S. John Paul II Homil. 20
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
First of all I wish to greet all present here, Romans and visitors, who have come to celebrate the closing of the year 1978—to celebrate it religiously. I address my cordial greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, to the brother bishops, to the representatives of civil Authority, to the priests, to the men and women religious, especially those of the Society of Jesus with their Father General.
1. The Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, that is, the present Sunday, unites, in the liturgy, the solemn memory of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The birth of a child always gives rise to a family. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem gave rise to this unique and exceptional Family in the history of mankind. In this Family there came into the world, grew and was brought up the Son of God, conceived and born of the Virgin-Mother, and at the same time entrusted, from the beginning, to the truly fatherly care of Joseph. The latter, a carpenter of Nazareth, who vis-à-vis Jewish law was Mary's husband, and vis-à-vis the Holy Spirit was her worthy spouse and the guardian, really in a fatherly way, of the maternal mystery of his Bride.
The family of Nazareth, which the Church, especially in today's liturgy, puts before the eyes of all families, really constitutes that culminating point of reference for the holiness of every human family. The history of this Family is described very concisely in the pages of the Gospel. We get to know only a few events in its life. However what we learn is sufficient to be able to involve the fundamental moments in the life of every family, and to show that dimension, to which all men who live a family life are called: fathers, mothers, parents, children, The Gospel shows us, very clearly, the educative aspect of the family. "He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them" (Lc 2,51).
This submission, obedience, readiness to accept the mature examples of the human conduct of the family, is necessary, on the part of children and of the young generation. Jesus, too, was "obedient" in this way. And parents must measure their whole conduct with this "obedience", this readiness of the child to accept the examples of human behaviour. This is the particularly delicate point of their responsibility as parents, of their responsibility with regard to the man, this little and then growing man entrusted to them by God himself. They must also keep in mind everything that happened in the life of the Family of Nazareth when Jesus was twelve years old; that is, they bring up their child not just for themselves, but for him, for the tasks which he will have to assume later. The twelve-year-old Jesus replied to Mary and Joseph: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" (Lc 2,40).
The deepest human problems are connected with the family. It constitutes the primary, fundamental and irreplaceable community for man. "The mission of being the primary vital cell of society has been given to the family by God himself", the Second Vatican Council affirms. (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11). The Church wishes to bear a particular witness to that too during the Octave of Christmas, by means of the feast of the Holy Family. She wishes to recall that the fundamental values, which cannot be violated without incalculable harm of a moral nature, are bound up with the family. Material perspectives and the "economico-social" point of view often prevail over the principles of Christian and even human morality. It is not enough, then, to express only regret. It is necessary to defend these fundamental values tenaciously and firmly, because their violation does incalculable harm to society and, in the last analysis, to man. no experience of the different nations in the history of mankind, as well as our contemporary experience, can serve as an argument to reaffirm this painful truth, that is, that it is easy, in the fundamental sphere of human existence in which the role of the family is decisive, to destroy essential values, while it is very difficult to reconstruct these values.
What are these values? If we had to answer this question adequately, it would be necessary to indicate the whole hierarchy and the set of values which define and condition one another. But trying to express ourself concisely, let us say that here it is a question of two fundamental values which fall strictly into the context of what we call "conjugal love". The first of them is the value of the person which is expressed in absolute mutual faithfulness until death: the faithfulness of the husband to his wife and of the wife to her husband. The consequence of this affirmation of the value of the person, which is expressed in the mutual relationship between husband and wife, must also be respect for the personal value of the new life, that is, of the child, from the first moment of his conception.
21 The Church can never dispense herself from the obligation of guarding these two fundamental values, connected with the vocation of the family. Custody of them was entrusted to the Church by Christ, in such a way as leaves no doubt. At the same time, the self-evidence of these values—humanly understood— is such that the Church, defending them, sees herself as the spokesman of true human dignity: of the good of the person, of the family, of the nations. While maintaining respect for all those who think differently, it is very difficult to recognize, from the objective and impartial point of view, that anyone who betrays conjugal faithfulness, or who permits life conceived in the mother's womb to be wiped out and destroyed, behaves in a way consistent with true human dignity. Consequently, it cannot be admitted that programmes which suggest, which facilitate, which admit such behaviour serve the objective well-being of man, the moral well-being, and help to make human life really more human, really more worthy of man; that they serve to construct a better society.
3. This Sunday is also the last day of the year 1978. We have gathered here, in this liturgy to give thanks to God for all the good he has bestowed on us and given us the grace to do during the past year, and to ask his forgiveness for all that, being contrary to good, is also contrary to his holy will. Allow me, in this thanksgiving and in this request for forgiveness, to use also the criterion of the family, this time, however, in the wider sense. As God is the Father, then the criterion of the family has also this dimension; it refers to all human communities, societies, nations and countries; it refers to the Church and to mankind.
Concluding this year in this way, let us give thanks to God for everything that—in the various spheres of earthly existence—makes men even more of a "family", that is, more brothers and sisters, who have in common the one Father. At the same time, let us ask for forgiveness for everything that is alien to the common brotherhood of men, that destroys the unity of the human family, that threatens it and impedes it.
Therefore, having always before my eyes my great predecessor Paul VI, and the most beloved Pope John Paul I, I their successor, in the year of the death of both, today say: "Our Father, who are in heaven, accept us on this last day of the year 1978 in Christ Jesus, your Eternal Son, and lead us forward in him in the future, in the future that you yourself desire: God of Love, God of Truth, God of Life!".
With this prayer on my lips, I, successor of the two Pontiffs who died during this year, cross, together with you, the frontier which, in a few hours, will divide the year 1978 from 1979.
1. Year 1979. The first day of the month of January; the first day of the New Year.
Entering the doors of this Basilica today, I would like, together with you all, beloved Brothers and Sisters, to greet this year, I would like to say to it: welcome!
I do so on the day of the octave of Christmas. Today is already the eighth day of this great feast which, according to the rhythm of the liturgy, concludes and begins every year.
The year is the human measure of time. Time speaks to us of the "passing" to which the whole of creation is subjected. Man is aware of this passing. Not only does he go through time, but he also "measures the time" of his passing: time made of days, weeks, months and years. In this human flow there is always the sadness of farewell to the past and, at the same time, opening to the future.
22 Precisely this farewell to the past and this opening to the future are inscribed, by means of the language and rhythm of the liturgy of the Church, in the solemnity of the Lord's Nativity.
Birth always speaks of a beginning, the beginning of what is born. The Lord's Nativity speaks of an extraordinary beginning. In the first place it speaks of that beginning which precedes any time, of the origin that is God himself, without a beginning. During this octave we have been nourished every day on the mystery of perennial generation in God, the mystery of the Son generated eternally by the Father: "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made" (Profession of Faith).
In these days we have also been, in a particular way, witnesses of the earthly birth of this Son. Being born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary as Man, "Word-God, he accepts time. He enters history. He submits to the law of human flow. He closes the past: with him there ends the time of expectation, that is, the Old Covenant. He opens the future: the New Covenant of grace and reconciliation with God. He is the new "Beginning" of the New Time. Every new year participates in this Beginning. It is the Year of the Lord. Welcome, Year 1979! From the very beginning you are the measure of the new time, inscribed in the mystery of the birth of God!
2. On this first day of the New Year the whole Church prays for peace. It was the great Pontiff Paul VI who made for the whole Church the problem of peace the subject of prayer on New Year's Day. Today, following his noble initiative, we take this subject up again with full conviction, fervour and humility. In fact, on this day which opens the New Year, it is not possible to formulate a more fundamental wish than this wish for peace. "Deliver us from evil"! Reciting these words of Christ's prayer, it is very difficult to give them a different content from the one that opposes peace, that destroys it, that threatens it. Let us pray therefore: Deliver us from war, from hatred, from the destruction of human lives! Do not allow us to kill! Do not allow use of those means which, are in the service of death and destruction and whose power, range of action, and precision go beyond the limits known hitherto. Do not allow them to be used ever! "Deliver us from evil!" Defend us from war! From any war. Father, who are in Heaven, Father of life and Giver of peace, the Pope, the son of a nation which, during history, and particularly in our century, has been among those most sorely tried in the horror, the cruelty, and the cataclysm of war, supplicates you. He supplicates you for all peoples in the world, for all countries and for all continents. He supplicates you in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
How significant are Jesus Christ's words, which we recall every day in the eucharistic liturgy: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." (Jn 14,27).
It is this dimension of Peace, the deepest dimension, that only Christ can give to man. It is the fullness of Peace, rooted in reconciliation with God himself. Inner Peace, in which brothers share by means of spiritual communion. It is this peace, above all, that we implore. But, aware that "the world" by itself—the world after original sin, the world in sin—cannot give us this peace, we implore it at the same time for the world. For man in the world. For all men, all nations, of different languages, cultures and races. For all continents. Peace is the first condition of real progress. Peace is indispensable in order that men and peoples may live in freedom. Peace is, at the same time, conditioned—as John XXIII and Paul VI teach—by the guarantee that all men and peoples be ensured the right to freedom, truth, justice, and love.
"A political society"—John XXIII teaches—" is to be considered wellordered, beneficial and in keeping with human dignity if it is grounded on truth... This demands that reciprocal rights and duties be sincerely recognized. Furthermore, human society will be such as we have just described it, if the citizens, guided by justice, apply themselves seriously to respecting the rights of others and discharging their own duties; if they are moved by such fervour of charity as to make their own the needs of others and share with others their own goods: if, finally, they work for a progressively closer fellowship in the world of spiritual values. Human society is realized in freedom, that is to say, in ways and means in keeping with the dignity of its citizens, who accept the responsibility of their actions, precisely because they are by nature rational beings." (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris PT 18 cf. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio PP 44).
Peace, therefore, must always be learned. It is necessary, consequently, to educate oneself to peace, as the message for the first day of the year 1979 says. It is necessary to learn it honestly and sincerely at various levels and in the various environments, beginning with children in the primary schools, up to those who rule. At what stage are we in this universal education to peace? How much still remains to be done? How much must still be learned?
3. Today the church particularly venerates the Motherhood of Mary. This is, as it were, a last message of the octave of Christmas. Birth always speaks of the Begetter, of her who gives life, of her who gives man to the world. The first day of the New Year is Mother's day.
We see her then—as in so many pictures and sculptures—with the Child in her arms, with the Child at her breast. The Mother, she who begot and fed the Son of God. The Mother of Christ. There is no image that is better known and that speaks in a more simple way of the mystery of the Lord's birth than that of the Mother with Jesus in her arms. Is not this image, perhaps, the source of our extraordinary confidence? Is it not just this image that allows us to live in the circle of all the mysteries of our faith, and, while contemplating them as "divine", to consider them at the same time so "human"?
But there is yet another image of the Mother with her Son in her arms. It is in this basilica: it is "la Pietà": Mary with Jesus taken from the Cross; with Jesus who died before her eyes, on Mount Golgotha, and who after death returns to those arms on which he was offered as Saviour of the world at Bethlehem.
23 I would like, then, to unite our prayer for peace with this double image. I would like to connect it with this Motherhood, which the Church venerates particularly in the octave of Christmas. Therefore I say: "Mother, you who know what it means to clasp in your arms the dead body of your Son, of him to whom you gave birth, spare all mothers on this earth the death of their sons, the torments, the slavery, the destruction of war, the persecutions, the concentration camps, the prisons! Keep for them the joy of birth, of sustenance, of the development of man and of his life. In the name of this life, in the name of the birth of the Lord, implore with us peace, and justice in the world! Mother of Peace, in all the beauty and majesty of your motherhood, which the Church exalts and the world admires, we pray to you: Be with us at every moment! Let this New Year be a year of peace, in virtue of the birth and the death of your Son! '"
"Arise (Jerusalem), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you", the Prophet Isaiah cries out (60:1), in the eighth century before Christ, and we listen to his words today in the 20th century A.D. and admire, really admire, the great light that comes from these words. Through the centuries, Isaiah addresses Jerusalem, which was to become the city of the Great Anointed, of the Messiah: "And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising... your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms... A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord" (60:3-4; 6).
We have before our eyes these three—so tradition says—three Magi Kings who come on pilgrimage from afar with camels and bring with them not only gold and incense, but also myrrh: the symbolic gifts with which they went to meet the Messiah who was awaited also beyond the frontiers of Israel. We are not surprised, therefore, when Isaiah, in his prophetic dialogue with Jerusalem, carried out through the centuries, says at a certain point: "your heart shall thrill and rejoice" (60:5). He speaks to the city as if it were a living man.
"Your heart shall thrill and rejoice". On Christmas Eve, finding myself together with those participating in the eucharistic liturgy at midnight here in this Basilica, I asked everyone to be, in mind and heart, more there than here; more in Bethlehem, at the birthplace of Christ, in that stable-cave in which "the Word became flesh" (Jn 1,14). And today I ask the same of you. Because the Magi Kings, those strange pilgrims from the East, came just there, to that place, south of Jerusalem. They passed through Jerusalem. They were led by a mysterious star, the star, an exterior light that moved in the firmament. But they were led even more by faith, the inner light. They were not surprised by what they found: neither by the poverty, nor the stable, nor the fact that the Child lay in a manger. They arrived and they fell down "and worshipped him". Then they opened their caskets and offered the Child Jesus gold and incense, of which Isaiah speaks, but also myrrh. And after having done all that, they returned to their country.
Because of this pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the Magi Kings from the East became the beginning and the symbol of all those who, through faith, reach Jesus, the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, the Saviour nailed to the cross, he who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb at the foot of Calvary, rose again on the third day. These very men, the Magi Kings, three according to tradition, from the East, became the beginning and the prefiguration of all those who, from beyond the frontiers of the Chosen People of the Old Covenant, have reached and still reach Christ by means of faith.
"Your heart shall thrill and rejoice", Isaiah says to Jerusalem. In fact the heart of the People of God had to dilate in order to contain the new men, the new peoples. This very cry of the Prophet is the keyword of the Epiphany. It was necessary to dilate the heart of the Church continually, when more and more new men entered it; when, following in the steps of the shepherds and the Magi Kings, from the East new peoples kept arriving in Bethlehem. Now, too, it is always necessary to dilate this heart according to the needs of men and peoples, ages and times.
The Epiphany is the feast of the vitality of the Church. The Church lives her awareness of God's mission, which is carried out through her. The Second Vatican Council helped us to realize that the "mission" is the proper name of the Church, and in a certain sense defines her. The Church becomes herself when she carries out her mission. The Church is herself, when men—such as the shepherds and the Magi Kings from the East—reach Jesus Christ by means of faith. When in the Christ-Man and through Christ they find God again.
The Epiphany, therefore, is the great feast of faith. Both those who have already arrived at faith, and those who are on the way to arrive at it, take part in this feast. They take part, rendering thanks for the gift of faith, just as the Magi Kings, full of gratitude, knelt before the Child. The Church, which becomes more aware of the vastness of her mission every year, takes part in this feast. To how many men it is still necessary to bring faith! How many men must be won back to the faith, which they have lost, and that is sometimes more difficult than the first conversion to faith! But the Church, aware of that great gift, the gift of the incarnation of God, can never stop, can never tire. She must continually seek access to Bethlehem for every man and for every period. The Epiphany is the feast of God's challenge.
On this solemn day representatives of the population and of the Archdiocese of Krakow have come to Rome, to present a gift to the Child Jesus, a gift which is expressed in the episcopal ordination of the new Archbishop of Krakow. It is a gift of faith, love and hope. Allow me to speak to them in my native language. (The Pope then continued in Polish.)
24 Arise Jerusalem! "Your heart shall thrill and rejoice". Gathered there together with those who have come from the East, with the Magi kings, admirable witnesses to faith in God incarnate, near the manger in Bethlehem, where we are directed in mind and heart, we find ourselves again here in this Basilica. Here the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled in a special way, in the course of the centuries. From here the light of faith spread to so many men and so many peoples. From here, through Peter and his See, an innumerable multitude has entered and still enters this great community of the People of God, in the union of the new Covenant, in the tabernacles of the new Jerusalem.
And today what more can Peter's successor wish this Basilica, this new Chair of his, than to serve the Epiphany? That in it and through it men of all times and of our time, men from the East and from the West, from the North and from the South, may succeed in arriving at Bethlehem, at arriving at Christ by means of faith.
Once more, therefore, I borrow the words of Isaiah to express the wishes "Urbi et Orbi" and say: "Arise! Your heart shall thrill and rejoice!"
Arise and sow the strength of your faith! May Christ enlighten you continually! May men and Peoples walk in this light. Amen.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With great emotion I celebrate the Eucharist in my native language. I do this in the Sistine Chapel, in this place where on 16 October 1978 I heard the new call of Christ the Lord and accepted it in the spirit of obedience of faith to my Saviour and of full confidence in Our Lady, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. Today, for the first time, I am celebrating the Eucharist in the same place in my native language, taking advantage of the invitation of the Vatican Radio, which will henceforth broadcast the Holy Mass in the Polish language every Sunday, for all those for whom it is difficult to take part in Mass in any other way.
So I express my great joy and thanks to God for this event, which fulfils the desire long expressed by my fellow countrymen in Poland and all over the world. It is known that, in the different countries of the world, the language of our fathers continues to be the language of prayer for many people. I am happy that today, thanks to the radio, I can reach them with all these people present here in the unity of the eucharistic sacrifice. I am confident that, in the same way, I will be able to meet and unite with my brothers and sisters also in other languages. I consider this unity in the Holy Eucharist, in the liturgy of the word, in the liturgy of the sacrifice made by the body and blood of Jesus Christ, essential and fundamental for the Successor of Peter, for this apostle to whom the Lord said: "when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lc 22,32).
When today, celebrating the sacrifice of Christ, I meet you, beloved fellow countrymen, I remember those annual meetings at which, as Archbishop of Krakow, I was honoured to find myself again with the representatives of all the parishes of our royal city. This always happened on the festivity of the Three Wise Kings. It was in the evening hours, during Mass in Wawel cathedral. At those moments we all wished one another a happy new year too. Today I want to repeat these wishes in such unusual circumstances. For at this moment the representatives of the archdiocese of Krakow and of the Poles resident in Rome, who carne here yesterday to take part in the episcopal consecration of my successor to the See of the archdiocese of Krakow, are in the Sistine Chapel. To all of them, and among them in particular to the Metropolitan of Krakow, I address my good wishes, which I take from the very heart of the Eucharist.
I am happy at your presence, beloved brothers and sisters, who have come from dear Krakow and the archdiocese. Allow me to extend these good wishes of mine even more: to the whole of our dear country, to all my fellow countrymen, to all those who are listening to me at this moment and also to all those who cannot listen to me now. I am addressing these good wishes of mine to all families, to all generations, to the old, the sick, the suffering, to men full of strength, to parents and educators; at the same time, to all young people and all children, to men engaged in hard, physical work, to scientists and men of culture. I address these good wishes of mine to all professions without exception. Every year, we used to meet in various groups, in the month of January, during the occasion of "oplatek" ("oplatek" is the blessed bread which families exchange with one another, breaking it among them, as a sign of unity). I do the same in spirit before you all. With this gesture at the beginning of the new year, with this gesture of the hand and of the heart, I want to reach the whole Church in Poland, all dioceses and parishes, religious men and women, all priests, all brothers in the episcopate with our beloved Primate, first of all. In spirit, I go to all Catholic centres of higher studies, to all seminaries, all novitiates, all communities of the young, gathered in spiritual retreats, in the work to form the new man in Jesus Christ.
The year 1979 is the year of the jubilee of Saint Stanislaus: it is nine hundred years since his martyrdom. In the jubilee of this patron saint of the Poles, in the first days of the jubilee year, I wish first and foremost for the spiritual unity for which Saint Stanislaus, his sacrifice first of all and then his canonization, became the source and inspiration for our ancestors. Today we need the same spiritual unity of our country, after so many trials in the course of its history. We need the unity of the spirit and the strength of the spirit. And these are my warmest wishes. I want these wishes to reach everyone. I hope that all those who are in power in our country may serve well the common good of the whole nation; the nation for which I desire peace with my whole heart; for which, as its son, I desire all good; it deserves to be respected in the large family of nations. This Church has lived for a thousand years in faithful and tenacious service of the nation and today, too, it serves this nation.
25 In today's liturgy the prophet Isaiah speaks of the future Messiah, Christ:
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law." (Is 42,1-4)
My wish for everyone is that Christ, Jesus Christ, may be with you in the year that has begun, the year 1979 after his birth, Anno Domini. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. We have listened to the Word of God in today's liturgy, which speaks to us in the text of the book of Samuel, the letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, and the Gospel of St John. Although these texts, which we have heard, are very different, the Word of God of this Sunday speaks to us above all of one question: "vocation", the "call". This is stressed in the description contained in the book of Samuel: God calls a boy by name; He calls him in a perceptible voice, speaking his name. Samuel hears the voice and wakes up from sleep three times, and for three times he fails to understand whose voice it is, who is calling him by name. Only on the fourth time, instructed by Eli, does he give a suitable answer: "Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears" (1S 3,9).
This passage from the book of Samuel enables us to understand more thoroughly the vocation of the first Apostles, of Andrew and Peter called by Jesus Christ. They, too, accept the call, and follow Jesus; first Andrew, who announces to his brother: "We have found the Messiah"; then, in his turn, Simon, to whom Jesus, during their first meeting, announces his new name, "Cephas" ("which means Peter" Jn 1,42).
When we then follow the thought that St Paul expresses in the letter to the Corinthians, our subject seems to open to a further dimension. The Apostle writes to those to whom his letter is addressed: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price" (1Co 6,19-20).
God, who calls man to his service and assigns a task to him, has a fundamental right to do so. He alone has this right, because he is the Creator and Redeemer of each of us. If he calls us, if he invites us to follow a given way, he does so in order that we will not dissipate his work; in order that we may respond with our own lives to the gift received from him; in order that we may live in a way worthy of man, who is "a temple of God"; in order that we may be able to carry out that particular duty, which he wishes to entrust to us.
2. The Parish, which—according to the affirmation of the Second Vatican Council—is "a kind of cell" of the diocese (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 10), is just the environment in which the Christian must hear the call that God addresses to him, accept it and realize it; and he is certainly helped in that by the faith and the life of faith of the whole parish community. A life of faith, which has its beginning in the family, dynamically integrated in the parish, and which develops from Baptism to the meeting with Christ in death; following the principle of the close collaboration between the family and the parish, which cooperate together in the formation of the responsible and mature Christian.
Here, therefore, is the indispensable necessity of parish catechesis, which integrates and completes the teaching of religion imparted at school, and connects religious knowledge with sacramental life.
26 Just in this context, each of the parishioners—especially if young—must put to himself responsibly the fundamental question of his own Christian existence: "To what does God call me?". It may be the call to a given profession, which puts one in the service of others and of society, such as being a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a professional, a worker ... ; or the vocation to family life, by means of the sacrament of Marriage; or the call, for some, to exclusive service of God, as happened—the Liturgy reminds us today—in the case of Samuel, Andrew, and Simon. But the whole life of a man and a Christian, the fruit of the infinite love of God the Father, is a "vocation" which embraces the different stages of existence, and gives a meaning to the various situations, even to suffering, illness, old age. The Christian must always, and in all circumstances, be able to repeat, with faith and with conviction, the words of the young Samuel: "Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears" (l Sam 3:9).
3. I would like this moving and generous readiness to accept God's call to be always present in all the many faithful of this parish, to form a living Christian community, joyful and proud to be able to say "yes" to Christ and to the Church.
My affectionate thought goes in the first place to the parish priest and his collaborators, who unselfishly dedicate their energies to the good of the parish; it goes to the children, who give consolation and hope; to the adolescents, who are beginning their first steps, which may also be difficult ones, towards the commitments of life; to the young, who seek joy, the fullness of joy; to adults, eager to contribute with all their might to the construction of a more just and more serene society; to fathers and mothers, who wish to preserve and renew the strength of their indissoluble union; to the sick, who suffer in body and in spirit; to the old, eager for understanding, affection, and the respect they deserve.
A memory and a special greeting for the men and women religious who carry out their meritorious apostolate within the parish: to the Salesians of Don Bosco, who have been working with tireless dedication in the Testaccio district for seventy-five years; to the Daughters of Divine Providence; to the Daughters of Our Lady Help of Christians; to the Community of the Congregation of the Teacher Sisters of St Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts.
4. Your parish, dear Brothers and Sisters, is dedicated to St Mary Liberator: from the high altar her image smiles, a fragment of a very ancient fresco which belonged to the Church of "St Mary Liberator at the Roman Forum", notes on which date back to the twelfth century.
This title, with which you invoke the Blessed Virgin here, is a very significant one: man appreciates freedom very much; but at the same time he often does not know how to use it; he uses it badly. Often the wrong use of freedom results in man's losing it; he ceases to be free.
Christ teaches us the good and perfect use of freedom. St Paul was particularly aware of this, when he wrote to the Galatians: "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Ga 5,1).
The Mother of Christ collaborates with her Son in this great work which he wishes to carry out in each of us. And she does so in a motherly way, and with such love that only a mother can express.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Let us entrust our freedom to Mary. She will help us to discover that real good which freedom contains.
She will help us to make the best use of freedom; she who "liberates", as every mother does. We know very well that often the very awareness that she is there, hearing everything that has the power to embarrass us, discourage us, humiliate us, takes great weights from our hearts.
27 Sometimes a word of hers, a look of hers, a smile of hers, is enough.
She "liberates" with kindness, in a motherly way.
Man, who has fallen into the depths and is "entangled" in the many snares, needs this certainty that there is someone who thinks of him as of her own son; Someone for whom he has not lost his value.
She is the Mother who "liberates" by means of love.
I beseech you, Mother of God, Patron Saint of this parish, be a Liberator for all your' sons and your daughters.
St Mary Liberator, pray for us!
S. John Paul II Homil. 20