played an essential role; in the mystery of the birth and development of God’s children, Mary’s maternal assistance also accompanies the work of the Holy Spirit.
4. In the light of Christ’s statement on Calvary, Mary’s presence in the community as it waits for Pentecost acquires its full value. St Luke, who called attention to Mary’s role in Jesus’ birth, wanted to stress her significant presence at the Church’s birth. The community is composed not only of the Apostles and disciples, but also of women, the only one of whom Luke names is “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” (Ac 1,14).
The Bible offers us no further information about Mary after the drama on Calvary. But it is very important to know that she shared in the life of the early community and in its fervent, unanimous prayer. Without doubt, she was present at the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit who already dwelt in Mary, working marvels of grace in her, now comes down again into her heart, communicating the gifts and charisms necessary for the exercise of her spiritual motherhood.
5. Mary continues to exercise in the Church the motherhood entrusted to her by Christ. In this maternal mission, the humble servant of the Lord does not compete with the role of the Holy Spirit; on the contrary, she is called by the same Spirit to co-operate in a maternal way with him. He continually revives the Church’s memory of Jesus’ words to the beloved disciple: “Behold, your mother!”, and invites believers to love Mary as Christ loved her. As the bond with Mary grows deeper, so the action of the Spirit in the life of the Church becomes more fruitful.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our preparation for the Great Jubilee, we turn once more to the figure of Mary and her relationship with the Holy Spirit. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary was drawn into a mystery of cooperation with the Holy Spirit which will continue until the end of time. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired Simeon to foretell the suffering which Mary’s motherhood would bring: “a sword will pierce your heart”(Lc 2,34 Lc 2,35). This prophecy was fulfilled as Mary stood at the foot of the Cross. Yet it was there too that the Holy Spirit guaranteed the fruitfulness of her sacrifice. Calvary reveals the close and enduring link between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Mary as mother. From the crucified Christ, living water flowed forth, the fullness of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 7,38); and it was the crucified Christ who gave Mary as mother not only to the beloved disciple but to the whole Church: “This is your son; this is your mother” (Jn 19,26-28). The link between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the motherhood of Mary emerges again at Pentecost, when she waited with the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit, whose fire descended upon all of them together. Therefore, as the bond with Mary grows stronger, so the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church grows more fruitful.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:
I extend a warm welcome to those taking part in the International Catholic Stewardship Seminar. I thank you for your efforts to increase awareness among the faithful of their responsibility for the Church’s mission. I greet the Kambilolo Village Group from Kenya. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially from Denmark, Kenya and the United States of America, I invoke the loving care of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the peace of Jesus Christ her Son.
1. “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16,28).
With these words of Jesus, today we begin a new cycle of catecheses focused on the figure of the God the Father, thus following the thematic guide offered by Tertio millennio adveniente in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
In the first year’s cycle, we reflected on Jesus Christ the one Saviour. Indeed, as a celebration of the Son of God’s entry into human history, the Jubilee has a strong Christological tone. We meditated on the meaning of time, which reached its focal point in the Redeemer’s birth 2,000 years ago. While this event inaugurates the Christian era, it also opens a new phase of renewal for humanity and the universe, in expectation of Christ’s last coming.
Then, in the catecheses of the second year of preparation for the Jubilee, our attention was turned to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent from the Father. We reflected on him in the work of creation and in history, as Person-Love and Person-Gift. We emphasized his power, which draws out of chaos a cosmos rich in order and beauty. Divine life is communicated in him, and with him history becomes the way to salvation.
We now want to spend the third year of preparation for the now imminent Jubilee as a pilgrimage to the Father's house. Thus we set out on the journey which, starting from the Father, leads creatures back to the Father, in accordance with the loving plan fully revealed in Christ. The journey to the Jubilee must become a great act of praise to the Father (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 49), so that in him the whole Trinity may be glorified.
73 2. The starting point for our reflection are the words of the Gospel which show us Jesus as the Son and Revealer of the Father. His teaching, his ministry, his very style of life, everything in him refers to the Father (cf. Jn 5,19 Jn 5,36 Jn 8,28 Jn 14,10 Jn 17,6). The Father is the centre of Jesus’ life, and Jesus in turn is the only way which gives us access to him. “No one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14,6). Jesus is the meeting-point of human beings with the Father, who is made visible in him: “He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father?'. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?” (Jn 14,9-10).
The most expressive manifestation of Jesus' relationship with the Father is his condition after the Resurrection, the summit of his mission and the foundation of new and eternal life for those who believe in him. But the union between the Son and the Father, like that between the Son and believers, comes through the mystery of the “lifting up” of Jesus, according to a characteristic expression of John’s Gospel. With the term “lifting up”, the Evangelist indicates both the crucifixion and the glorification of Christ; both are reflected on the believer: “So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3,14-16).
This “eternal life” is no less than the participation of believers in the very life of the risen Jesus and consists in their insertion into the movement of love uniting the Father and the Son, who are one (cf. Jn 10,30 Jn 17,21-22).
3. The deep communion in which the Father, the Son and believers meet includes the Holy Spirit, for he is the eternal bond that unites the Father and the Son and involves human beings in this ineffable mystery of love. Given to them as the “Consoler”, the Spirit “dwells” in the disciples of Christ (cf. Jn 14,16-17), making the Trinity present.
According to the Evangelist John, Jesus says to his disciples, precisely when he is promising to send the Paraclete: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14,20).
It is the Holy Spirit who introduces man into the mystery of the Trinitarian life. “The Spirit of truth” (Jn 15,26 Jn 16,13), he acts deep within believers, making the Truth that is Christ shrine in their minds.
4. St Paul also stresses our orientation to the Father through the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us. For the Apostle this is a true sonship, which enables us to call God the Father by the same familiar name that Jesus used: Abba (cf. Rm 8,15).
All creation is involved in this new dimension of our relationship with God, and “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rm 8,19). Creation has also “been groaning in travail together until now” (Rm 8,22), in expectation of the total redemption that will re-establish and perfect the harmony of the cosmos in Christ.
In describing this mystery which unites human beings and all creation with the Father, the Apostle expresses the role of Christ and the action of the Spirit. It was through Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1,15), that all things were created.
He is “the beginning, the first-born from the dead” (Col 1,18). In him “all things are united, things in heaven and things on earth” (cf. Ep 1,10), and it is his task to deliver them to the Father (cf. 1Co 15,24), so that God may be “everything to everyone” (1Co 15,28). This journey of humanity and the world to the Father is sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness and “intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rm 8,26).
Thus the New Testament introduces us very clearly into this movement which flows from the Father and back to the Father. Let us consider it with special attention in this final year of preparation for the Great Jubilee.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have just begun the year of preparation for the Great Jubilee dedicated to God the Father. In this year the whole Church is called to set out on a great pilgrimage to the Father’s house, so that the Jubilee will truly be a great hymn of praise to the Father who sent his Son into the world as our Redeemer.
Jesus lived his earthly life in perfect union with the Father, and he is the only way to the Father. Through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, we are given access to the life of the Risen Christ and are inserted into the movement of love joining the Father and the Son.
The eternal bond uniting the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. He dwells in Christ’s disciples, making the Father and the Son present in them and introducing them into the mystery of the Trinitarian life. Saint Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit enables us to call God “Abba” - “Father”, as Jesus did. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and “intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rm 8,26). He strengthens us on our journey to the Father. May this final year of preparation for the Jubilee enable all Christians to experience more fully what it means to be the adopted sons and daughters of God.
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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
It is always a joy to welcome groups from Scandinavia and today I am happy to welcome the students from Friaborgsskolan in Sweden. I extend a special greeting to the group from India of Daughters of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially from the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To all of you, a Happy Christmas!
GENERAL AUDIENCE 1998 64