S. John Paul II Homil. 412
Sunday, 17 May 1987
"Ring out your joy to the Lord...
Give thanks to the Lord..." (Cfr. Ps Ps 33,1).
1. These words of the Responsorial Psalm express the spiritual joy we share as we gather to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is in such a spirit of praise and thanksgiving that you, members of the Filipino community, have gathered around this altar, to thank the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our own Father, for the twenty-five years of the Pontifical Philippine College. In doing so, you reaffirm the ecclesial bonds and spiritual communion which unite the beloved Filipino people to the Successor of Peter; and you acknowledge the importance for your people and for the Church in your land of the wise counsel which led the Philippine Hierarchy to establish in Rome an institution for the higher education of members of the clergy.
413 2. The Liturgy of this Fifth Sunday of Easter speaks to us above all of the wonderful mystery of our spiritual union with Christ, the Risen Lord, who – in the words of the Council – is the "goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings" (Gaudium et Spes GS 45). Jesus wants us to be close to him: "so that where I am you may be too" (Cfr. Io Jn 14,3).
The question asked by Thomas–"How can we know the way?" expresses a spontaneous reaction to the presentation of the Christian view of life and reality. Indeed, it expresses the concern felt by every human being when awakened to a sense of responsibility for the life that God has given, when faced with the need to give direction to life’s activities. It is a question which has accompanied the human family in one way or another throughout its history, and which today takes the form of an acute concern for the very future of civilization, a concern which expresses itself in the hearts and voices of many, especially the young, as a dramatic plea for justice, peace and truth in human affairs.
"How can we know the way?" (Cfr. Ibid. 14,5).
Not a way that will, in the end, prove to have been a false illusion,
promising what it could not give.
Not a way that leads to despair and death!
But the way that leads to truth and fullness of life!
3. And as we search, we hear the powerful words of Jesus,
in reply to Thomas and to each one of us:
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (Cfr. Ibid. 14,6 ).
At the Last Supper, before his death, Jesus Christ reveals to us the whole meaning of our existence. He reveals the way to the Father; he teaches us the truth about God’s mercy and about our own transcendent destiny; he offers us the life about which Saint John says: "the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us" (Cfr. Io Jn 1,2).
414 Yes, life! Life for every individual and for every people!
The true life that was made manifest in the Son of God!
Where sin and death had triumphed, the Paschal Mystery of redemption has brought new life. That new life is communicated to those who "come to him" (Cfr. 1P 2,4), those who come to Jesus Christ. If we hear his voice and open our hearts to his gift of the Holy Spirit, he will give us the true life. In the words of the Second Reading, he who is "the living stone" of the "spiritual house" will transform us too into "living stones" (Cfr. Ibid. 1P 2,5). Here today, within this magnificent Basilica, which the hands of artists have marvellously fashioned from stone, we, as the community of faith gathered around the altar of Sacrifice, "living stones", are called to be the true "spiritual house" of which the Lord is the "cornerstone" and in which are offered "the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God" (Cfr. Ibid. 1P 2,6).
4. Since December 8 last, the Church in the Philippines has been celebrating a National Eucharistic Year to commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila in 1937. This is therefore a special time of spiritual growth for every Filipino who is willing to make the Eucharist the focal point of his or her coming to maturity in Christ. The Eucharist demands and sustains the "conversion" of life which the Sacrament of Penance renews constantly in the heart of the Christian. The Eucharist builds and nourishes the communion of faith and life of all who celebrate the great mystery of the everlasting covenant (Cfr. Prex Eucharistica IV). The Eucharist fills the entire ecclesial community with vitality and energy. It is the nourishment of every form of the apostolate. The Eucharist speaks to us of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
5. The Second Reading of today’s Liturgy reminds us appropriately, of the royal priesthood shared by all God’s People: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praise of God" (1 Petr. 2,9).
That description applies to every faithful community of the baptized. In a special way it refers to the early Christian community, whose history is narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. And precisely from the Acts of the Apostles, in the First Reading of this Mass, we learn that in that first community, gathered around the Apostles, there very quickly arose a clear perception of the diversity of offices and duties (Cfr. Ac 6,3-4).
The faithful know that the "laying on of hands" constitutes the visible sign of a vocation and consecration which sets one apart for a special ministry (Cfr. Ibid.6,6). Ordained priests, "in the image of Christ the Eternal High Priest, are consecrated to preach the Gospel, shepherd the faithful and celebrate divine worship" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium ). Herein lies the special significance of the anniversary you have wished to commemorate on this occasion: twenty-five years of the commitment of the Pontifical Philippine College to the formation of priests for the building up of God’s "spiritual house".
6. As sons and daughters of the Philippines you hold in high esteem the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life. The presence here of so many priests, and men and women Religious, is a visible sign of the vitality of the Church in your land. Dear priests and Religious: the more profound the crisis of spiritual values affecting contemporary society, the brighter your light should shine before your brothers and sisters, the more you must become men and women of prayer, the more you must be willing to give witness to the person, work and teaching of Christ, and the more you, personally, must be willing to " decrease in order that he may increase" (Cfr. Io Jn 3,30). The present hour requires that you be men and women of God.
And you, dear lay men and women of the Philippines, you have a different but no less urgent role. It is your task to carry the Gospel of Jesus into the daily affairs of the family, work and society. No less than for the priests and Religious, Jesus is the "way, and the truth, and the life" for you too.
I am happy that so many of you have been able to come here today. I pray that the fellowship which flows from the Eucharist and the joy of meeting one another may strengthen and sustain you all in the challenges which life places before you, especially when you are far from your homes and families, and in the tasks that Christ lays on your shoulders. Indeed, in Europe you are called to be the new and youthful witness of that very Faith which your country received from Europe so many generations ago. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the spiritual Mother whom Filipinos love so intensely, gather the entire Filippino people under her mantle of loving care and protection. May she intercede for all of you with her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tamiami Park, Miami
415 Friday, 11 September 1987
"Let the peoples praise you, O God;
Let all the peoples praise you".
"Que todos los pueblos te alaben" (Ps 6).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. The psalm of today’s liturgy urges all the peoples and nations of the earth to give glory to God. In the exultant spirit of this exhortation I find myself on American soil, joined with all of you here in Miami, to express and praise the glory of God through the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. There is no better way to express God’s glory than this sacrament. There is no other prayer which more profoundly unites earth with heaven, or the creature with the Creator, than the Eucharist. There is no other sacrifice in which everything that exists, and particularly man, is able to become a gift for the one who has so generously lavished him with gifts.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of you assembled here today in southern Florida and all the people of this land, you the great nation of the United States: give glory to God together with me – the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter, who is beginning here in Miami his act of papal service. May God’s blessing be upon us! May the holy fear of God reach the ends of the earth! (Cfr. Ps Ps 8).
2. I am very pleased to be with you in Florida, this beautiful land of the sun. I warmly greet you, my brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith, and I extend cordial greetings to those of you who are not members of the Church but are here as welcome friends. I thank you all for coming. I also acknowledge among you the presence of so many ethnic groups, including Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, others from Central America and the Caribbean, together with all the rest who make up the community of the Church. I embrace you all in the love of Christ.
La Iglesia en Florida cuenta con una rica y variada historia a lo largo de más de cuatro siglos y medio. Ponce de León descubrió esta tierra en Pascua de 1513 y le dio el nombre español de Pascua Florida. De aquí que el nombre de vuestro Estado evoque el misterio central de nuestra fe cristiana: la Resurrección de Nuestro Señor y Salvador Jesucristo. El primer asentamiento y la primera parroquia de América del Norte fue establecida precisamente aquí a comienzos de la década de 1560, más de cincuenta años antes de que los " Pilgrim Fathers " desembarcaran en Plymouth Rock.
Los habitantes de Florida pueden, con toda razón, enorgullecerse de su ilustre historia, así como de su presente dinamismo y fuerza de difusión. En efecto, Miami representa hoy una ciudad internacional de influencia cresciente. Es un pórtico de entrada, un cruce de caminos de culturas y lenguas diversas; un centro de comunica ción, viajes y comercio, un puente que une la historia antigua y moderna de América.
This land of fascinating nature, this home of so many different peoples, this place of tourists and haven of senior citizens, this center of the scientific achievements of Cape Canaveral, this State which is Florida, has also been a land of rapid growth in building up the Body of Christ. An indication of this remarkable recent growth is the fact that within just twenty-nine years the Catholic Church in Florida has grown from one diocese to seven. It is indeed a joy for me to be in the midst of this dynamic Church in Florida, a Church which proclaim by word and deed the Good News of the Easter mystery.
416 3. Who is the God whose glory we desire to proclaim by means of the Eucharist?
He is the God who shows us the way of salvation.Thus the Psalmist, who urges all the nations of the earth to praise the glory of God, at the same time exclaims: "may your ways be known upon earth; among all nations your salvation" (Ps 67,3). Our God shows us the way. He is not the God of intellectual abstraction, but the God of the Covenant, the God of salvation, the Good Shepherd.
Christ, the Son of the living God, speaks to us this very day in the Gospel, using this word, so simple yet so eloquent and rich: Shepherd! "I am the Good Shepherd", he says. "I know my sheep and my sheep know me in the same way that the Father knows me and I know the Father" (Jn 10,14-15). In another passage of the Gospel Christ says to us: "No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son – and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11,27). The Son, Jesus Christ, is the Shepherd precisely because he reveals the Father to us. He is the Good Shepherd. And the Father is our Shepherd. And the Father is our Shepherd through the Son, through Christ. And in his Son the Father wants us to have eternal life.
4. Jesus goes on to tell us, in words that speak eloquently of his deep love for us: "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10,11).
Who is this God whose truth we desire to confess by means of the Eucharist? He is the Father who in Christ gives life to us whom he created in his own image and likeness. This life in God is salvation. It is liberation from death. It is redemption from our sins. And this God is Christ, the Son who is of one substance with the Father, who became man for us and for our salvation, Christ the Good Shepherd who has given his very own life for the sheep.
The Eucharist proclaims this truth about God. The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered as a redemptive Sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is the sacrament of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in which our new life in God begins.
This God is Love. The Good Shepherd expresses this truth about God. More than the truth, he expresses the very reality of God as Love.Love desires what is good. It desires salvation. It is "gentle and patient", and it "will have no end" (Cfr. 1Cor 1Co 13,4-8). It will not rest before it has nourished and given life to all in the great sheepfold, before it has embraced all. For this reason Jesus says: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must led them, too, and they shall hear my voice. There shall be one flock then, one shepherd" (Jn 10,16).
5. We draw the image of the flock, and the sheepfold, from the text of John’s Gospel. At the same time, the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians that we have heard in today’s Liturgy enables us to see this image with the eyes of Paul the Apostle. For him the flock is "the body" of which the head is Christ, and thus it is the Body of Christ. In this context it is not difficult to find the likeness between the Head and the Shepherd.
At the same time however the entire image acquires a new meaning and a new expression. The Shepherd leads the flock to the springs of life. As Head, Christ is the source of life for all those who make up his Body. Thus all of us, who as one single flock follow Christ the Good Shepherd, are at the same time called "to build up the body of Christ" (Ep 4,12).
According to the Letter to the Ephesians this "building up" has two dimensions: a personal dimension and a community dimension. Each person must attain that form of perfection which is Christ come to full stature (Cfr. ibid. 4, 13). At the same time, we must all come to maturity "together" in the community of the Church. As the whole People of God we move towards this fullness in Christ.
Christ gives the Church a rich variety of charisms for the purpose of deepening our communion as his Body. He bestows on the Church a great diversity of vocations, not just for the well-being of each person but for the good of all. As Saint Paul says of Jesus, "It is he who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ, till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son" (Ibid. 4, 11-13).
417 6. The Church in the United States, and in a particular way the Church in Miami, experiences this mystery of unity in diversity in a very real sense. Yours is a community of compassion, which over and over again has echoed the message inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free". The civic community and the Church in southern Florida have time after time opened their arms to immigrants and refugees. These people were strangers and you welcomed them. And be sure that as often as you did it for them, you did it for Christ (Cfr. Mt 25,31-46).
I take this occasion to assure you of the Church’s particular concern for those who leave their native countries in suffering and desperation. The frequent repetition of this experience is one of the saddest phenomena of our century. Yet it has often been accompanied by hope and heroism and new life. Here in Miami, I know, there are many who in the face of distress have been faithful to the Gospel and the law of God. Like others who have remained faithful to Christ and his Church in time of oppression, you must guard and protect your Catholic faith as you now live your lives in freedom.
Fidelity to religious practice requires great personal effort in a complex and industrialized society. It takes maturity of faith and strong conviction to take up the Cross each day and follow in the footsteps of Christ. In today’s second reading we hear Saint Paul’s encouragement: "Let us, then, be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine that originates in human trickery and skill in proposing error. Rather, let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head" (Ep 4,14-15).
As I gaze at this great city with its many peoples and cultures, I pray that you will all help one another with your gifts. Stay in touch with your own roots, your cultures and your traditions; pass on your heritage to your children; and at the same time, place all these gifts at the service of the whole community. Above all, "make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force" (Ibid. 4, 3).
7. The work of building up the Body of Christ rests upon all of us in the Church. Certainly there is a vital need today for evangelization, and it takes a variety of forms. There are many ways to serve the Gospel. Despite scientific and technological progress, which truly reflects a form of human cooperation in the creative work of God, faith is challenged and even directly opposed by ideologies and life styles which acknowledge neither God nor the moral law.
Basic human and Christian values are challenged by crime, violence and terrorism. Honesty and justice in business and public life are often violated. Throughout the world great sums are spent on armaments while millions of poor people struggle for the basic necessities of life. Alcohol and drug abuse take a heavy toll on individuals and on society.The commercial exploitation of sex through pornography offends human dignity and endangers the future of young people. Family life is subjected to powerful pressures as fornication, adultery, divorce and contraception are wrongly regarded as acceptable by many. The unborn are cruelly killed and the lives of the elderly are in serious danger from a mentality that would open the door wide to euthanasia.
In the face of all this, however, faithful Christians must not be discouraged, nor can they conform to the spirit of the world. Instead, they are called upon to acknowledge the supremacy of God and his law, to raise their voices and join their efforts on behalf of moral values, to offer society the example of their own upright conduct, and to help those in need. Christians are called to act with the serene conviction that grace is more powerful than sin because of the victory of Christ’s Cross.
An important part of the mission of evangelization is the task of reconciliation. God "has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2Co 5,18). For this reason, I am happy that in preparation for my visit to the United States you have made special efforts to promote reconciliation–reconciliation with God, among yourselves and between different races and cultures. In this context too I remind you of Christ’s promise in today’s Gospel, namely, that when all of us truly listen to his voice, "there shall be one flock then, one shepherd" (Jn 10,16).
8. Deeply conscious of the truth as it is presented to us in this Liturgy by the word of God, let us exclaim once again with the Psalmist: "God, be gracious to us and bless us, may the light of your face shine upon us" (Ps 67,2).
Who is this God to whom our prayer is addressed? Who is this God whom our community proclaims and to whom our hearts speak? Let us listen once again to the words of the prophet Zephaniah: "Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty saviour" (So 3,16-17).
The Mighty One!
418 It is he whom we invoke here, in this land, which in so many ways manifests the strengths and achievements of humanity, of human genius, of intellect, of knowledge and science, of technology and progress.
Who is this God? Once again let us repeat: the Mighty One!
He who is! (Cfr. Ex Ex 3,14).
He in whom "we live and move and have our being!" (Ac 17,28).
"The Alpha and the Omega!" (Ap 1,8).
He alone is the Mighty One! Because he alone is Love.
Here in this land, in this culture of the most advanced progress and affluence, is not the human person at times insecure and confused about the ultimate meaning of existence – the ultimate meaning of life? Is not the human person at times very far from Love?
Yet only Love saves, and God is Love!
O God of love, O God who saves, "may the light of your face shine upon us!" (Ps 67,2). Amen.
Stadium of the University of South Carolina, Columbia
Friday, 11 September 1987
419 Praised be Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I greet each one of you in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is indeed the "Lord of both the dead and the living" (Rm 14,9) who has brought us together in this holy assembly of Christian people, a joyfilled gathering of different Ecclesial Communions: Orthodox, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, members of the United Church of Christ and of other Reformed Churches, Disciples of Christ, members of the Peace Churches, Pentecostals, members of the Polish National Catholic Church and Catholics.
We stand, side by side, to confess Jesus Christ, "the one mediator between God and man" (1Tm 2,5), for "at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord!" (Ph 2,10).
We have come here to pray, and in doing so we are following the example of all the saints from the beginning, especially the Apostles, who in awaiting the Holy Spirit "devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Ac 1,14). Together we are renewing our common faith in the eternal redemption which we have obtained through the Cross of Jesus Christ (Cfr. He 9,12), and our hope that, just as Jesus rose from the dead, so too we shall rise to eternal life (Cfr. Ph 3,11). In fact, through our Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we have been buried with Christ, "so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life" (Rm 6,4). Living a new life in the Spirit, we are a pilgrim people, pressing forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the death of the Lord until he comes (Cfr. 1Co 11,26 Lumen Gentium LG 8).
Brothers and sisters: we are divided in many ways in our faith and discipleship. But we are here together today as sons and daughters of the one Father, calling upon the one Lord Jesus Christ, in the love which the same Holy Spirit pours forth into our hearts. Let us give thanks to God and let us rejoice in this fellowship! And let us commit ourselves further to the great task which Jesus himself urges upon us: to go forward along the path of Christian reconciliation and unity "without obstructing the ways of divine Providence and without prejudging the future inspiration of the Holy Spirit" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 24).
2. In this service of Christian witness we have listened together to the word of God given to us in the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures are dear to all of us. They are one of the greatest treasures we share. In the Sacred Scriptures and in the deeds of divine mercy which they narrate, God our Father, out of the abundance of his love, speaks to us as his children and lives among us. The Bible is holy because in its inspired and unalterable words the voice of the Holy Spirit lives and is heard among us, sounding again and again in the Church from age to age and from generation to generation (Cfr. Dei Verbum DV 21).
3. Today this stadium has resounded with passages from Holy Scripture bearing on the reality of the family. We have heard the plea and promise made by the young widow, Ruth: "Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die and there be buried" (Ru. 1, 16-17). To hear these words is to be moved with a deep feeling for the strength of family ties: stronger than the fear of hardships to be faced; stronger than the fear of exile in an unfamiliar land; stronger than the fear of possible rejection. The b?nd that unites a family is not only a matter of natural kinship or of shared life and experience. It is essentially a holy and religious bond. Marriage and the family are sacred realities.
The sacredness of Christian marriage consists in the fact that in God's plan the marriage covenant between a man and a woman becomes the image and symbol of the Covenant which unites God and his people (Cfr. Os Os 2,21 Ier Os 3,6-13 Is 54,5-10). It is the sign of Christ's love for his Church (Cfr. Eph Ep 5,32). Because God's love is faithful and irrevocable, so those who have been married "in Christ" are called to remain faithful to each other forever. Did not Jesus himself say to us: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder (Cfr. Mt 19,6)?
Contemporary society has a special need of the witness of couples who persevere in their union, as an eloquent, even if sometimes suffering a "sign" in our hum?n condition of the st?adfastn?ss of God's love. Day after day Christian married couples are called to open their hearts ever more to the Holy Spirit, whose power never fails, and who enables them to love each other as Christ has loved us. And, as Saint Paul writes to the Galatians, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity" (Ga 5,22-23). All of this constitutes the rule of life and the programme of personal development of Christian couples. And each Christian community has a great responsibility to sustain couples in their love.
4. From such love Christian families are born. In them children are welcomed as a splendid gift of God's goodness, and they are educated in the essential values of human life, learning above all that "man is more precious for what he is than for what he has" (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 35). The entire family endeavours to practise respect for the dignity of every individual and to offer disinterested service to those in need (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 37).
420 Christian families exist to form a communion of persons in love. As such, the Church and the family are, each in its own way, living representations in human history of the eternal loving communion of the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. In fact, the family is called the Church in miniature, "the domestic church", a ??rticular expression of the Church through the human experience of love and common life (Cfr. ibid. 49). Like the Church, the family ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates to other families and to the whole of society.
5. In America and throughout the world, the family is being shaken to its roots. The consequences for individuals and society in personal and collective instability and unhappiness are incalculable. Yet, it is heartening to know that in the face of this extraordinary challenge many Christians are committing themselves to the defence and support of family life. In recent years the Catholic Church, especially on the occasion of the 1980 Synod of the world's bishops, has been involved in an extensive reflection on the role of the Christian family in the modern world. This is a field in which there must be the maximum collaboration among all who confess Jesus Christ.
So often the pressures of modern living separate husbands and wives from one another, threatening their lifelong interdependence in love and fidelity. Can we also not be concerned about the impact of cultural pressures upon relations between the generations, upon parental authority and the transmission of sacred values? Our Christian conscience should be deeply concerned about the way in which sins against love and against life are often presented as examples of "progress" and ?m?n?i??ti?n. Most often, are the? not but the age-old forms of selfishness dressed up in a new language and presented in a new cultural framework?
6. Many these problems are the result a false notion of individual freedom work in our culture, as if one could be free only when rejecting every objective norm of conduct, refusing to assume responsibility, or even refusing to put curbs on instincts and passions! Instead, true freedom implies that we are capable of choosing a good, without constraint. This is the truly human way proceeding in the choices - big and small - which life puts before us. The fact that we are also able to choose not to act as we see we should is a necessary condition of our moral freedom. But in that case we must account for the good that we fail to do and for the evil that we commit. ?his sense of moral accountability needs to be reawakened if society is to survive as a civilization justice and solidarity.
It is true that our freedom is weakened and conditioned in many ways, not least as a consequence of the mysterious and dramatic history of mankind's original rebellion against the Creator's will, as indicated in the opening pages of the Book of Genesis. But we remain free and responsible beings who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and w? must educate our freedom to recognize and choose what is right and good, and to reject what does not conform to the original truth concerning our nature and our destiny as God's creatures. Truth - beginning with the truth of our redemption through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ - is the root and rule freedom, the foundation and measure of all liberating action (Cfr. Congr. ?r? D??tr. Fidei Libertatis Conscientia, 3).
7. It w?uld be a great tragedy for the entire human family if the United States, which prides itself on its consecration to freedom, were to lose sight of the true meaning of that noble word. America: you cannot insist on the right to choose, without also insisting on the duty to choose well, the duty to choose the truth! Already there is much breakdown and pain in your own society because fundamental values, essential to the well-being of individuals, families and the entire nation, are being emptied of their real content.
And yet, at the same time, throughout this land there is a great stirring, an awareness of the urgent need to recapture the ultimate meaning of life and its fundamental values. Surely by now we must be convinced that only by recognizing the primacy of moral values can we use the immense possibilities offered by science and material progress to bring about the true advancement of the human person in truth, freedom and dignity. As Christians our specific contribution is to bring the wisdom of God's word to bear on the problems of modern living, in such a way that modern culture will be led to a more profoundly restored covenant with divine Wisdom itself (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 8). As w? heard proclaimed in the Gospel reading, Jesus indicates that the supreme norm of our behaviour and our relationships, including our relationship with him, is always obedience to the will the Creator: "Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me" (Mt 12,50).
8. Brothers and sisters: to the extent that God grants us to grow in Christian unity let us work together to offer strength and support to families, on whom the well-being of society depends, and on whom our ?hur?h?s and Ecclesial Communities depend. May the families of America live with grateful hearts, giving thanks to the Lord for his blessings, praying for one another, bearing one another's burdens, welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed then.
?? prayer for all of you at the end of this second day of my visit echoes the words of Paul to the Thessalonians: "May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness ... M?? the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (1?hess. 5, 23-28).
Eastern Campus, University of New Orleans
Saturday, 12 September 1987
421 "My Lord, be patient with me and I will pay you back in full" (Mt 18,26 cfr. v. Mt 29).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. This plea is heard twice in the Gospel parable. The first time it is made by the servant who owes his master ten thousand talents – an astonishingly high sum according to the value of money in New Testament times. Shortly afterwards the plea is repeated by another servant of the same master. He too is in debt, not to his master, but to his fellow servant. And his debt is only a tiny fraction of the debt that his fellow servant had been forgiven.
The point of the parable is the fact that the servant with the greater debt receives understanding from the master to whom he owes much money. The Gospel tells us that "the master let the official go and wrote off the debt" (Ibid.18, 27), yet that same servant would not listen to the plea of his fellow servant who owed him money. He had no pity on him, but "had him put in jail until he paid back what he owed" (Ibid. 18, 30).
Jesus often used parables like this one in his teaching; they are a special method of proclaiming the Good News. They enable the listener to grasp more easily the "Divine Reality" which Jesus came to reveal. In today’s parable, we sense almost immediately that it is a prelude to the words which Jesus commands us to use when we pray to our heavenly Father: "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Mt 6,12).
These words from the "Our Father" also have something very important to teach us. If we want God to hear us when we plead like the servant – " Have patience with me " – then we must be equally willing to listen to our neighbour when he pleads: "Give me time and I will pay you back in full". Otherwise we cannot expect pardon from God, but punishment instead. In the parable the servant is punished because, though a debtor himself, he is intolerant as a creditor towards his fellow servant.
Christ is very clear: when we ourselves are without sympathy or mercy, when we are guided by "blind" justice alone, then we cannot count on the mercy of that " Great Creditor " who is God–God, before whom we are all debtors.
2. In the parable, we find two different standards or ways of measuring: God’s standard and man’s standard. The divine standard is one in which justice is totally permeated bymerciful love. The human standard is inclined to stop at justice alone – justice which is without mercy, and which in a sense is "blind" with regard to man.
Indeed, human justice is often governed by hatred and revenge, as the first reading from the Book of Sirach reminds us. It reads – and the words of the Old Testament are strong – "Should a man nourish anger against his fellow and expect healing from the Lord? ... If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? ... Remember your last days, set enmity aside... Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbour... Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins? " (Si 28,3 Si 28,5-7 Si 28,4).
The exhortations in the Book of Sirach and in the Gospel both move in the same direction. The human way of measuring – the measure of justice alone – which is often "blind" or "blinded" by hatred – must accept God’s standard.Otherwise justice by itself easily becomes injustice, as we see expressed in the Latin saying: summum ius, summa iniuria. The rigorous application of the law can sometimes be the height of injustice.
As I said in my Encyclical Letter on the Mercy of God: "In every sphere of interpersonal relationships justice, must, so to speak, be ‘corrected’ to a considerable extent by that love which, as Saint Paul proclaims, ‘is patient and kind’ or, in other words, possesses the characteristics of that merciful love which is so much of the essence of the Gospel and Christianity" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Dives in Misericordia DM 14).
422 3. Merciful love is also the basis of the Lord’s answer to Peter’s question: "When my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?" "No", Jesus replied, "not seven times; I say, seventy times seven times" (Mt 18,21-22). In the symbolic language of the Bible, this means that we must be able to forgive everyone every time. Surely this is one of the most difficult and radical commands of the Gospel. Yet how much suffering and anguish, how much futility, destruction and violence would be avoided, if only we put into practice in all our human relationships the Lord’s answer to Peter.
Merciful love is absolutely necessary, in particular, for people who are close to one another: for husbands and wives, parents and children, and among friends (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Dives in Misericordia DM 14). At a time when family life is under such great stress, when a high number of divorces and broken homes are a sad fact of life, we must ask ourselves whether human relationships are being based, as they should be, on the merciful love and forgiveness revealed by God in Jesus Christ. We must examine our own heart and see how willing we are to forgive and to accept forgiveness in this world as well as in the next.
No relationship as intense and close as marriage and the family can survive without forgiveness "seventy times seven times". If couples cannot forgive with the tenderness and sensitivity that mercy brings, then they will inevitably begin to see their relationship only in terms of justice, of what is mine and what is yours – emotionally, spiritually and materially – and in terms of real or perceived injustices. This can lead to estrangement and divorce, and often develops into a bitter dispute about property and, more tragically, about children. The plight of the children alone should make us realize that the refusal to forgive is not in keeping with the true nature of marriage as God established it and as he wants it to be lived. No doubt some people will object that Christ’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, as it is upheld by the Church, is lacking in compassion. But what must be seen is the ineffectiveness of divorce, and its ready availability in modern society, to bring mercy and forgiveness and healing to so many couples and their children, in whose troubled lives there remain a brokenness and a suffering that will not go away. The words of the merciful Christ, who fully understands the human heart, remain forever: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19,6).
At the same time, merciful love and forgiveness are never meant to cancel out a person’s right to justice, even in marriage. In the encyclical to which I referred a moment ago I said that "properly understood, justice constitutes... the goal of forgiveness. In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness or mercy... mean indulgence towards evil, scandals, injury or insult... Reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness " (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Dives in Misericordia DM 14).
This also applies in the wider context of social, political, cultural and economic lifewithin and among nations and peoples. May we not hope for what Pope Paul VI described as the " civilization of love" instead of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", the attitude which ravages the face of the earth and scars the family of mankind? As I have said, this love, based on the forgiveness which Jesus described to Peter, does not mean that the objective demands of justice, which people legitimately seek, are thereby cancelled out. Sometimes those demands, however, are very complex.
A case with special urgency today is the international debt question. As you know, many developing countries are heavily in debt to industrialized nations, and for a variety of reasons are finding it harder and harder to repay their loans. "Blind" justice alone cannot solve this problem in an ethical way that promotes the human good of all parties. Merciful love calls for mutual understanding and a recognition of human priorities and needs, above and beyond the "blind" justice of financial mechanisms. We must arrive at solutions that truly reflect both complete justice and mercy (Cfr. Pont. Comm. "Iustitia et Pax" At the Service of the Human Community: An Ethical Approach to the International Debt Question, 1986).
The nature of the Church’s concern in these matters is reflected in the pastoral message on the American economy issued by the bishops of the United States. They say: "We write... as heirs of the biblical prophets who summon us ‘to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God’ (Mi 6,8). We speak as moral teachers, not economic technicians. We seek... to lift up the human and ethical dimensions of economic life..." (Episc. Foederatarum Civitatum Americae Septemtrionalis Economic Justice for All; Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, 4. 7). To do justice, yes – but also to love. This is at the heart of Christ’s message. It is the only way to reach that " civilization of love " that ensures peace for ourselves and if or the world.
4. "Forgive us... as we forgive".
The Eucharist which we are celebrating and in which we are taking part is linked to the deepest truth of these words. Each time we participate in the Eucharist, we must translate, as it were, the parable of today’s Gospel into the reality of that sacrament which is the "great mystery of faith". When we gather together, we must be aware of how much we aredebtors to God the Creator, God the Redeemer. Debtors – first for our Creation, and then for our Redemption. The Psalmist exclaims:
"Bless the Lord, o my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
423 Bless... and forget not all his benefits" (Ps 103,1-2).
This exhortation is directed to each one of us, and at the same time to the whole community of believers. Forget not... the gift of God. Forget not... that you have received his bounty: in Creation –that is to say, in your existence and in all that is in and around you; in Redemption – in that grace of adoption as sons and daughters of God in Christ, at the price of his Cross.
When we receive a gift we are a debtor. Indeed we are more than a debtor because it is not possible to repay a gift adequately. And yet we must try. We must give a gift in return for a gift. God’s generous gift must be repaid by our gift. And our gift, reflecting as it does our great limitations, must aim at imitating the divine generosity, the divine standard of giving. In Christ our gift must be transformed, so as to unite us with God. The Eucharist is the sacrament of such a transformation.Christ himself makes us "an everlasting gift to the Father". Truly this is the great mystery of faith and love.
5. "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".
With these words from the prayer taught to us by the Son of God, I address all those gathered here in New Orleans in the spirit of the Gospel – all those who make up the Eucharistic assemblies of the local Churches of this region. I greet you as the proud heirs ofa rich and diverse cultural history, as people who can therefore appreciate the need for merciful love among individuals and groups. Here we have represented the cultures of France and other European nations, of black people, Hispanics and more recently Vietnamese. Today this region continues to be the home of various races and cultures now united in one nation, the United States.
Toutes ces races et ces cultures ont enrichi la vie de votre Eglise locale dans le cadre de l’héritage typiquement français que des hommes comme Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, et Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, ont apporté sur ce coin de terre il y a plusieurs siècles. Il vous suffit de regarder autour de vous pour comprendre que vous êtes un peuple ayant reçu des dons merveilleux du puissant Mississippi et de son delta fertile, ainsi que des richesses de la mer. Tout cela est pour vous un don de Dieu. Par une sage administration et un usage responsable de ces biens, vous pouvez éprouver de la fierté dans votre travail quand vous gagnez votre subsistance et celle de vos familles. Puissiez-vous continuer à travailler en harmonie pour le bien de la société à laquelle vous appartenez, gardant toujours en mémoire les paroles de la prière du Seigneur: "Pardonne-nous nos offenses, comme nous pardonnons à ceux qui nous ont offensés"!
L’homme d’aujourd’hui oublie facilement la mesure, ou plutôt la disproportion, entre ce qu’il a reçu et ce qu’il doit donner. Il s’est tellement grandi à ses propres yeux, il est tellement sûr que tout est l’oeuvre de son propre génie et de son propre travail, qu’il ne voit plus Celui qui est l’Alpha et l’Omega, le Commencement et la Fin, Celui qui est la Source première de tout ce qui existe, comme aussi sa Fin dernière, Celui en qui tout ce qui est trouve son sens véritable.
Modern man easily forgets that he has received a great gift. Yet, at the base of all that he is and of all that the world is, there is the gift – the free gift of Love. As man loses this awareness, he also forgets the debt and the fact that he is a debtor. He loses hisconsciousness of sin. Many people today, especially those caught up in a civilization of affluence and pleasure, live as though sin did not exist and as if God did not exist.
For this reason we need to listen with special attention to the Letter to the Romans: "None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord’s. That is why Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Rm 14,7-9). We must listen carefully to these words of Saint Paul and remember them well.
"My Lord, be patient with me and I will pay you back in full"
"Love is patient; love is kind... Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth... Love never fails" (1Co 13,4 1Co 13,6 1Co 13,8). Yes, love is supreme! Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 412