S. John Paul II Homil. 433
433 2. As we celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows during this Marian Year, let us call to mind the teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning the presence of Mary, the Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. Let us recall in particular the following words: "The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan" (Lumen Gentium LG 58).
Mary’s pilgrimage of faith! It is precisely at the foot of the Cross that this pilgrimage of faith, which began at the Annunciation, reaches its high point, its culmination. There it is united with the agony of Mary’s maternal heart. " Suffering grievously with her only-begotten Son... she lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth" (Ibid. LG 58). At the same time, the agony of her maternal heart also represents a fulfilment of the words of Simeon: "And you yourself shall be pierced with a sword" (Lc 2,33). Surely these prophetic words express the "divine plan” by which Mary is destined to stand at the foot of the Cross.
3. Today’s liturgy makes use of the ancient poetic text of the sequence which begins with the Latin words Stabat Mater:
By the Cross of our salvation
Mary stood in desolation
While the Saviour hung above.
All her human powers failing,
Sorrow’s sword, at last prevailing,
Stabs and breaks her heart of love . . .
Virgin Mary, full of sorrow,
Love enough to share your pain.
434 Make my heart to burn with fire,
Make Christ’s love my one desire,
Who for love of me was slain.
The author of this sequence sought, in the most eloquent way humanly possible, to presentthe "compassion" of the Mother at the foot of the Cross. He was inspired by those words of Sacred Scripture about the sufferings of Mary which, though few and concise, are deeply moving.
It is appropriate that Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat, should also find a place in our celebration: "My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord... for he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness... God who is mighty has done great things for me... his mercy is from age to age . . . even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever" (Lc 1,46-55).
Can we not suppose that these words, which reflect the fervour and exultation of the young mother’s heart, still ring true at the foot of the Cross, that they still reveal her heart now that she finds herself in agony with her Son? Humanly speaking, it does not seem possible to us. However, within the fullness of divine truth, the words of the Magnificat actuallyfind their ultimate meaning in the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, from the Cross through the Resurrection.
It is precisely in this Paschal Mystery that the "great things" which God who is mighty has done for Mary find their perfect fulfilment, not only for her, but for all of us and for all of humanity. It is precisely at the foot of the Cross that the promise is fulfilled which God once made to Abraham and to his descendants, the people of the Old Covenant. It is also at the foot of the Cross that there is an overflow of the mercy shown to humanity from generation to generation by him whose name is holy.
Yes, at the foot of the Cross, the "humility of the Lord’s servant" - the one upon whom "God has looked" (Cfr. ibid. Lc 1,48) - reaches its full measure together with the absolute humiliation of the Son of God. But from that same spot the "blessing" of Mary by "all ages to come" also begins. There, at the foot of the Cross - to use the description of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading - the Virgin of Nazareth is fully "clothed with a robe of salvation" (Cfr. Is Is 61,10): she whom already at the Annunciation the Archangel hailed as "full of grace" (Lc 1,28); she who was redeemed in the most perfect manner; she who was conceived without stain in view of the merits of her Son. At the price of the Cross. In virtue of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
4. Dear brothers and sisters of Los Angeles and southern California: it is a joy for me to celebrate this liturgy today with you. California has been a symbol of hope and promise for millions of people who continue to come here to make a home for themselves and their families. Today the people of California play a major role in shaping the culture of the United States, which has such a profound influence on the rest of the world. Your State also leads in research and technology designed to improve the quality of human life and to transcend the limitations which impede human freedom and progress.
Yet amid the many blessings that you enjoy within this beautiful and prosperous State, I know that the mention of Mary as a Mother of sorrows and suffering still strikes a responsive chord in your hearts. This is because all of us, in some way, experience sorrow and suffering in our lives. No amount of economic, scientific or social progress can eradicate our vulnerability to sin and to death. On the contrary, progress creates new possibilities for evil as well as for good. Technology, for example, increases what we can do, but it cannot teach us the right thing to do. It increases our choices, but it is we who must choose between evil and good. Besides moral suffering, physical and emotional sufferings are part of every human life. The Gospel message is certainly no enemy of human progress or of the promoting of our temporal welfare, but neither does the Paschal Mystery allow us to run away from human sorrow and suffering.
5. The message of the crucified Son and of his Mother at the foot of the Cross is that the mysteries of suffering, love, and Redemption are inseparably joined together. In bitterness and alienation from God and our fellow human beings we will never find the answer to the question - the "why?" of suffering. Calvary teaches us that we will find an answer onlythrough the "obedience” mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews. It is not obedience to a cruel or unjust god of our own making, but obedience to the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3,16). Jesus prayed: "not as I will, but as you will... your will be done" (Mt 26,39 Mt 26,42). And Mary began her pilgrimage of faith with the words, "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say" (Lc 1,38).
435 Looking upon the suffering Son and Mother in the light of Scripture, we cannot equate their obedience with fatalism or passivity. Indeed, the Gospel is the negation of passivity in the face of suffering (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Salvifici Doloris, 30). What we find is a loving act of self-giving on the part of Christ for the salvation of the world, and on the part of Mary as an active participant from the beginning in the saving mission of her Son. When we have striven to alleviate or overcome suffering, when like Christ we have prayed that "the cup pass us by" (Cfr. Mt 26,39), and yet suffering remains, then we must walk "the royal road" of the Cross. As I mentioned before, Christ’s answer to our question "why" is above all a call, a vocation.Christ does not give us an abstract answer, but rather he says, "Follow me! " He offers us the opportunity through suffering to take part in his own work of saving the world. And when we do take up our cross, then gradually the salvifìc meaning of suffering is revealed to us. It is then that in our sufferings we find inner peace and even spiritual joy (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Salvifici Doloris, 26).
The Letter to the Hebrews also speaks of being made perfect through suffering (Cfr. He 5,8-10). This is because the purifying flames of trial and sorrow have the power to transform us from within by unleashing our love, teaching us compassion for others, and thus drawing us closer to Christ. Next to her Son, Mary is the most perfect example of this. It is precisely in being the Mother of Sorrows that she is a mother to each one of us and to all of us. The spiritual sword that pierces her heart opens up a river of compassion for all who suffer.
6. My dear brothers and sisters: as we celebrate this Marian Year in preparation for the third millennium of Christianity, let us join the Mother of God in her pilgrimage of faith. Let us learn the virtue of compassion from her whose heart was pierced with a sword at the foot of the Cross. It is the virtue that prompted the Good Samaritan to stop beside the victim on the road, rather than to continue on or to cross over to the other side. Whether it be the case of the person next to us or of distant peoples and nations, we must be Good Samaritans to all those who suffer. We must be the compassionate "neighbour" of those in need, not only when it is emotionally rewarding or convenient, but also when it is demanding and inconvenient (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Salvifici Doloris, 28-30). Compassion is a virtue we cannot neglect in a world in which the human suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters is needlessly increased by oppression, deprivation and underdevelopment-by poverty, hunger and disease. Compassion is also called for in the face of the spiritual emptiness and aimlessness that people can often experience amid material prosperity and comfort in developed countries such as your own. Compassion is a virtue that brings healing to those who bestow it, not only in this present life but in eternity: "Blessed are they who show mercy, mercy shall be theirs" (Mt 5,7).
7. Through the faith of Mary, then, let us fix our gaze on the mystery of Christ. The mystery of the Son of Man, written in the earthly history of humanity, is at the same time the definitive manifestation of God in that history.
Simeon says: "This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed” (Lc 2,34). How profound these words are! How far down these words reach into the history of man! Into the history of us all: Christ is destined for the ruin and the resurrection of many! Christ is a sign of contradiction! Is this not also true in our time? In our age? In our generation?
And standing next to Christ is Mary. To her Simeon says: "... so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare. And you yourself shall be pierced with a sword" (Lc 2,35).
Today we ask for humility of heart and for a clear conscience:
Yes, we ask that the thoughts of our hearts may be laid bare. We ask that our consciences may be pure:
436 through the Cross of Christ
in the heart of Mary. Amen.
San Fernando Mission Church, Los Angeles
Wednesday, 16 September 1987
“God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care.
Watch over it willingly as God would have you do” (1Petr. 4, 2).
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. A very full day lies before us, a day that the Lord has made. It is good that we begin it by joining our voices in praise of the living God.
On this feast of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, we have listened to the words of Peter as he appeals to his "fellow elders" to be generous in caring for the People of God, and to "be examples to the flock" (Ibid. 4, 3), the Church. These words of Peter are most appropriate for us as we begin this day together.
Peter describes himself as "a witness of Christ’s sufferings and a sharer in the glory that is to be revealed" (Ibid. 4, 1). There is no doubt in Peter’s mind about the witness he is called to bear. He is a witness of the suffering Christ. Perhaps he was mindful, however, of an earlier time in his life, precisely during the Passion itself, when out of fear for his own safety he had denied that he ever knew his Master. How far Peter has come from that day of sorrow and despair! For love is more powerful than fear, and the Lord is merciful and forgiving. The same Peter who denied his Master is now, in word and in deed, bearing witness with courage to the Crucified and Risen Christ.
2. Our task as bishops in the Church today is still centered on the person of Jesus Christ. We are witnesses to his Cross and Resurrection. Each of us has been consecrated by the Holy Spirit to be for our people a living sign of Jesus Christ:
437 - a living sign of the praying Christ, who himself took time during his public ministry to be alone with his Father in prayer;
- a living sign of the compassionate Redeemer, who healed the sick, forgave sinners and comforted the sorrowful;
- a living sign of the love of our Saviour, a love which is stronger than sin and death;
- a living sign of the fidelity of the Lord, and therefore, like Christ, a sign of contradiction.
In the midst of our priests and among ourselves as bishops, each of us is meant to be a sign of Jesus’ fraternal love.And for our people we are called to be a sign of the Good Shepherd, who came to serve and not to be served.
"Be examples to the flock", Peter tells us. And we shall be precisely that to the extent that our lives are centered on the person of Jesus Christ.
"To him whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more that we ask or imagine - to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen!" (Ep 3,20-21)
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
Wednesday, 16 September 1987
"The Lord has made his salvation known in the sight of the nations" (Ps 98,2).
Dear brother Bishops,
438 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
People of this City of our Lady of the Angels, once known as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles,
Citizens of this State of California,
1. Today, from this city of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast, in which are gathered all the bishops of the United States, we return together to the Upper Room in Jerusalem. We hear words from the prayer which Christ pronounced there. Surrounded by his apostles, Jesus prays for the Church of every time and place. He says to the Father: "I do not pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word" (Jn 17,20). Christ, the one Eternal Priest of the new and everlasting covenant, prays for us, for all of us gathered here, for everyone who lives here in Los Angeles on the West Coast of the United States of America, for everyone in the world. Yes, every one of us is included in this priestly prayer of the Redeemer.
2. Jesus says to the Father: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word"(Jn 17,20). This is the Church of all ages that he is praying for. How many generations of disciples have already heard these words of Christ! How many bishops priests, men and women religious, and how many parents and teachers in the course of the centuries have passed on this word of salvation! In how many places of the world, among how many peoples and nations, has this mystery of the Redemption continued to unfold and bear fruit! It is the word of salvation from which the Church has grown and continues to grow. This is true for the universal Church and for each local Church. It is true for the Church in Los Angeles which is visited today by the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter.
En 1769 Fray Junípero Serra y los Franciscanos que le acompasaban trajeron la Palabra de Dios a California. Dejando atrás cuanto les era familiar y querido, ellos libremente quisieron venir a este territorio a predicar la Buena Nueva de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Su esfuerzo evangelizador inicial mostró muy pronto sorprendentes resultados con la aceptación del Evangelio y el bautismo de miles de nativos americanos. A continuación, toda una serie de misiones fueron establecidas a lo largo de El Camino Real, designando a cada una con el nombre de un santo o un misterio de la fe cristiana: San Diego, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, San Buenaventura, Santa Bárbara, San Fernando y muchos más.
Durante los anos que siguieron a este inicial esfuerzo misionero, comenzaron a asentarse en California emigrantes, provenientes sobre todo de México y de España; estos primeros colonos, que eran cristianos, trajeron como parte preciosa de su herencia la propia fe católica y apostólica. Ellos no podían imaginar que, en la providencia de Dios, estaban iniciando un estilo peculiar que caracterizaría a California en el futuro.
Subsequently California has become a haven for immigrants, a new home for refugees and migrants, a place where people from every continent have come together to fashion a society of the most varied ethnic diversity.Many of these, like their earliest predecessors, have brought not only their specific cultural traditions but also the Christian faith. As a result, the Church in California, and particularly the Church in Los Angeles, is truly catholic in the fullest sense, embracing peoples and cultures of the widest and richest variety.
Today, in the Church in Los Angeles, Christ is Anglo and Hispanic, Christ is Chinese and Black, Christ is Vietnamese and Irish, Christ is Korean and Italian, Christ is Japanese and Filipino, Christ is Native American, Croatian, Samoan, and many other ethnic groups. In this local Church, the one Risen Christ, the one Lord and Saviour, is living in each person who has accepted the word of God and been washed clean in the saving waters of baptism. And the Church, with all her different members, remains the one Body of Christ, professing the same faith, united in hope and in love.
3. What does Jesus pray for in the Upper Room the night before his Passion and Death? "That all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (Jn 17,21). "One in us" - the mystery of the inscrutable divine Being, the mystery of the intimate life of God: the divine Unity and at the same time the Trinity. It is the divine "We" of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And even though it is not attainable in its absolute fullness, this most perfect unity is the real model for the Church. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, "the Church shines forth as a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Lumen Gentium LG 4).
It is for this type of unity for the Church or all times that Christ prays in the Upper Room: "that they may be one, as we are one - I living in them, you living in me - that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you loved them as you loved me" (Jn 17,22-23). This is the unity of the Church’s communion which is born from the communion of Three Persons in the Most Holy Trinity.
439 4. People of all times and places are called to this communion. This truth of revelation is first presented to us in today’s liturgy, through the image of the holy city of Jerusalem found in the reading from the Prophet Isaiah, who writes: "Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses" (Is 60,3-5). Isaiah spoke these words in Jerusalem as he foresaw a great light which would descend upon the city: this light is Christ. The awesome movement towards Christ of people from all over the world begins as a result of the Gospel. Animated by the Holy Spirit, in the power of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, this movement of people culminates in a new unity of humanity. Thus, the words of Jesus come to pass: "and I - once I am lifted up from the earth - will draw all men to myself (Jn 12,32).
The Second Vatican Council gave prominence to this dimension of the unity of the Church, above all in the teaching on the People of God. "This People, while remaining one and unique, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the purpose of God’s will may be fulfilled" (Lumen Gentium LG 13).
5. However, that People is at the same time the Body of Christ. The Body is yet another image, and in a certain sense another dimension, of the same truth of the unity that we all constitute in Christ under the action of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Saint Paul exhorts us: "Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all" (Ep 4,3-6). The unity for which Christ prayed in the Upper Room is realized in this way. It does not come from us, but from God: from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
6. This unity does not at all erase diversity. On the contrary, it develops it. There is constantly "unity in diversity". Through the work of the one Lord, by means of the one faith and the one baptism, this diversity - a diversity of human persons, of individuals - tends towards unity, a unity which is communion in the likeness of God the Trinity.
The unity of the Body of Christ gives life; at the same time, it serves diversity and develops it. This is the diversity of "everyone" and at the same time of "each one". It is the truth that we find in the Letter to the Ephesians where Paul writes: "Each of us has received God’s favourin the measure in which Christ bestows it... 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" (Ibid. 4, 7. 11-12). As such then it is the Holy Spirit who is the source of both the unity and the diversity in the Church: the unity because it finds its origin solely in the Spirit; the diversity since the Spirit bestows the variety of gifts, the variety of vocations and ministries found in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and at the same time the People of God.
7. The saints whom we honour in today’s liturgy, Cornelius and Cyprian, remind us of one concrete example of unity in diversity: the unity of the universal Church which is served by the Successor of Saint Peter, and the diversity of the particular Churches which help to build up the whole Body through the leadership of the local bishops.
Pope Saint Cornelius was called to shepherd the universal Church in the middle of the third century, a time of religious persecution from without and a time of painful dissension within. His efforts to strengthen the Church’s communion were greatly aided by the persuasive talents of the Bishop of Carthage, Saint Cyprian, who while caring for his own flock also promoted unity throughout North Africa. These two men of different backgrounds and temperaments were united by a mutual love for the Church and by their zeal for the unity of the faith.How appropriate, that we should observe their feast on the day when the present Successor of Peter is meeting the bishops of the United States.
The feast focuses our attention on a basic truth, namely that the unity of the members of the Church is deeply affected by the unity of the bishops among themselves and by their communion with the Successor of Peter. The Second Vatican Council put it this way: "The Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of the bishops and of the multitude of the faithful. The individual bishop, however, is the visible principle and foundation of unity in his particular Church, fashioned after the model of the universal Church. In and from such individual Churches there comes into being the one and only Catholic Church" (Lumen Gentium LG 23).
8. The Church’s concrete methods of evangelization and her efforts to promote peace and justice are shaped to a large extent by the fact that the Church is one and yet diverse. The Good News of Jesus must be proclaimed in the language that particular people understand, inartistic symbols that give meaning to their experience, in ways that correspond as far as possible to their own aspirations and needs, their manner of looking at life and the way in which they speak to God. At the same time, there must be no betrayal of the essential truthwhile the Gospel is being translated and the Church’s teaching is being passed down.
The ethnic universality of the Church demands a keen sensitivity to authentic cultures and a real sense of what is required by the process of inculturation. In this regard, Pope Paul VI stated very accurately the task to be done: "The question is undoubtedly a delicate one. Evangelization loses much of its force and effectiveness if it does not take into consideration the actual people to whom it is addressed, if it does not use their language, their signs and symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not have an impact on their concrete life. But on the other hand evangelization risks losing its power and disappearing altogether if one empties or adulterates its content under the pretext of translating it; if, in other words, one sacrifices this reality and destroys the unity without which there is no universality" (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 63)
Closely aligned with the Church’s evangelization is her action on behalf of peace and justice, and this too is deeply influenced by her pastoral concern for particular peoples, especially for refugees, immigrants and the poor. For over two hundred years, the Church has welcomed the waves of new immigrants to the shores of your country. It was the love and compassion of the Church that so many new arrivals first felt when they stepped onto the soil of this young nation. While that continuous pastoral care of the immigrant was focused primarily on the east coast in the early decades, that pastoral outreach now extends to virtually every major city in the country. Los Angeles - where this evening we celebrate the diversity of peoples who make up your country - has now become the new major point of entry for the latest waves of immigrants.
440 I commend you, my brother bishops and all of those working closely with you, for your active collaboration in helping several million undocumented immigrants to become legal residents. This pastoral care of the immigrant in our own day reflects the love of Christ in the Gospels and the legitimate work of the Church in carrying on the challenge of the Lord, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25,35).
9. The Church faces a particularly difficult task in her efforts to preach the word of God in allcultures in which the faithful are constantly challenged by consumerism and a pleasure-seeking mentality, where utility, productivity and hedonism are exalted while God and his law are forgotten. In these situations, where ideas and behaviour directly contradict the truth about God and about humanity itself, the Church’s witness must be unpopular.She must take a clearstand on the word of God and proclaim the whole Gospel message with great confidence in the Holy Spirit. In this effort, just as in all others, the Church shows herself to be the sacrament of salvation for the whole human race, the people God has chosen to be his channel of peace and reconciliation in a world torn by division and sin.
While the Church’s unity is not her own achievement but a precious gift from the Lord, it is nonetheless her serious responsibility to be an instrument for guarding and restoring unity in the human family. She does this by being faithful to the truth and by directly opposing the devil, who is "the Father of lies". She does this by efforts to break down prejudice and ignorance as she fosters new understanding and trust. She also promotes unity by being a faithful channel of Christ’s mercy and love.
10. Hoy, con la ardiente plegaria por la unidad que Cristo pronunció en el Cenáculo, celebramos la liturgia eucarística justamente aquí, a orillas del Pacífico, en la ciudad quetomó el nombre de Los Angeles. Y con el Salmista decimos: “Cantad al Señor un cántico nuevo, porque ha hecho maravillas” (Ps 98,1).
Sí, Dios ha hecho multitud de maravillas que confirman su acción salvadora en el mundo; la acción de “un solo Dios y Padre de todos, que está sobre todos, por todos y en todos” (Ep 4-6). “El Señor da a conocer su victoria, revela a las naciones su justicia”. El, constantemente nos recuerda “su lealtad y fidelidad” (Ps 98,2-3). Este es el camino que Dios es para nosotros; el Dios de nuestra fe, el Padre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.
The angels in heaven see "the face of God" in the beatific vision of glory. All of us, people of this planet, walk in faith towards that same vision. And we walk in hope. We draw the strength of this hope from the same prayer of Christ in the Upper Room. Did not Christ say in the words addressed to the Father: "I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one, as we are one - I living in them, you living in me"? (Jn 17,22-23)
"The glory... I gave to them". We are called in Christ to share in the glory that is part of the beatific vision of God.
Truly, “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God”. For this reason: “Sing to the Lord a new song!” (Ps 98,3 Ps 98,1). Amen.
Laguna Seca, Monterey Peninsula
Thursday, 17 September 1987
"Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God" (Dt 8,11).
441 Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Monterey Peninsula,
Brothers and Sisters of California and other areas of the United States,
Originally these words were addressed by Moses to the Israelite people as they were on the point of entering the promised land–a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys, a land producing an abundance of every fruit and food, a land where the people would lack nothing (Cfr. ibid. 8, 7-9). Today these words are addressed to the People of God here in Monterey, in the State of California, against the background of an extraordinary beauty of land and sea, of snow-capped mountains and deep lakes, oak groves and forests of fir and pine and mighty redwoods, a land among the richest and most fruitful of the earth. Yes, today, these words are addressed to all of us gathered here: "Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God".
2. These words, pronounced thousands of years ago, have still today a special meaning and relevance. Moses, the great teacher of his people, was concerned that in their future prosperity they might abandon God–the God who brought them out of the land of slavery and guided them through the desert with its parched ground, feeding them with manna along the way (Cfr. Deut Dt 8,15-16). Moses knew the tendency of the human heart to cry out to the Lord in time of need, but easily "to neglect his commandments and decrees and statutes" (Cfr. ibid. 8, 11) in the time of well-being and prosperity. He knew that God is easily forgotten.
In our own day are we not perhaps witnesses of the fact that often in rich societies where there is an abundance of material well-being, permissiveness and moral relativism find easy acceptance? And where the moral order is undermined, God is forgotten and questions of ultimate responsibility are set aside. In such situations a practical atheism pervades private and public living.
From the moment of original sin, man has been inclined to see himself in the place of God. He often thinks, just as Moses warned he might: "It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth" (Ibid. 8, 17). He acts as if the one who is the source of all life and goodness were just not there. He ignores a fundamental truth about himself: the fact that he is a creature, that he has been created and owes everything to his Creator, who is also his Redeemer.
In these closing years of the twentieth century, on the eve of the third millennium of the Christian era, a part of the human family–the most economically and technically developed part–is being specially tempted, perhaps as never before, to imitate the ancient model of all sin–the original rebellion that expressed itself saying: "I will not serve". The temptation today is to try to build a world for oneself, forgetting the Creator and his design and . But sooner or later we must come to grips with this: that to forget God, to feign the death of God, is to promote the death of man and of all civilization. It is to threaten the existence of individuals, communities and all society.
3. Today’s readings from the New Testament are in contrast to such a position. They speak ofGod’s presence which permeates the human heart and the whole of created reality. Jesus teaches that the Reign of God is like the growth of the seed that a man scatters on the ground (Cfr. Marc. 4, 26-29). Certainly, human activity is essential. Man "goes to bed and gets up every day..." He plants. And "when the crop is ready he wields the sickle". Even the rich valleys of California would produce nothing without human ingenuity and toil. But the word of God says that "the soil produces of itself first the blade, then the ear, finally the ripe wheat in the ear" (Ibid. 4, 28). As if to say: the growth of the wheat and its maturing, which greatly depends on the fertility of the soil, comes from the nature and vitality of creation itself. Consequently there is another source of growth: the one who is above nature and above the man who cultivates the earth.
In a sense, the Creator "hides himself" in this life-giving process of nature. It is the human person, with the help of intellect and faith, who is called to " discover " and " unveil" the presence of God and his action in all of creation: "So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation" (Ps 3).
If the parable of the seed indicates the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world, the words of Saint Paul in the second reading speak of how God’s generous giving aims at drawing "good works" from the human heart: "God can multiply his favours among you... for good works". The whole of human activity must be finalized in works of justice, peace and love. All human work–including, in a very direct way, the noble work of agriculture in which many of you are engaged–is to be carried out at the service of man and for the glory of God.
4. The land is God’s gift. From the beginning, God has entrusted it to the whole human race as a means of sustaining the life of all those whom he creates in his own image and likeness. We must use the land to sustain every human being in life and dignity. Against the background of the immense beauty of this region and the fertility of its soil, let us proclaim together our gratitude for this gift, with the words of the responsorial psalm: "The earth has yielded its fruit, the Lord our God has blessed us" (Ps 7).
442 As we read in Genesis, human beings earn their bread by the sweat of their brows (Gn 3,17). We toil long hours and grow weary at our tasks. Yet work is good for us."Through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed in a sense becomes ‘more a human being’" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Laborem Exercens LE 9).
The value of work does not end with the individual. The full meaning of work can only be understood in relation to the family and society as well. Work supports and gives stability to the family. Within the family, moreover, children first learn the human and positive meaning of work and responsibility In each community and in the nation as a whole, work has a fundamental social meaning. It can, moreover, either join people in the solidarity of a shared commitment, or set them at odds through exaggerated competition, exploitation and social conflict. Work is a key to the whole social question, when that "question" is understood to be concerned with making life more human (Cfr. ibid. 3).
5. Agricultural work exemplifies all these principles–the potential of work for the fulfilment of the human person, the " family " dimension of work, and social solidarity. Agricultural work is– as Pope John XXIII described it – a vocation, a God-given mission, a noble task and a contribution to civilization (Cfr. Ioannis XXIII Mater et Magistra MM 149). God has blessed the United States with some of the richest farm land in the world. The productivity of American agriculture is a major success story. Clearly, it is a history of hard and wearying work, of courage and enterprise, and it involves the interaction of many people: growers, workers, processors, distributors and finally consumers.
I know too that recently thousands of American farmers have been introduced to poverty and indebtedness. Many have lost their homes and their way of life. Your bishops and the whole Church in your country are deeply concerned; and they are listening to the voices of so many farmers and farmworkers as they express their anxieties over the costs and the risks of farming, the difficult working conditions, the need for a just wage and decent housing and the question of a fair price for products. On an even wider scale is heard the voice of the poor, who are bewildered in a land of plenty and still experience the pangs of hunger.
6. All agree that the situation of the farming community in the United States and in other parts of the world is highly complex, and that simple remedies are not at hand. The Church, on her part, while she can offer no specific technical solutions, does present a social teaching based on the primacy of the human person in every economic and social activity. At every level of the agricultural process, the dignity, rights and well-being of people must be the central issue. No one person in this process – grower, worker, packer, shipper, retailer or consumer – is greater than the other in the eyes of God.
Giving voice therefore to the sufferings of many, I appeal to all involved to work together to find appropriate solutions to all farm questions. This can only be done in a community marked by a sincere and effective solidarity – and, where still necessary, reconciliation – among all parties to the agricultural productive process.
And what of our responsibility to futures generations? The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations. I urge you to be sensitive to the many issues affecting the land and the whole environment and to unite with each other to seek the best solutions to these pressing problems.
7. Each one of us is called to fulfil his or her respective duties before God and before society. Since the Church is constrained by her very nature to focus her attention most strongly on those least able to defend their own legitimate interests, I appeal to landowners, growers and others in positions of power to respect the just claims of their brothers and sisters who work the land. These claims include the right to share in decisions concerning their services and the right to free association with a view to social, cultural and economic advancement (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Laborem Exercens LE 21). I also appeal to all workers to be mindful of their own obligations of justice and to make every effort to fulfil a worthy service to mankind.
New legislation in your country has made it possible for many people, especially migrant farmworkers, to become citizens rather than remain strangers among you. Many of these people have worked here with the same dream that your ancestors had when they first came. I ask you to welcome these new citizens into your society and to respect the human dignity of every man, woman and child.
Two hundred years after the Constitution confirmed the United States as a land of opportunity and freedom, it is right to hope that there may be a general and renewed commitment to those policies needed to ensure that within these borders equity and justice will be preserved and fostered. This is an ever present requirement of America’s historical destiny.
It is also important for America at this time to look beyond herself and all her own needs to see the even greater needs of the poorer nations of the world. Even as local communities mobilize to work ever more effectively for the integral human advancement of their own members, they must not forget their brothers and sisters elsewhere. We must be careful not to forget the Lord, but we must be careful also not to forget those whom he loves.
443 8. The hidden attributes of the Creator are reflected in the beauty of his creation. The beauty of the Monterey Peninsula attracts a great number of visitors; as a result so many of you are involved in the tourist industry. I greet you and encourage you to see your specific work as a form of service and of solidarity with your fellow human beings.
Work – as we have seen – is an essential aspect of our human existence, but so also is the necessary rest and recreation which permits us to recover our energies and strengthen our spirit for the tasks of life. Many worthwhile values are involved in tourism: relaxation, the widening of one’s culture and the possibility of using leisure time for spiritual pursuits. These include prayer and contemplation, and pilgrimages, which have always been a part of our Catholic heritage; they also include fostering human relationships within the family and among friends. Like other human activities, tourism con be a source of good or evil, a place of grace or sin. I invite all of you who are involved in tourism to uphold the dignity of your work and to be always willing to bear joyful witness to your Christian faith.
9. Dear brothers and sisters: it is in the Eucharist that the fruits of our work–and all that is noble in human affairs–become an offering of the greatest value in union with the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. In fostering what is authentically human through our work and through deeds of justice and love, we set upon the altar of the Lord those elements which will be transformed into Christ: "Blessed are you Lord, God, of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life".
I ask you to join with me in praising the Most Holy Trinity for the abundance of life and goodness with which you have been gifted: "The earth has yielded its fruit. God, our God, has blessed us" (Ps 7). But may your abundance never lead you to forget the Lord or cease to acknowledge him as the source of your peace and well-being. Your prayer for yourselves and for all your brothers and sisters must always be an echo of the psalm:
"May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine on us" (Ibid. 2).
For years to come may the Lord’s face shine on this land, on the Church in Monterey, and on all America: "From sea to shining sea". Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 433