S. John Paul II Homil. 423


Westover Hills, San Antonio, Texas

Sunday, 13 September 1987

"My soul, give thanks to the Lord; all my being, bless his holy name" (Ps 1).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Friends,
Citizens of San Antonio
and of the State of Texas,

1. It gives me an immense joy to be with you on this Sunday morning and to invoke God’s blessings upon this vast State and upon the whole Church in this region.

¡Texas! Este nombre trae inmediatamente a mi memoria la rica historia y desarrollo cultural de esta parte de los Estados Unidos.

En este maravilloso emplazamiento, frente a la Ciudad de San Antonio, no puedo por menos de evocar el recuerdo del Padre Massanet, franciscano, el cual, el 13 de junio de 1691, en la fiesta de San Antonio de Padua, celebró la Santa Misa en las márgenes del río San Antonio para los componentes de una de las primeras expediciones españolas y para un grupo de indios del lugar.

Since then, people of many different origins have come here, so that today yours is a multicultural society, striving for the fullness of harmony and collaboration among all. I express my cordial gratitude to the representatives of the State of Texas and the City of San Antonio who have wished to be present at this moment of prayer. I also greet the members of the various Christian Communions who join us in praising the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. A special word of thanks to Archbishop Flores and to the bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and all the Catholic faithful of Texas. The peace of Christ be with you all!

425 2. Today is Sunday: the Lord’s Day. Today is like the "seventh day" about which the Book of Genesis says that "God rested from all the work he had undertaken" (Gn 2,2). Having completed the work of creation, he "rested". God rejoiced in his work; he "looked at everything that he had made, and he found it very good" (Ibid. 1, 31). "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy" (Ibid.2, 3).

On this day we are called to reflect more deeply on the mystery of creation, and therefore of our own lives. We are called to "rest" in God, the Creator of the universe. Our duty is to praise him: "My soul give thanks to the Lord... give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings" (Ps 1-2). This is a task for each human being. Only the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, is capable of raising a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Creator. The earth, with all its creatures, and the entire universe, call on man to be their voice. Only the human person is capable of releasing from the depths of his or her being that hymn of praise, proclaimed without words by all creation: "My soul, give thanks to the Lord; all my being, bless his holy name" (Ps 1).

3. What is the message of today’s liturgy? To us gathered here in San Antonio, in the State of Texas, and taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Saint Paul addresses these words: "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 death we are the Lord’s" (Rm 14,7-8).

These words are concise, but filled with a moving message. "We live" and "we die". We live in this material world that surrounds us, limited by the horizons of our earthly journey through time. We live in this world, with the inevitable prospect of death, right from the moment of conception and of birth. And yet, we must look beyond the material aspect of our earthly existence. Certainly, bodily death is a necessary passage for us all; but it is also true that what from its very beginning has borne in itself the image and likeness of God cannot be completely given back to the corruptible matter of the universe. This is a fundamental truth and attitude of our Christian faith. In Saint Paul’s terms: "while we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants". We live for the Lord, and our dying too is life in the Lord.

Today, on this Lord’s Day, I wish to invite all those who are listening to my words, not to forget our immortal destiny: life after death–the eternal happiness of heaven, or the awful possibility of eternal punishment, eternal separation from God, in what the Christian tradition has called hell (Cfr. Mt 25,41 Mt 22,13 Mt 25,30). There can be no truly Christian living without an openness to this transcendent dimension of our lives. "Both in life and death we are the Lord’s" (Rm 14,8).

4. The Eucharist that we celebrate constantly confirms our living and dying "in the Lord":"Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life". In fact, Saint Paul wrote: "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 14,8-9). Yes, Christ is the Lord!

The Paschal Mystery has transformed our human existence, so that it is no longer under the dominion of death. In Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, "we live for the Lord" and "we die for the Lord". Through him and with him and in him, we belong to God in life and in death. We exist not only "for death" but "for God". For this reason, on this day "made by the Lord" (Ps 119,24), the Church all over the world speaks her blessing from the very depths of the Paschal Mystery of Christ: "My soul, give thanks to the Lord; all my being, bless his holy name. Give thanks... and never forget all his blessings" (Ps 103,1-2).

"Never forget!" Today’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew gives us an example of a man who has forgotten (Cfr. Mt 18,21-35). He has forgotten the favour given by his lord – and consequently he has shown himself to be cruel and heartless in regard to his fellow human being. In this way the liturgy introduces us to the experience of sin as it has developed from the beginnings of the history of man alongside the experience of death.

We die in the physical body when all the energies of life are extinguished. We die through sin when love dies in us. Outside of Love there is no Life. If man opposes love and lives without love, death takes root in his soul and grows. For this reason Christ cries out: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other" (Jn 13,34). The cry for love is the cry for life, for the victory of the soul over sin and death. The source of this victory is the Cross of Jesus Christ: his Death and his Resurrection.

5. Again, in the Eucharist, our lives are touched by Christ’s own radical victory over sin – sin which is the death of the soul, and, ultimately, the reason for bodily death. "That is why Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord of the dead" (Cfr. Rom Rm 14,9) – that he might give life again to those who are dead in sin or because of sin.

And so, the Eucharist begins with the penitential rite. We confess our sins in order to obtain forgiveness through the Cross of Christ, and so receive a part in his Resurrection from the dead. But if our conscience reproaches us with mortal sin, our taking part in the Mass can be fully fruitful only if beforehand we receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.

426 The ministry of reconciliation is a fundamental part of the Church’s life and mission. Without overlooking any of the many ways in which Christ’s victory over sin becomes a reality in the life of the Church and of the world, it is important for me to emphasize that it is above all in the Sacrament of Forgiveness and Reconciliation that the power of the redeeming blood of Christ is made effective in our personal lives.

6. In different parts of the world there is a great neglect of the Sacrament of Penance. This is sometimes linked to an obscuring of the religious and moral conscience, a loss of the sense of sin, or a lack of adequate instruction on the importance of this sacrament in the life of Christ’s Church. At times the neglect occurs because we fail to take seriously our lack of love and justice, and God’s corresponding offer of reconciling mercy. Sometimes there is a hesitation or an unwillingness to accept maturely and responsibly the consequences of the objective truths of faith. For these reasons it is necessary to emphasize once again that "with regard to the substance of the sacrament there has always remained firm and unchanged in the consciousness of the Church the certainty that, by the will of Christ, forgiveness is offered to each individual by means of sacramental absolution given by the ministers of Penance" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Reconciliatio et Paenitentia
RP 30).

Again I ask all my brother bishops and priests to do everything possible to make the administration of this sacrament a primary aspect of their service to God’s people. There can be no substitute for the means of grace which Christ himself has placed in our hands. The Second Vatican Council never intended that this Sacrament of Penance be less practiced; what the Council expressly asked for was that the faithful might more easily understand the sacramental signs and more eagerly and frequently have recourse to the sacraments (Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 59). And just as sin deeply touches the individual conscience, so we understand why the absolution of sins must be individual and not collective, except in extraordinary circumstances as approved by the Church.

I ask you, dear Catholic brothers and sisters, not to see Confession as a mere attempt at psychological liberation – however legitimate this too might be – but as a sacrament, a liturgical act. Confession is an act of honesty and courage; an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God. It is an act of the prodigal son who returns to his Father and is welcomed by him with the kiss of peace. It is easy, therefore, to understand why "every confessional is a special and blessed place from which there is born new and uncontaminated a reconciled individual – a reconciled world!" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 31, V; cfr. III).

The potential for an authentic and vibrant renewal of the whole Catholic Church through the more faithful use of the Sacrament of Penance is immeasurable. It flows directly from the loving heart of God himself! This is a certainty of faith which I offer to each one of you and to the entire Church in the United States.

To those who have been far away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiving Love I make this appeal: come back to this source of grace; do not be afraid! Christ himself is waiting for you. He will heal you, and you will be at peace with God!

To all the young people of the Church, I extend a special invitation to receive Christ’s forgiveness and his strength in the Sacrament of Penance. It is a mark of greatness to be able to say: I have made a mistake: I have sinned, Father; I am sorry; I ask for pardon; I will try again, because I rely on your strength and I believe in your love. And I know that the power of your Sons’ Paschal Mystery – the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – is greater than my weaknesses and all the sins of the world. I will come and confess my sins and be healed, and I will live in your love!

7. In Jesus Christ the world has truly known the mystery of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation, which is proclaimed by God’s word this day. At the same time, God’s inexhaustible mercy to us obliges us to be reconciled among ourselves. This makes practical demands on the Church in Texas and the Southwest of the United States. It means bringing hope and love wherever there is division and alienation.

Your history registers a meeting of cultures, indigenous and immigrant, sometimes marked by tensions and conflicts, yet constantly moving towards reconciliation and harmony. People of different races and languages, colours and customs, have come to this land to make it their home. Together with the indigenous peoples of these territories, there are the descendants of those who came from almost very country in Europe: from Spain and France, from Germany and Belgium, from Italy, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, from Ireland, England and Scotland, and even from my own native Poland – for it was to Texas, and Panna Maria, that the first Polish immigrants came to the United States. There are descendants of those who came in chains from Africa; those from Lebanon, the Philippines and Vietnam, and from every Latin American country, especially from Mexico.

This land is a crossroads, standing at the border of two great nations, and experiencing both the enrichment and the complications which arise from this circumstance. You are thus a symbol and a kind of laboratory testing America’s commitment to her founding moral principles and human values. These principles and values are now being reaffirmed by America as she celebrates the Bicentennial of her Constitution and speaks once more about justice and freedom, and about the acceptance of diversity within a fundamental unity – a unity arising from a shared vision of the dignity of every human person, and a shared responsibility for the welfare of all, especially of the needy and the persecuted.

8. Against this background one may speak of a current phenomenon here and elsewhere –the movement of people northwards, not only from Mexico but from other southern neighbours of the United States. On this matter also there is work of reconciliation to be done. Among you there are people of great courage and generosity "who have been doing much on behalf of suffering brothers and sisters arriving from the south. They have sought to show compassion in the face of complex human, social and political realities. Herehuman needs, both spiritual and material, continue to call out to the Church with thousands of voices, and the whole Church must respond by the proclamation of God’s word and by selfless deeds of service. Here too there is ample space for continuing and growing collaboration among members of the various Christian Communions.

427 En este contexto, la comunidad hispana se enfrenta al mayor de los desafíos. Aquellos de entre vosotros de descendencia hispánica - tan numerosos, presentes en esta tierra desde hace tanto tiempo y bien preparados para poder responder - estáis llamados a oír la palabra de Cristo y a conservarla en vuestro corazón: «Os doy un mandamiento nuevo: que os améis los unos a los otros. Que, como yo os he amado, así os améis también vosotros los unos a los otros» (Jn 13,34). Y Jesús especifica que este amor abraza todo el campo de las necesidades humanas, desde las más pequeñas hasta las más grandes: «Todo aquel que dé de beber tan sólo un vaso de agua fresca a uno de estos pequeños ... os aseguro que no perderá su recompensa » (M?tth. 10, 42).

La comunidad hispana ha de responder también a sus necesidades propias, y mostrar una solidaridad generosa y eficaz entre sus propios miembros. Os exhorto pues a preservar vuestra fe cristiana y vuestras tradiciones, especialmente en lo que se refiere a la defensa de la familia. Ruego para que el Señor os bendiga con un mayor número de vocaciones al sacerdocio y a la vida religiosa entre vuestros jóvenes.

Ojalá que vosotros, que tanto habéis recibido de Dios, oigáis su llamada a la renovación de la vida cristiana y a la fidelidad a la fe de vuestros padres. Que podáis responder con el espíritu de María, la Virgen Madre que la Iglesia contempla « maternalmente presente y partícipe en los múltiples y complejos problemas que acompañan hoy la vida de los individuos de las familias y de las naciones... la ve socorriendo al pueblo cristiano en la lucha incesante entre el bien y el mal, para que "no caiga" o, si cae, "se levante" » (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Mater RMA 52).

9. Today’s liturgy helps us to reflect deeply on life and death, on the victory of life over death. On this earth, in the visible world of creation, man exists "for death"; and yet, in Christ, he is called to communion with God, with the living God who "gives life". He is called to this communion precisely through the death of Christ – the death which "gives life".

Today, all over the world, countless people – people of many countries and continents, languages and races, are sharing sacramentally in the death of Christ. We, here in Texas, journey together with them towards the fulfilment of the Paschal Mystery in life. We journey, conscious of being sinners, conscious of being mortal. But we journey on in hope, in union with the Sacrifice of Christ, through Eucharistic communion with him and with love for each other. We live for the Lord! We die for the Lord! We belong to the Lord! Come, Lord Jesus! (Cfr. Apoc. Ap 22,20)




Campus of the Arizona State University, Phoenix

Monday, 14 September 1987

“The Son of Man must be lifted up” (Jn 3,14).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. On this day when I have the joy of celebrating the Eucharist with you here in Phoenix, let our first thoughts be directed to the victorious Cross of our Saviour, to the Son of Man who is lifted up! Let us adore and praise Christ, our Crucified and Risen Lord. To him, and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory and thanksgiving now and forever!

428 How good it is to join our voices in praise of God on this feast of the Triumph of the Cross. And how appropriate to celebrate the feast here in the city of Phoenix, which bears the name of an ancient symbol often depicted in Christian art to represent the meaning of the victorious Cross. The phoenix was a legendary bird that, after dying, rose again from its own ashes. Thus, it came to be a symbol of Christ who, after dying on the Cross, rose again in triumph over sin and death.

We can rightly say that, by divine providence, the Church in Phoenix has been called in a particular way to live the mystery of the victory of the Cross. Certainly, the Cross of Christ has marked the progress of evangelization in this area since its beginning: from the day, three hundred years ago, when Father Eusebio Kino first brought the Gospel to Arizona. The Good News of salvation has brought forth great fruit here in Phoenix, in Tucson and throughout this whole area. The Cross is indeed the Tree of Life.

2. “The Son of Man must be lifted up” (
Jn 3,14).

Today the Church makes special reference to these words of Christ as she celebrates the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Beyond the particular historical circumstances that contributed to the introduction of this feast in the liturgical calendar, there remain these words that Christ spoke to Nicodemus during that conversation which took place at night: "The Son of Man must be lifted up".

Nicodemus, as we know, was a man who loved God’s word and who studied the word with great attention. Prompted by his hunger for the truth, by his eagerness to understand, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to find answers to his questions and doubts. It is precisely to him, to Nicodemus, that Jesus speaks these words which still echo in a mysterious way: "The Son of Man must be lifted up, that all who believe may have eternal life in him" (Ibid. 3, 14-15).

Nicodemus could not have known at this point that these words contain, in a certain sense, the summary of the whole Paschal Mystery which would crown the messianic mission of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus spoke of being "lifted up" he was thinking of the Cross on Calvary: being lifted up on the Cross, being lifted up by means of the Cross. Nicodemus could not have guessed this at the time. And so Christ referred to an event from the history of the Old Testament which he knew about, namely, Moses lifting up the serpent in the desert.

3. It was an unusual event that took place during Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. This journey that lasted forty years was full of tests: the people "tested” God with their infidelity and lack of trust; in turn this provoked many tests from the Lord in order to purify Israel’s faith and deepen it. Near Mount Hor a particular test took place, which was that of the poisonous serpents. These serpents "bit the people" with the result that many of them died (Nu.21, 6). Then Moses, ordered by the Lord, “made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered” (Ibid. 21, 9).

We might ask: why such a test? The Lord had chosen Israel to be his own; he had chosen this people, in order to initiate them gradually into his plan of salvation.

4. Jesus of Nazareth explains the salvific designs of the God of the Covenant. The bronze serpent in the desert was the symbolic figure of the Crucified One. Is someone who had been bitten looked upon the serpent "lifted up" by Moses on a high pole, that person was saved. He remained alive, not because he had looked upon the serpent, but because he had believed in the power of God and his saving love. Thus when the Son of Man is lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, "all who believe will have eternal life in him" (Cfr. Io Jn 3,15).

There exists then a profound analogy between that figure and this reality, between that sign of salvation and this reality of salvation contained in the Cross of Christ. The analogy becomes even more striking if we keep in mind that the salvation from physical death, caused by the poison of the serpents in the desert, came about through a serpent. Salvation from spiritual death - the death that is sin and that was caused by man - came about through a Man, through the Son of Man "lifted up" on the Cross.

In this nighttime conversation, Jesus of Nazareth helps Nicodemus to discover the true sense of God’s designs. While Jesus is speaking, the fulfilment of these divine designs belongs to the future, but at this point the future is not far away Nicodemus himself will be a witness to this fulfilment. He will be a witness to the paschal events in Jerusalem. He will be a witness to the Cross, upon which the one who speaks with him this night - the Son of Man - will be lifted up.

429 5. Jesus goes on even further. The conversation becomes even deeper: Why the Cross?Why must the Son of Man be "lifted up" on the wood of the Cross? Because "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). Yes, eternal life. This is the type of salvation that Jesus is speaking about: eternal life in God.

And then Jesus adds: "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Ibid. 3, 17). Many thought that the Messiah would be first of all a severe judge who would punish, "separating the wheat from the chaff" (Cfr. Mt 3,12). If at one moment he will have to come as judge - at the end of the world - now "in the fullness of time" (Cfr. Gal Ga 4,4) he comes to be judged himself by the sins of the world, and therefore because of the sins of the world. And thus, Christ lifted up on the Cross becomes the Redeemer of the human race, the Redeemer of the world.

Jesus of Nazareth prepares Nicodemus, the eager student of the Scriptures, so that in timehe will understand the saving mystery contained in the Cross of Christ. And we know that, in time, Nicodemus did understand, but not during that night.

6. What, then, does this "being lifted up" mean?

In the second reading of today’s liturgy, taken from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians,"being lifted up" means first of all "being brought low". The Apostle writes about Christ, saying: “Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (Ph 2,6-7). The Godman! God becoming man. God taking on our humanity: this is the first dimension of " being brought low ", and at the same time it is a "lifting up". God is brought low, so that man may be lifted up. Why? Because "God so loved the world". Because he is love!

Then the Apostle writes: "(Christ) was known to be of human estate, and it was thus thathe humbled himself, obediently accepting death, death on a Cross" (Ibid. 2, 7-8). This is the second and the definitive dimension of being brought low. It is the dimension of being emptied which confirms in the strongest way the truth of those words: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son". He gave. This emptying is itself the gift.It is the greatest gift of the Father. It surpasses all other gifts. It is the source of every gift. In this absolute lowering, in this emptying, is the beginning and source of every "lifting up", the source of the lifting up of humanity.

7. The Cross was " lifted up " on Golgotha. And Jesus was nailed to the Cross, and was therefore lifted up with it. To the human eye, this was the culmination of humiliation and disgrace. But in the eyes of God it was different. It was different in the eternal designs of God.

The Apostle continues: “Because of this, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name, so that 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” (Ibid. 2, 9-11).

Christ is the Lord! This will be confirmed in the Resurrection, but it is already contained in the Crucifixion. Precisely in the Crucifixion.

To be crucified, humanly speaking, is to be disgraced and humiliated. But from God’s point of view it means being lifted up, indeed, to be lifted up by means of the Cross. Christ is the Lord, and he becomes Lord of everything and everyone in this elevation by means of the Cross. It is in this way that we look upon the Cross, with the eyes of faith, instructed by the word of God, guided by the power of God.

Here then is the mystery of the Triumph of the Cross.

430 8. This mystery reaches us in a particular way and with a special power when the Church celebrates the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, as she does this evening. By means of this sacrament, and through all her pastoral service, the Church continues to care for the sick and dying as Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Through the laying on of hands by the priest, the anointing with oil and the prayers, our brothers and sisters are strengthened with the grace of the Holy Spirit. They are enabled to bear their sufferings with courage and thus to embrace the Cross and follow after Christ with stronger faith and hope.

This holy anointing does not prevent physical death, nor does it promise a miraculous healing of the human body. But it does bring special grace and consolation to those who are dying, preparing them to meet our loving Saviour with lively faith and love, and with firm hope for eternal life. It also brings comfort and strength to those who are not dyingbut who are suffering from serious illness or advanced age. For these the Church seeks healing of both body and soul, praying that the whole person may be renewed by the power of the holy Spirit.

Every time that the Church celebrates this sacrament, she is proclaiming her belief in the victory of the Cross. It is as if she were repeating the words of Saint Paul: “I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (
Rm 8,38-39).

From the very early days until now, Phoenix has been a city to which people have come for health care, for relief of suffering, for new beginnings and fresh starts. Today as in the past, the Church welcomes such people, offering them love and understanding. She is grateful to the sick and elderly for the special mission which they fulfill in the Kingdom of our Saviour. Your hospitality, which I myself have also received, reflects the beautiful saying in Spanish: "mi casa, su casa". I pray that you will always remain faithful to this tradition of Christian community and generous service.

By such fidelity to your Christian heritage, through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, you express your deep conviction that suffering and death are not the last words of life. The last word is the Word made flesh,the Crucified and Risen Christ.

9. The responsorial psalm of today’s liturgy exhorts us:

"Hearken, my people, to my teaching;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth . . .
I will utter mysteries from of old" (Ps 78,1-2).

It was exactly in this way that Christ revealed the mystery of salvation to Nicodemus, and to us. And to all people.

The words which follow, in that same psalm, also refer to us:

431 "But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues,
Though their hearts were not steadfast towards him,
nor were they faithful to his covenant” (Ibid. 36-37).

And nevertheless:

"While he slew them they sought him
and inquired after God again;
Remembering that God was their rock
and the Most High God, their Redeemer" (Ibid. 34-35).

And this is how God continues among us, from one generation to the next, as our Rock, our Redeemer. This is the mystery of the Triumph of the Cross, the rock of our salvation.

Let us fix our gaze upon the Cross!
432 Let us be reborn from it!
Let us return to God!

May the humiliation of Christ - his being brought low by means of the Cross - serve once again to lift up humanity towards God. Sursum corda! Lift up your hearts! Amen.


Coliseum, Los Angeles

Tuesday, 15 September 1987

And you yourself shall be pierced with a sword” (Lc 2,35).

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and of the Dioceses of Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino and Fresno,

1. The Church's meditation today focuses on the sufferings of Mary, the Mother standing at the foot of her Son’s Cross. This brings to completion yesterday’s feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Jesus had said, "once I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12,32). These words were fulfilled when he was "lifted up" on the Cross.

The Church, which constantly lives this mystery, feels very deeply the suffering of the Mother on Golgotha. The agony of the Son who in his terrible pain entrusts the whole world to his Father - that agony is united with the agony in the heart of the Mother there on Calvary. Today’s Gospel reminds us that, when Jesus was only forty days old, Simeon had foretold this agony in the heart of the Mother when he said: "And you yourself shall be pierced with a sword" (Lc 2,35).

The entire mystery of obedience to the Father is encompassed by the Son’s agony: "he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross" (Ph 2,8), as yesterday’s liturgy proclaimed. And today we read in the Letter to the Hebrews: "In the days when he was in the flesh, (Christ) offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God, who was able to save him from death" (He 5,7). The se words have special application to the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by" (Mt 26,39-42). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews immediately adds that Christ "was heard because of his reverence" (He 5,7). Yes he was heard. He had said, "not as I will but as you will" (Mt 26,39). And so it came to pass.

The agony of Christ was, and still is, the mystery of his obedience to the Father. At Gethsemane. On Calvary." Son though he was", the text continues, "he learned obedience from what he suffered" (He 5,8). This includes Christ’s obedience even unto death-the perfect sacrifice of Redemption. "And when perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him" (Ibid. He 5,9).

S. John Paul II Homil. 423