S. John Paul II Homil. 12


Sunday, 3 December 1978

1. I am here today to visit your parish dedicated to St Francis Xavier; I do so with great emotion and deep joy. This is my first visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome, entrusted to me by Christ through my election as Bishop of Rome, which took place on 16 October as a result of the votes of the Cardinals, gathered in conclave. Taking possession of the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of this City, I said that, in a certain way, I was then entering all the parishes of the diocese of Rome. Of course this entrance into the parishes of Rome, during the ceremonies at the Lateran on twelve November, was rather in spirit. The actual visits to the Roman parishes, on the contrary, must take place gradually. I hope that everyone will understand this and be indulgent with me, in consideration of the immense mass of commitments connected with my ministry.

It is a great joy for me to be able to visit as the first Roman parish precisely yours, to which I am linked by a special memory. In fact, in the years of the immediate post-war period, as a student in Rome, I used to go nearly every Sunday to Garbatella, to help in the pastoral service. Some moments of that period are still alive in my memory, although it seems to me that in the course of over thirty years many things have changed enormously here.

2. All Rome has changed. Then there were few suburbs. Today we find ourselves in the centre of a large inhabited district. Now buildings occupy all the green spaces surrounding the city. These buildings speak of the people who inhabit them. You, beloved parishioners, are these inhabitants. You make up the citizens of Rome and, at the same time, a definite community of the People of God. The parish is just such a community. It is so, and becomes ever more so by means of the Gospel, the Word of God, which is proclaimed here regularly and also because of the fact that sacramental life is lived here. Coming to you today, in the name of Christ, I am thinking particularly of what Christ himself transmits to you by means of his priests, your pastors. But not only by means of them. I am thinking of how much Christ operates by means of all of you.

3. To whom does my thought go particularly and whom do I address? I address all the families who live in this parish community and who make up a part of the Church of Rome. To visit the parishes, as part of the Diocese-Church, it is necessary to reach all the" domestic churches", that is, all the families. This, in fact, was the name given to families by the Fathers of the Church. "Make your home a church", St John Chrysostom urged his faithful in one of his sermons. And the following day he repeated: "When I said to you yesterday: make your home a church, you burst into acclamations of jubilee and showed eloquently what joy had flooded your hearts on hearing those words" (In Genesim Serm. VI, 2; VII, 1: f..; cf. also Lumen Gentium LG 11 Apostolicam actuositatem AA 11). Therefore, finding myself among you here today, before this altar, as Bishop of Rome, I go in spirit to all the families. Many are certainly present here: to them I address my cordial greeting; but, with my thought and my heart, I seek them all.

I say to all married couples and to parents, young and adult: take each other's hand as you did on your wedding day, on receiving the Sacrament of Marriage joyfully. Imagine your Bishop asking you again today for your consent and yourselves uttering, as then, the words of the marriage promise, the oath of your marriage.

Do you know why I recall it? Because the "domestic church", the quality and holiness of the family, the education of your children, depend on the observance of these commitments. Christ entrusted all that to you, beloved spouses, on the day in which he united your lives for ever, by means of the priest's ministry, at the moment in which you uttered the words that you must never forget: "until death do us part". If you remember them, if you observe them, beloved Brothers and Sisters, you are also apostles of Christ and you contribute to the work of Salvation (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 35,41 Gaudium et Spes GS 52).

4. Now my thought also goes to you, children, to you, young people. The Pope has a special predilection for you because not only do you represent but you are the future of the Church and therefore the future of your parish. Be profoundly friends of Jesus and take to your family, to the school, to the district, the example of your Christian life, limpid and joyful. Always be young Christians, real witnesses to Christ's teaching. Be, in fact, bearers of Christ to this confused society, which needs him more than ever today. Proclaim to everyone with your lives that only Christ is the true salvation of mankind.

5. And I address further, on this visit, the sick, the suffering, persons who are lonely, forsaken, who need understanding, a smile, help, the solidarity of brothers. At this moment my thought also goes to all those—patients, doctors, personnel, chaplains, Sisters—in the large hospital within your parish, the Orthopedic Accident Centre. To all, my affectionate encouragement and the assurance of my prayers.

6. Now that we have embraced all your Community with our thought and our heart, I wish to turn to those who have given themselves to Christ, in a particular way.

13 I wish to express a fatherly appreciation to the Sisters who live, pray and work in this populous parish: the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent of Paul, dedicated to care for children and the poor; the Handmaids of the Sanctuary, dedicated to the apostolate in the school; the Sister Disciples of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, who unite commitment for the education of children with ceaseless worship of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist; the Capuchin Poor Clares, who, for four hundred years, in silence and in poverty, have been praying and offering themselves for the Church and for the world.

Thank you, thank you, beloved Sisters! May your Bridegroom Jesus reward you for the good you are doing! Continue to serve the Lord "in joy", with generous and intense constancy.

7. I address my last words to you, beloved Brother Priests, to you, beloved Parish Priest, and to all your collaborators. I have already had the opportunity to meet you separately and to reflect together on various questions concerning your parish. I thank you heartily for your collaboration with me, with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, with the Auxiliary Bishop of your sector. By means of your ministry Christ himself comes and lives in this community, teaches, sanctifies, absolves and, above all, makes a gift of everyone and everything to the Father, as the third Eucharistic Prayer says. Do not tire of the holy ministry, do not tire of work for your Master. May the voice of Advent, which rings out so clearly in the Gospel words: "Keep watch!", reach everyone through you.

8. Your Parish is celebrating today the feast of its Patron Saint: St Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Far East, missionary and patron saint of the missions. How greatly he merited for this reason alone: to bring the coming of Christ to the hearts of those who did not know him, those whom his Gospel had not yet reached! Your parish intends to follow its Patron Saint, and today celebrates its mission day.

May the word of God be able to reach the utmost limits of the earth! May it be able to find its way to every human heart!

This is the prayer I raise, together with you, through the intercession of St Francis Xavier, I, your Bishop: Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha! Amen



Friday, 8 December 1978

1. As I cross the threshold of the Basilica of St Mary Major today for the first time as Bishop of Rome, there rises up before my eyes the event that I witnessed here, in this place, on 21 November 1964. It was the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, after the solemn proclamation of the dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which begins with the words: "Lumen Gentium" (the light of humanity). On the same day Pope Paul VI had invited the Council Fathers to come to this very place, to the most venerated Marian temple of Rome, to express their joy and gratitude for the work completed that day.

The Constitution "Lumen Gentium" is the principal document of the Council, the "key" document of the Church of our time, the cornerstone of the whole work of renewal which Vatican II undertook and of which it gave the directives.

The last chapter of this Constitution bears the title: "The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church". Paul VI, speaking in St Peter's Basilica that morning, with his thought fixed on the importance of the doctrine expressed in the last chapter of the Constitution "Lumen Gentium", called Mary "Mother of the Church" for the first time. He called her so in a solemn way, and began to call her by that name, with this title, but above all to invoke her to take part as Mother in the life of the Church: this Church which, during the Council, became more deeply aware of her own nature and her own mission. To lay even greater emphasis on this expression, Paul VI, together with the Council Fathers, came here, to St Mary Major's Basilica, where Mary has been surrounded with special veneration and love for so many centuries, under the title of "Salus Populi Romani".

2. Following in the footsteps of this great Predecessor, who was a real father to me, I, too, come here. After the solemn act in Piazza di Spagna, the tradition of which goes back to 1856, I come here as a result of a cordial invitation extended to me by His Eminence the Archpriest of this basilica, Cardinal Confalonieri, the Dean of the Sacred College, and by the whole Chapter.

14 I think, however, that, together with him, all my Predecessors in St Peter's Chair invite me here: the Servant of God Pius XII, the Servant of God Pius IX; all the generations of Romans; all the generations of Christians and the whole People of God. They seem to say: Go! Honour the great mystery hidden from eternity, in God himself. Go, and bear witness to Christ our Saviour, the son of Mary! Go, and announce this particular moment; the turning point in history of man's salvation.

This decisive point in the history of salvation is precisely the "Immaculate Conception". God in his eternal love has chosen man from eternity: He has chosen him in his Son. God has chosen man, in order that he may reach the fullness of good by means of participation in his own life, divine Life, by means of grace. He has chosen him from eternity, and irreversibly. Neither original sin, nor the whole history of personal faults and social sins have been able to dissuade the eternal Father from this plan of love of his. They have not been able to cancel the choice of us in the eternal Son, the Word consubstantial with the Father.

Since this choice was to take form in the Incarnation, and since the Son of God was to become a man for our salvation, for this very reason the eternal Father chose for him, among men, his Mother. Each of us becomes a man because he is conceived and born from his mother's womb. The eternal Father chose the same way for the humanity of his eternal Son. He chose his Mother from the people to whom he had entrusted his mysteries and his promises in a special way for centuries. He chose her from the race of David and at the same time from the whole of mankind. He chose her of royal descent, but at the same time among poor people.

He chose her from the beginning. from the very first moment of conception, making her worthy of the divine motherhood to which she would be called at the appointed time. He made her the first heir to the holiness of her own Son. The first among those redeemed by his blood, which he had received from her, humanly speaking. He made her spotless at the very moment of conception.

Today the whole Church contemplates the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and rejoices in it. This is a special day in the period of Advent.

3. The Roman Church exults in this mystery and I, as the new Bishop of this Church, take part in this joy for the first time. For this reason I longed so much to come here, to this temple, where Mary has been venerated for centuries as "Salus Populi Romani". Do not this title, this invocation, tell us that salvation (salus)has become in a peculiar way the heritage of the Roman People (Populi Romani)? Is not this the salvation that Christ brought to us and that Christ continually brings to us, he alone? And is not his Mother, who precisely as his Mother was redeemed by him, her Son, in an exceptional, "more eminent" way (Paul VI, Creed), is not she, too, called—by him, her Son, in a way that is more explicit, simple and powerful at the same time, to take part in the salvation of men, of the Roman people, of the whole of mankind? To lead everyone to the Redeemer. To bear witness to him, even without words, only with love, in which "the genius of the mother" is expressed. To approach even those who put up most resistance, for whom it is most difficult to believe in love; who consider the world a great polygon "in which everyone struggles against everyone" (as one of the philosophers expressed himself in the past). To bring all—that is, each one—closer to her Son. To reveal the primacy of love in man's history. To announce the final victory of love. Is not the Church thinking of this victory when she reminds us today of the words of the book of Genesis: "He (the woman's seed) shall bruise the serpent's head" (cf. Gen
Gn 3,15)?

4. "Salus Populi Romani"! Today the new Bishop of Rome crosses the threshold of the Marian temple of the Eternal City, conscious of the struggle between good and evil, which pervades every man's heart, which takes place in the history of mankind and also in the soul of the "Roman people". In this connection the last Council tells us the following: "The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity" (Gaudium et Spes GS 37).

And therefore the Pope, at the beginning of his episcopal service in St Peter's Chair in Rome, wishes to entrust the Church particularly to her in whom there was accomplished the stupendous and complete victory of good over evil, of love over hatred, of grace over sin; to her of whom Paul VI said that he is "the beginning of the better world", to the Blessed Virgin. He entrusts to her himself, as the servant of servants, and all those whom he serves, and all those who serve with him. He entrusts to her the Roman Church, as token and principle of all the Churches in the world, in their universal unity. He entrusts it to her and offers it to her as her property!

"Totus Tuus ego sum et omnia mea Tua sunt. Accipio Te in mea omnia!" (I am all yours, and all that I have is yours. May You be my guide in everything).

With this simple and at the same time solemn act of offering, the Bishop of Rome, John Paul II, wishes once more to reaffirm his own service of the People of God, which cannot but be the humble imitation of Christ and of her who said of herself: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord" (Lc 1,38).

Let this act be a sign of hope, as the day of the Immaculate Conception is a sign of hope against the background of all the days of our Advent.



Sunday, 10 December 1978

1. "Vobis ... sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus" ("For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian"): these words of St Augustine were re-echoed loudly in the texts of the Second Vatican Council, in its magisterium. They come to my mind this very day, as I visit St Anne's parish, the parish of Vatican City. This is, in fact, my parish. I have fixed abode in its territory like my Venerated Predecessors, and also like you, revered Brother Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, and you, dear Brothers and Sisters, my fellow parishioners. Here, in this church, I can repeat, particularly, the words that St Augustine addressed to his faithful on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination: "Sed et vos sustinete me, ut secundum praeceptum apostolicum, invicem onera nostra portemus et sic adimpleamus legem Christi (
Ga 6,2) ... Ubi me terret quod vobis sum, ibi me consolatur quod vobiscum sum. Vobis enim sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus. Illud est nomen officii, hoc gratiae; illud periculi est, hoc salutis" (" But you too support me in order that, according to the command of the Apostle, we may bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (Ga 6,2) ... While I am frightened by what I am for you, I am consoled by what I am with you. For you, in fact, I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian. The former is the name of an office, the latter of grace; the former is a name of danger, the latter of salvation ": Serm. 340, 1; PL 38, 1483).

In fact, the truth that each of us—you, revered and dear Brothers, and I—is a "Christian", is the first source of our joy, of our noble and serene pride, of our union and communion.

A "Christian": what a significance this word has and what riches it contains! The disciples were called Christians for the first time at Antioch, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, when they describe the events of the apostolic period in that city (Ac 11,26). Christians are those who have received the name of Christ; those who bear his mystery within themselves; those who belong to him, with all their humanity; those who, with full awareness and freedom, "agree" to his impressing upon their human being the dignity of children of God. Christians!

The parish is a community of Christians. A fundamental community.

2. Our Vatican parish is dedicated to St Anne. As is known, it was our predecessor Pius XI, with the Apostolic Constitution "Ex Lateranensi pacto", dated 30 May 1929, who gave a particular religious character to Vatican City: the Bishop Sacristan, an office which had been entrusted to the Order of St Augustine since 1352 by Clement VI, was nominated Vicar General of Vatican City; St Anne's church, which had long been looked after by the hard­working Augustinian Fathers, was erected a parish. Subsequently, with the Motu Proprio "Pontificalis Domus" of 28 March 1968, His Holiness Paul VI of venerated memory eliminated the title of "Sacristan", leaving, however, the office intact. It was maintained under the name of "Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City".

I wish, therefore, to address a fatherly and affectionate greeting to my Vicar General and to his immediate collaborators; to the parish priest; to the zealous Fathers who show such dedication for pastoral care of the parish and for the decorum of the various Chapels of the Vatican; to the other religious men and women, who carry out their industrious and meritorious service for the Holy See; to all parishioners of this unique Community.

3. I have desired so much to visit "my parish", already at the beginning of my Pontificate, as one of the first among the parishes of the Diocese of Rome: I am happy that this should happen just in the period of Advent.

The figure of St Anne reminds us, in fact, of the paternal home of Mary, the Mother of Christ. Mary was born there, bearing in her that extraordinary mystery of the immaculate conception. There she was surrounded by the love and solicitude of her parents: Joachim and Anne. There she "learned" from her mother, from St Anne, how to be a mother. And although, from the human point of view, she had renounced motherhood, the Heavenly Father, accepting her total donation, gratified her with the most perfect and holy motherhood. Christ, from the Cross, transferred in a certain sense his mother's maternity to his favourite disciple, and likewise he extended it to the whole Church, to all men. When, therefore, as "children of (divine) promise" (cf. Gal Ga 4,28), we find ourselves in the range of this motherhood, and when we feel its holy depth and fullness, let us think then that it was St Anne herself who was the first to teach Mary, her daughter, how to be a Mother.

"Anne" in Hebrew means "God (subject understood) has given grace". Reflecting on this meaning of St Anne's name, St John of Damascus exclaimed: "Since it was to happen that the Virgin Mother of God should be born from Anne, nature did not dare to precede the seed of grace; but it remained without its fruit in order that grace might produce its own. In fact, there was to be born that first-born who would give birth to the first-born of every creature" (Serm.VI, De nativ. B.V.M., 2; ).

As we come here today, all of us, parishioners of St Anne's in the Vatican, let us turn our hearts to her and, through her let us repeat to Mary, Daughter and Mother:

16 "Monstra Te esse Matrem,
Sumat per Te preces,
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse Tuus".

(Show yourself our Mother,
He will hear your pleading
Whom your womb has sheltered
And whose hands bring healing)

(Translation from English Breviary: Editor's note).

On the second Sunday of Advent these words seem to take on special significance.



Sunday, 17 December 1978

17 1. After the taking possession of St John Lateran's Basilica, which is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, after the moving visit to St Mary Major's Basilica on the Esquiline, where I was able, at the beginning of my pontificate, to express all my confidence and my complete abandonment into the hands of Mary, the Mother of the Church, today I am granted the possibility of coming here.

The Basilica of St Paul's outside the Walls—one of the four most important temples of the Eternal City—calls forth special thoughts and sentiments in the heart of him who, as Bishop of Rome, has become the Successor of St Peter. Peter's vocation—unique by the will of Christ himself—is united through a singular tie with the person of Paul of Tarsus. Both Peter and Paul found themselves here in Rome at the end of their earthly pilgrimage; both came here for the same purpose: to bear witness to Christ. For the same cause they both suffered death here and, as tradition narrates, that happened on the same day. They both constitute the foundation of this Church which invokes them, remembering them together as her Patron Saints. And although Rome is Peter's See, we all realize what a deep stamp was left by Paul—his conversion, his person, his mission—on the beginnings of this See, on its foundations.

The fact that St Peter found himself in Rome, that he came here from Jerusalem through Antioch, that he carried out his pastoral mandate here, that he ended his life here, was an expression of that universality of the Gospel, of Christianity, of the Church, of which St Paul was a resolute and intrepid herald from the beginning. At the moment when he, a persecutor, was converted, we hear the words ring out: "He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" (
Ac 9,15).

Rome was not the only goal of the apostolic life and pilgrimage of Paul of Tarsus. It should rather be said that his aim was the universum of the Roman empire of that time (as his journeys and his letters testify). Rome was the last stage of these journeys. Paul arrived here already as a captive, imprisoned for the cause to which he had dedicated himself entirely: the cause of universalism, that cause, which struck at the very foundations of a certain rabbinical view of the Chosen People and its Messiah. Prosecuted because of this very activity, Paul had appealed as a Roman citizen to Caesar. "You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go" (Ac 25,12). And thus Paul found himself in Rome as a prisoner waiting for Caesar's sentence. He found himself here, while the principle of the universality of the Church, of the People of God of the new Covenant, had already been sufficiently affirmed, and in fact consolidated in an irreversible way in the life of the Church herself. And then Paul, who at the beginning of his mission, after his conversion, had considered it his particular duty "videre Petrum" (to see Peter) was able to arrive here in Rome to meet Peter again: here, in this city, in which the universality of the Church has found her bulwark in Peter's Chair for centuries and millennia.

What I have said about Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle of the Gentiles and a great Saint, is very little. A great deal more could and should be said, but I am obliged to limit myself to these references.

2. And now allow me to speak of that Pontiff who chose the name of the Apostle of the Gentiles: Paul VI. The circumstances of time and place induce me particularly to speak of him. But, above all, this is a need of the heart: I wish, in fact, to speak of him whom I rightly consider not only as my predecessor, but actually as a father. Again I feel that I could and should speak at length, but here, too, owing to the tyranny of time, my talk will have to be a short one. I wish to thank all those who honour the memory of this great Pontiff. I wish to thank his fellow citizens of Brescia for the recent solemn act dedicated to his memory, and I wish to thank Cardinal Pignedoli for having taken part in it. We will return, and more than once, to what he did and to what he was.

Why did he choose the name Paul? (after many centuries this name has returned to the yearbook of the Bishops of Rome). Certainly because he felt a special affinity with the Apostle of the Gentiles. Does not Paul VI's pontificate testify, moreover, how deeply aware he was, like St Paul, of Christ's new call to the universalism of the Church and of Christianity according to the measure of our times? Did he not scrutinize, with extraordinary insight, the signs of the times of this difficult age, as Paul of Tarsus did? Did he not feel called, like this Apostle, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Did he not remain, like St Paul, inwardly calm even when "the ship was caught and could not face the wind"? (cf. Ac 27,15).

Paul VI, the Servant of the servants of God, the successor of Peter, who had chosen the name of the Apostle of the Gentiles, had inherited his charism along with his name.

3. Coming to St Paul's Basilica today, I wish to be united in a new bond of love and ecclesial unity with the community of Benedictine Fathers, who have guarded this place in prayer and work for centuries.

I wish furthermore, as the new Bishop of Rome, to visit the parish of which St Paul's Basilica is the seat.

This ancient and venerable Basilica, indeed, which throughout the centuries has always been a goal of pilgrimages and which was outside the walls of Rome, has, in these last few decades—as a result of the urbanistic development of the city—been erected a parish, becoming in this way the centre of the religious life of the inhabitants of this sector.

18 Thus we have here three aspects which, although quite distinct, are as many facets of the same reality, the Abbey, the Basilica, the Parish, three bodies which nourish one another, bestowing on the faithful abundant spiritual fruit.

I then extend my greeting to the various associations which collaborate with the parish on the pastoral plane; I greet the catechists, I greet with fatherly affection the religious men and women who are carrying out their activity within the parish, with special attention for those who work at the Pontifical Youth Centre of St Paul's which organizes inter-parish activity on behalf of the young.

To all the faithful, my cordial greeting, my blessing and my encouragement to love their parish. And finally, I address a special thought to the suffering, either because they are afflicted with sickness, or because they are in straits for lack of work, assuring them that I will remember them specially in my prayers.

4. "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico vobis, gaudete ... ": rejoice always in the Lord: I repeat to you, rejoice. These words of today's liturgy, that is, of the third Sunday of Advent are taken from St Paul. The same words were repeated by Paul VI in the exhortation on Christian joy published by him (cf. Gaudete in Domino).

Today I join them whole-heartedly and cry to you, beloved Brothers and Sisters: "iterum dico vobis, gaudete"—I repeat, rejoice!

"Dominus... prope est"—The Lord is near!


Sunday, 24 December 1978

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. We are in Saint Peter's Basilica at this unusual hour. Around us is the architecture in which whole generations have for centuries expressed their faith in God Incarnate, following the message brought to Rome by the apostles Peter and Paul: All our surroundings speak with the voice of the two millennia that separate us from the birth of Christ. The second millennium is speedily approaching its end. In these circumstances, in this context of time and place, let me go with you to the cave near the little town of Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. Let us all be there rather than here—there where "in the silence of the night" was heard the wail of the newborn infant, that eternal expression of the children of the earth. At the same moment was heard the voice of Heaven, that "world" of God dwelling in the inaccessible tabernacle of Glory. The majesty of the eternal God and mother earth making herself known by the wail of the newborn Infant enable us to glimpse the prospect of a new Peace, Reconciliation, and Covenant:

"To us is born the Saviour of the world,"
"all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."

19 2. Nevertheless at this moment, at this strange hour, the ends of the earth are still afar off. They are pervaded by a period of waiting, far from peace. The hearts of people are filled rather with weariness; people have fallen asleep, as have the shepherds in the Bethlehem valleys close by. What is happening in the stable, in the rock cave, has a dimension of profound intimacy: it is something between the Mother and the Babe to be born. No outside person has access. Even Joseph, the Nazareth carpenter, is but a silent witness. She alone is fully aware of her Motherhood. She alone perceives the special expression of the infant's wailing. The birth of Christ is pre-eminently her mystery, her great day. It is the feast of the Mother.

It is a strange feast: there is no trace of the synagogue liturgy, no reading of the prophets or singing of the psalms. "Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body has thou prepared for me" (
He 10,5) seems to be what is said by the wailing of the one who, although he is the Eternal Son, the Word who is of one being with the Father, "God from God, Light from Light," has become flesh (Jn 1,14). He reveals himself in that body as one of us, a little infant, in all his frailty and vulnerability. Dependent upon people's care, entrusted to their love, undefended. He wails, and the world does not hear him, cannot hear him. The newborn infant's wail can only just be heard a few steps away.

3. And so, Brothers and Sisters crowding this Basilica, I beg you: let us try to be more present there than here. Not many days ago, I manifested the great desire I felt to be in the cave of the Nativity, to celebrate in that very place the beginning of my Pontificate. Since circumstances do not allow me to do that, finding myself here with all of you, I am endeavouring all the more to be there spiritually with you all, in order to crown this Liturgy with the depth, the ardour, the authenticity of an intense inner feeling. The liturgy of Christmas Night is rich with a special realism: the realism of the moment that we are renewing, and also the realism of the hearts that are reliving that moment. All of us in fact are deeply moved, although what we are celebrating happened some two thousand years ago.

In order to have a complete picture of the reality of that event, in order to penetrate more deeply still into the realism of that moment and the realism of human hearts, let us remember that the event occurred precisely in the way it did: in abandonment and extreme poverty, in the cave stable outside the town, because people in the town refused to receive the Mother and Joseph into any of their homes. Nowhere was there room. From the beginning, the world showed itself inhospitable towards the God who was to be born as Man.

4. Now let us reflect briefly on the lasting meaning of this lack of hospitality on man's part towards God. All of us here wish it were different. We wish that everything within us men should be open to God born as a man. It is with this desire that we have come here!

On this night let us therefore think of all the human beings that fall victim to man's inhumanity, to cruelty, to the lack of any respect, to contempt for the objective rights of every human being. Let us think of those who are lonely, old, or sick; of the homeless, those suffering from hunger, and those whose misery is the result of the exploitation and injustice of economic systems. Let us also think of those who on this night are not allowed to take part in the liturgy of God's Birth and who have no priest to celebrate Mass. And let us give a thought also to those whose souls and consciences are tormented no less than their faith.

The stable at Bethlehem is the first place for solidarity with man: for one man's solidarity with another and for all men's with all men, especially with those for whom there is "no room at the inn" (cf. Lk Lc 2,7), whose personal rights are refused recognition

5. The newborn Infant is wailing. Who hears the baby's wail?
But Heaven speaks for him, and it is Heaven that explains it with these words:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour" (Lc 2,14).
Touched by the fact of the birth of Jesus, we must hear this cry from Heaven.
20 That cry must reach all the ends of the earth, all men must hear it anew.
A Son is given to us.
Christ is born to us. Amen.

S. John Paul II Homil. 12