Wednesday 26 May 1999 - Humanity's journey to the Father

1. In this final year of preparation for the Jubilee, the theme on which we are reflecting, that is, humanity's journey to the Father, suggests that we meditate on the eschatological perspective, in other words, on the final end of human history. Particularly in our time, everything proceeds at incredible speed, both because of scientific and technological discoveries and because of the media's influence. As a result, we spontaneously ask ourselves what is humanity's destiny and final goal. The Word of God offers us a precise answer to this question and shows us the plan of salvation that the Father carries out in history through Christ by the work of the Spirit.

In the Old Testament, the fundamental reference-point is the Exodus, with its focus on entering the promised land. The Exodus is not only a historical event, but the revelation of God's saving work which will be gradually fulfilled, as the prophets endeavour to show by shedding light on the present and future of Israel.

2. During the Exile, the prophets foretell a new Exodus, a return to the promised land. With this renewed gift of land, not only will God bring together his people scattered among the nations, but he will transform the heart of each one, that is, his capacity to know, love and act: “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (
Ez 11,19-20 cf. Ez 36,26-28).

Through their commitment to observing the norms established by the Covenant, the people will be able to live in an environment similar to the one that came from God's hands at the moment of creation: “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified” (ibid., Ez 36,35). This will be a new covenant, expressed concretely in the observance of a law written upon their hearts (cf. Jr 31,31-34).

Then the horizon broadens and a new land is promised. The final goal is a new Jerusalem, where all affliction will cease, as we read in the Book of Isaiah: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.... I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Is 65,17-19).

3. Revelation takes up this vision. John writes: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Ap 21,1f.).

27 The passage to this new creation requires a commitment to holiness, which the New Testament will clothe in absolute radicalism, as we read in the Second Letter of Peter: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2P 3,11-13).

4. Christ's resurrection, ascension and the announcement of his second coming have opened new eschatological horizons. In the Last Supper discourse, Jesus says: “I go to prepare a place for you. And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14,2-3). Therefore, St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1Th 4,16-17).

We have not been told the date of this final event. We must wait patiently for the risen Jesus, who, when asked by the Apostles themselves to restore the kingdom of Israel, answered by inviting them to preach and to bear witness: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Ac 1,7-8).

5. We should await the final event with serene hope, as we build in our time that kingdom which at the end Christ will hand over to the Father: “After then will come the end, when, after having destroyed every sovereignty, authority and power, he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father” (1Co 15,24). With Christ, victorious over the enemy powers, we too will share in the new creation, which will consist in a definitive return of all things to the One from whom all things come: “When, finally, all has been subjected to the Son, he will then subject himself to the One who made all things subject to him, so that God may be all in all” (ibid., 1Co 15,28).

Therefore we must be convinced that “our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ph 3,20). Here we have no lasting city (cf. He 13,14). Pilgrims in search of a permanent dwelling-place, we must long, like our Fathers in the faith, for a better country, “that is, a heavenly one” (ibid., He 11,16).

To the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims the Holy Father said:

I warmly welcome the Missionary Sisters of Charity and the delegation from the Canon Law Department of the Catholic University of America. I extend a special greeting to the pilgrims from the Diocese of Meki in Ethiopia. The conflict between your country and Eritrea is a cause of great sadness to me. Let us pray that peace will be promptly and permanently restored. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Japan, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.


                                                                  June 1999

Wednesday 2 June 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. After reflecting on humanity's common destiny as it will be fulfilled at the end of time, today we want to turn our attention to another topic which directly concerns us: the meaning of death. It has become difficult to speak of death today because prosperous societies are inclined to disregard this reality, the thought of which alone causes anxiety. Indeed, as the Council observed, “it is in regard to death that man's condition is  most shrouded in doubt” (Gaudium et spes,
GS 18). But on this reality the Word of God offers us, although gradually, a light to illumine and comfort us.

In the Old Testament the first indications stem from the common experience of mortals who are not yet enlightened by the hope of a blessed life after death. It was generally believed that human life ended in “Sheol”, a place of shadows incompatible with life in its fullness. In this regard, the words of the Book of Job are very significant: “Are not the days of my life few? Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort before I go whence I shall not return, to the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is as darkness” (Jb 10,20-22).

2. God's Revelation gradually surpassed this severe view of death, and human reflection was opened to new horizons which would receive their full light in the New Testament.

First of all we can understand that if death is the relentless enemy of man, and tries to overpower and dominate him, God could not have created it because he cannot delight in the destruction of the living (cf. Sg 1,13). God's original plan was different, but it was impeded by the sin committed by man under the devil's influence, as the Book of Wisdom explains: “For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Sg 2,23-24). Jesus also  refers  to  this  idea ( cf. Jn 8,44) and St Paul's teaching on the Redemption achieved by Christ, the new Adam (cf. Rm 5,12), is based on it. By his Death and Resurrection, Jesus overcame sin and death, which is its consequence.

3. In the light of what Jesus accomplished, we can understand God the Father's attitude towards the life and death of his creatures. The Psalmist had already sensed that God could not abandon his faithful servants in the tomb, nor permit his godly one to undergo corruption (cf. Ps 16,10). Isaiah pointed to a future in which God would destroy death forever, wiping away “tears from all faces” (Is 25,8) and raising the dead to new life: “Your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers in the dust,  awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and on the land of the shades you will let it fall” (ibid., Is 26,19). Over death, which levels all the living, is superimposed the image of the earth as a mother preparing to give birth to a new living being  and bringing into the world the righteous destined to live in God. Consequently, even if the righteous “in the sight of men were punished, their hope is full of immortality” (Sg 3,1).

The hope of resurrection is magnificently affirmed in the Second Book of Maccabees by the seven brothers and their mother at the time of their martyrdom. One of them says of his hands: “It was from heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again” (2M 7,11); another, “when he was near death, said, ‘It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him’” (ibid., 2M 7,14). Their mother heroically encourages them to face death with this hope (cf. ibid., 2M 7,29).

4. Already in the Old Testament the prophets warn people to await “the day of the Lord” with an upright heart, or it would become “darkness, and not light” (cf. Am 5,18 Am 5,20). The full revelation of the New Testament emphasizes that everyone will be subject to judgement (cf. 1P 4,5 Rm 14,10). But the righteous should not fear it, since as the elect they are destined to receive the promised inheritance; they will be set at the right hand of Christ, who will call them “blessed of my Father” (Mt 25,34 cf. Mt 22,14 Mt 24,22 Mt 24,24).

The death the believer experiences as a member of the Mystical Body discloses the way to the Father, who has shown us his love in the death of Christ, the Victim of “expiation for our sins” (1Jn 4,10 cf. Rm 5,7). In regard to death, the Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses: “For those who die in Christ's grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection” (CEC 1006).

Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Ap 1,5-6). Of course, it is necesary to pass through death, but now with the certainty that we will meet the Father, when “this corruptible body puts on incorruptibility, this mortal body immortality” (1Co 15,54). Then it will be clearly seen that “death is swallowed up in victory” (ibid. 1Co 15,54) and we will be able to face it defiantly and fearlessly: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (ibid., 1Co 15,55).

It is precisely because of this Christian vision of death that St Francis of Assisi could exclaim: “Praised be you, my Lord, for our sister bodily death” (Fonti Francescane, n. 263). With this comforting outlook, we can understand the beatitude proclaimed by the Book of Revelation as the fulfilment of the Gospel Beatitudes: “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth’. ‘Blessed indeed’, says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!’” (Ap 14,13).

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I warmly greet the members of the General Chapter of the Montfort Missionaries, and I pray that your deliberations will help to lead the congregation into the new millennium with renewed vigour, in fidelity to your charism. I extend a special welcome to the group of sisters taking part in the Programme of Formation of Formators, sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, India, Indonesia, Japan and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

We continue to receive sad news from Colombia, where last Sunday in the Church of the Transfiguration in Cali, an armed group  sacrilegiously interrupted the celebration of Holy Mass and kidnapped many people, including the priest. In the past, similar acts have taken place in interior regions of the country, such as El Piñón (Magdalena), and religious personnel have been killed.

In view of these terrible events, I renew my pressing appeal for reconciliation, with respect for the rights of individuals and a commitment to  dialogue that will resolve this serious crisis, as everyone desires. I accompany this wish with a remembrance in my prayer that God will grant peace to Colombia.

Wednesday 23 June 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today I would like to reflect again on the pilgrimage to Poland which I had the joy of making from the 5th to the 17th of this month. My seventh and longest Pastoral Visit to my country took place 20 years after my first journey from 2 to 10 June 1979. On the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I shared with the Church in Poland in the celebrations to mark the millennium of two events which are at the root of her history: the canonization of St Adalbert and the establishment of the country’s first metropolitan see: Gniezno, with its three suffragan Dioceses of Kolobrzeg, Kraków and Wroclaw. I was also able to conclude the nation's Second Plenary Synod and to proclaim a new saint, as well as numerous new blesseds, exemplary witnesses of God's love.

God is love” was the theme of my apostolic journey, which became a great hymn of praise to the heavenly Father and to the wonderful works of his mercy. For this reason I never stop thanking him, the Lord of the world and of history, who once again allowed me to cross the land of my ancestors as a pilgrim of faith and hope, and in particular, as a pilgrim of his love.

I would like to express my gratitude once again to the President of the Republic and to the State authorities for their welcome and active support. My fraternal meeting with the Pastors of the beloved Church in Poland, whom I warmly thank for their great commitment and apostolic zeal, was also a great comfort to me. I extend my thanks to all who helped in any way to make my visit a success: I am thinking in particular of all who prayed and offered their own sufferings for this intention; I am also thinking of the young people, a large number of whom took part in every stage of my pilgrimage.

2. The overall theme of these days was the Gospel text of the Beatitudes, which shows us God's love in the unmistakeable features of Christ's face. What a joy it was for me, in St Adalbert's footsteps, to proclaim the eight Beatitudes, as I meditated on the history of my ancestors! My brief stops in Gdalnsk, Pelplin and Elblaog in the Baltic region, where Adalbert was martyred, were dedicated to the memory of this great Bishop and martyr. The legacy of Adalbert has always been guarded by the Polish people and has borne wonderful fruits of witness throughout Poland's history.

In this regard I had the opportunity to visit cities which preserve an indelible memory of the destruction, mass executions and deportations of the Second World War. Only faith in God, who is love and mercy, made possible their material and moral resurgence. In Bydgoszcz, where Cardinal Wyszylnski built the church dedicated to “The Holy Polish Brethren Martyrs”, I celebrated Mass for the martyrs, commemorating the “unknown soldiers” of God's cause and those who died in this century. In Torun I beatified Fr Wincenty Frelichowski (1913-1945), who was a peacemaker in his pastoral ministry and later in the concentration camp and, until his death, bore witness to God's love among the typhus victims of the Dachau concentration camp. In Warsaw I beatified 108 martyrs, including Bishops, priests, religious and lay people, victims of the concentration camps during the Second World War.

In the capital I also beatified Edmund Bojanowski — an organizer of educational and charitable works and precursor of the Council’s teaching on the lay apostolate — and Sister Regina Protmann, who combined the contemplative life with caring for the sick and teaching children and young girls. In Stary Saocz I canonized Sister Kinga, an outstanding 13th-century figure, a model of charity both as the wife of the Polish Prince Boleslaus and, after his death, as a Poor Clare nun.

30 These heroic witnesses of faith show that the “traditio” of God’s Word, heard and put into practice, has been handed down from Adalbert to this day, and should be courageously incarnated in today's society as it prepares to cross the threshold of the third millennium.

3. In Poland faith was nourished and greatly supported by devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Veneration of the divine Heart of Jesus had special prominence in this pilgrimage: in the background was the consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart which my revered Predecessor Leo XIII performed for the first time exactly 100 years ago. Humanity needs to enter the new millennium with trust in God's merciful love. However, this will only be possible if we turn to Christ the Saviour, the inexhaustible source of life and holiness.

And then what can we say of my compatriots’ filial affection for their Queen, Mary most holy? In Lichen I blessed the large new shrine dedicated to her, and in some cities, including my birthplace, I crowned revered images of the Blessed Virgin. In Sandomierz I celebrated the Eucharist in honour of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I would also like to recall my prayer meetings in Elk, Zamos-c, Warsaw- Praga, Lowicz, Sosnowiec, Gliwice and in my native town of Wadowice, as well as my visit to the monastery in Wigry.

Before my return I knelt in front of the venerable icon of Our Lady of Czeostochowa at Jasna Góra: it was a moment of deep spiritual feeling. I renewed the entrustment of my life and my Petrine ministry to her, the “Holy Virgin who defends bright Czestochowa” (cf. Mickiewicz); to her I consecrated the Church in Poland and throughout the world; to her I prayed for the precious gift of peace for all humanity and solidarity among peoples.

4. During my journey I had several occasions to thank God for the changes which have occurred in Poland over the last 20 years in the name of freedom and solidarity. I did this at Gdansk, the city which symbolizes the Solidarnosc movement. I did it especially when I spoke to the Polish Parliament, where I recalled the peaceful struggles of the '80s and the revolution of '89. The moral principles of those struggles must continue to inspire political life, so that democracy will be based on strong ethical values: the family, human life, work, education, care of the weak. At the same time as elections were being held for the European Parliament, I prayed for the “old” continent, that it might continue to be a beacon of civilization and authentic progress, rediscovering its spiritual roots and making the very most of its peoples’ potential from the Urals to the Atlantic.

In addition, at the two meetings with the academic world, in Torun and Warsaw, I was able to emphasize how relations between the Church and the world of science have improved, to the great advantage of both. Nor can I forget the prayer at Radzymin in memory of the war of 1920 and the “Miracle of the Vistula”.

At other events I raised my voice in defence of the weakest persons and groups: while the Church performs works of mercy, she encourages justice and solidarity after the example of saints like Queen Hedwig and Albert Chmielowski, models of sharing with the most needy. Progress cannot be made at the expense of the poor or of economically weaker groups, or at the expense of the natural environment.

5. There was also an opportunity to stress that the Church makes her contribution to the integral development of the nation first of all by the formation of consciences. The Church exists to evangelize, that is, to proclaim to all that “God is love” and to enable every person to meet him. The Second Plenary Synod renewed this commitment according to the Second Vatican Council and in the light of the signs of the times, calling all believers to generous co-responsibility.

Evangelization is not credible if as Christians we do not love one another according to the Lord's commandment. In Siedlce and Warsaw, in memory of the Blessed Martyrs of Podlasie, I prayed with the Greek-Catholic faithful that the divisions of the second millennium would be overcome. I also wanted to meet my brothers of other confessions, to strengthen the bonds of unity. At a shared ecumenical liturgy in Drohiczyn, this prayer involved the Orthodox, Lutherans and other non-Catholic Ecclesial Communities. The need for unity in the Church is felt by all: we must work for its full realization, ready to admit our faults and to forgive one another.

On the morning of the last day of my pilgrimage I was able to celebrate the Eucharist in Wawel Cathedral. Thus as I left my beloved city of Kraków, I could thank God for the millennium of that Archdiocese.

6. Dear brothers and sisters, let us praise the Lord together for these days of grace. I repeat with you today: Te Deum laudamus ...! Yes, we praise you O God, for the holy Church, founded on Christ the cornerstone, on the Apostles and martyrs, and which has spread to every corner of the earth. We especially praise you for the Church in Poland, rich in faith and works of charity.

We praise you, O Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Poland! Uniquely involved in the mystery of the Incarnation, help your people to celebrate the Great Jubilee with faith, and come to the aid of everyone in difficulty who has recourse to you. Help each of us to choose the realities which do not pass away: faith, hope and charity. Help us, O Mother, to live charity, which is the greatest of them all, because “God is love”.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I extend a cordial welcome to the members of the Young Presidents' Organization and of the Summer University of Christian Culture. May your visit to Rome be an occasion of renewal in faith and in commitment to building a world of justice, peace and solidarity with those in need. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland and the United States, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

Wednesday 30 June 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. These two Apostles, whom the liturgy calls the “Princes of the Apostles”, were associated by the mysterious plan of divine Providence, despite their personal and cultural differences, in a single apostolic adventure, and the Church joins them  in  one commemoration.

Yesterday's solemnity is very ancient; we find it in the Roman sanctoral cycle even earlier than the feast of Christmas. In the fourth century it was customary on that day to celebrate three Holy Masses in Rome: one at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, another at the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls and the third in the Catacombs of St Sebastian, where according to tradition the bodies of the two Apostles were hidden for a while at the time of the invasions.

St Peter, a fisherman of Bethsaida, was chosen by Christ to be the foundation stone of his Church. St Paul, struck down on the road to Damascus, went from being a persecutor of Christians to the Apostle of the Gentiles. They both ended their life with martyrdom in the city of Rome. Through them the Lord “gave the Church the firstfruits of the Christian faith” (cf. Collect of the Mass in their honour). The Popes invoke the authority of these two “pillars of the Church” when, in official acts, he relates tradition to its source, which is the Word of God preserved and handed down by the Apostles. By listening with docility to this Word, the ecclesial community is made perfect in love in union with the Pope, the Bishops and all the clergy (cf. Eucharistic Prayer II).

2. Among the signs which yesterday, in accordance with a well-established tradition, enriched the liturgy at which I presided in the Vatican Basilica, was the ancient rite of the “conferral of the pallium”. The pallium is a small circular band in the form of a stole, set with six crosses. It is woven of white wool from the shearing of lambs blessed every year on 21 January, the feast of St Agnes. The Pope confers the pallium on newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishops. It expresses the authority which, in communion with the Church of Rome, the Metropolitan acquires by law in his own Ecclesiastical Province (
CIC 437, §1).

Archaeological and iconographical evidence, as well as various written documents, make it possible to date this rite to the early centuries of the Christian era. Thus we are confronted with an ancient tradition which has been found practically throughout the Church’s history.

32 Among the various meanings of this rite, two seem to stand out most clearly. First of all, the special relationship of the Metropolitan Archbishops with the Successor of Peter and, consequently, with Peter himself. It is from the Apostle's tomb, a permanent memorial of his profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, that the pallium receives its power as a symbol: those who wear it must remind themselves and others of the intimate and profound bond with Peter and his mission. This should take place in all circumstances of life, from teaching to pastoral guidance, from the celebration of the sacraments to dialogue with the community.

They are thus called to take a leading role in building up the Church's unity, which is expressed in the profession of the one faith and in fraternal charity.

3. There is a second value which the conferral of the pallium clearly emphasizes. The lamb, which offered the wool it is made of, symbolizes the Lamb of God who took upon himself the sins of the world and gave himself in ransom for humanity. As Lamb and Shepherd, Christ continues to watch over his flock and entrusts it to the care of those who sacramentally represent him. With the whiteness of its wool, the pallium is a call to innocence of life, and with its series of six crosses it reminds us of daily fidelity to the Lord, to the point of martyrdom if necessary. Those who wear the pallium must therefore live an extraordinary and constant communion with the Lord, marked by purity of intention and action and by generosity of service and witness.

As I affectionately greet the Metropolitan Archbishops who received the pallium yesterday and those who have wished to be present at this audience today, I would like to urge you all, dear brothers and sisters who have accompanied them, to pray for your Pastors. Let us entrust these venerable Brothers in the Episcopate to the Good Shepherd, so that they will grow each day in fidelity to the Gospel and be “examples to the flock” (
1P 5,3).

May Mary, Mother of the Church, protect those who are called to lead the Christian people and obtain for all Christ's disciples the precious gift of love and unity.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I am pleased to greet the international group of students taking part in the Summer School in Astrophysics sponsored by the Vatican Observatory. May your efforts to understand the universe bring you closer to the God who creates and sustains all things by his eternal love. My greeting also goes to the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, with gratitude for your generous support. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

                                                                                  July 1999

Wednesday 7 July 1999 - The merciful nature of God's judgement

1. In Psalm 116 we read: "Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful" (
Ps 116,5). At first sight judgement and mercy would seem to be two irreconcilable realities, or at least, the second seems to be connected with the first only if it mitigates its own inexorable power. It is necessary instead to understand the logic of Sacred Scripture, which links them and indeed presents them in a way that one cannot exist without the other.

In the Old Testament the sense of divine justice is perceived gradually, beginning with the situation of one who has acted well and feels unjustly threatened. He then finds refuge and defence in God. This experience is expessed several times in the Psalms which, for example, state: "I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the afflicted, and executes justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence" (Ps 140,13-14).

Scripture conceives of intervention on behalf of the oppressed primarily as justice, that is, as God's fidelity to the saving promises made to Israel. God's justice is therefore one which stems from the gratuitous and merciful initiative by which he bound himself to his people in an eternal covenant. God is just because he saves, thus fulfilling his promises, while the judgement of sin and the wicked is only a secondary aspect of his mercy. The sinner who has sincerely repented can always trust in this merciful justice (cf. Ps 51,6 Ps 51,16).

Regarding the difficulty of finding justice in human beings and their institutions, there is a growing awareness in the Bible that justice will only be fully realized in the future, through the action of a mysterious figure who will gradually assume more precise "messianic" features: a king or a king's son (cf. Ps 72,1), a shoot that "will come forth from the stump of Jesse" (Is 11,1), a "righteous branch", a descendant of David (Jr 23,5).

2. The figure of the Messiah, foreshadowed in many passages, especially in the prophetic books, assumes in the perspective of salvation the functions of governance and judge ment for the prosperity and growth of the community and its individual members.

The judicial function will be exercised over the good and the wicked, who will appear together for judgement, where the triumph of the just will become fear and amazement for the wicked (cf. Sg 4,20-5,23 cf. also Da 12,1-3). The effect of the judgement entrusted to the "Son of man", in the apocalyptic vision of the book of Daniel, will be the triumph of the holy people of the Most High over the downfall of earthly kingdoms (cf. Da 7, especially vv. Da 7,18 and Da 7,27).

On the other hand, even those who can expect a favourable judgement are aware of their own limits. Thus there is a growing sense that it is impossible to be just without divine grace, as the Psalmist recalls: "O Lord ... in your justice answer me. Enter not into judgement with your servant, for before you no living man is just" (Ps 143,1-2).

3. We find the same basic logic again in the New Testament, where divine judgement is linked to Christ's saving work.

Jesus is the Son of man to whom the Father has given the power to judge. He will pass judgement on all who will come forth from their tombs, separating those destined for the resurrection of life from those who will experience the resurrection of judgement (cf. Jn 5,26-30). However, as the Evangelist John stresses: "God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3,17). Only those who will have rejected the salvation offered by God in his boundless mercy will be condemned, because they will have condemned themselves.

4. St Paul delves into the salvific meaning of this concept of "the justice of God" which is accomplished "through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Rm 3,22). The justice of God is closely connected with the gift of reconciliation; if we are reconciled with the Father through Christ, we too, through him, can become the justice of God (cf. 2Co 5,18-21).

Judgement and mercy can thus be understood as two dimensions of the same mystery of love: "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rm 11,32). Love, which is the basis of the divine attitude and must become a fundamental virtue for the believer, thus prompts us to have trust in the day of judgement, casting out all fear (cf. 1Jn 4,18). In imitation of this divine judgement, human judgement must also be exercised according to a law of freedom, in which it is precisely mercy that must prevail: "Always speak and act as those destined for judgement under the law of freedom. Merciless is the judgement on the one who has not shown mercy; but mercy triumphs over judgement" (Jc 2,12-13).

5. God is the Father of mercy and of all consolation. For this reason in the fifth request of the prayer par excellence, the Our Father, "our petition begins with a "confession" of our wretchedness and his mercy" (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2839). In revealing the fullness of the Father's mercy to us, Jesus also taught us that we only have access to this Father, so just and merciful, through the experience of that mercy which must mark our relations with our neighbour. "This outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us.... In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father's merciful love" (CEC 2840).
* * *

I extend a particular welcome to the various groups of Religious Sisters and Brothers engaged in renewal courses. May you be strengthened in your distinctive witness to the pre-eminence of God in all things and to his love for every creature. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.