S. John Paul II Homil. 797


Sunday, 30 November 1997

1. "But watch at all times, praying that you may have the strength ... to stand before the Son of Man" (Lc 21,36).

Christ’s words, taken from Luke’s Gospel, introduce us to the profound meaning of the liturgy we are celebrating. On this First Sunday in Advent, which marks the beginning of the second year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the exhortation to watch and pray so as to be ready to meet the Lord sounds as vibrant and timely as ever.

798 Our thoughts turn immediately to next Christmas, when once again we will kneel at the newborn Saviour’s cradle. But we are also thinking of the great date of the Year 2000, when the whole Church will relive, with particular intensity, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word. We are invited to hasten our steps towards that goal, letting ourselves be guided, especially during this liturgical year, by the light of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, "the primary tasks of the preparation for the Jubilee thus include a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Spirit, who acts with in the Church" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 45).

In this perspective, the Committee for the Great Jubilee continues to carry out its work with praiseworthy effort. Its valuable ecclesial service deserves to be encouraged, especially in this phase, which is now so close to the historic date. Thanks to the initiatives of encouragement and co-ordination set in motion by this central office, the People of God will be given ever better guidance and motivation on their way to crossing the threshold of the third millennium.

2. Today the Church in Rome is also gathered in this basilica for another reason: the presentation of the Cross to the men and women missionaries who are taking on the task of proclaiming the Gospel in the various milieus of this metropolis.

We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men" (1Th 3,12). It is precisely with this hope that the Bishop of Rome presents the Cross to all of you, dear missionaries, and to your parish communities. Is it not here that we find the secret to the success of the City Mission? Jesus himself has linked the effectiveness of the disciples' Gospel preaching to their mutual love: "that they may all be one ... in us, so that the world may believe ..." (Jn 17,21).

The Mission’s success depends on the intensity of love. The third Person of the Holy Trinity is subsistent love. Who better than he can pour out love into our hearts (cf. Rom Rm 5,5)? Thus there is a providential coincidence between the opening of the second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, and the presentation of the Cross to you, who during this year will have the leading role in the Mission throughout the city. I assure you of special help from the Holy Spirit, whom the Mission recognizes as its primary, undisputed agent.

3. "Open the door to Christ, your Saviour!". This is the invitation at the heart of the City Mission, but it must first echo in our own hearts. We ourselves must first open the doors of our conscience and our life to Christ the Saviour, making ourselves docile to the Spirit’s action, so that we are more and more conformed to the Lord. Indeed, he cannot be proclaimed unless his image is reflected and brought to life in us by the grace and action of the Spirit.

Dear missionaries, have a strong love for the individuals and families you will meet. People need love, understanding and forgiveness. Be especially attentive and close to those families having difficulties with their faith, their marriage, or because of poverty and suffering. Every family in Rome must see your acts and your words as so many signs of God's mercy and the Church’s welcome. As far as possible, even after your visit, maintain a personal relationship with the families you meet and with each individual member.

Love the Church to which you belong and who sends you out as missionaries. Teach others to love her by your words and example. Share with her your passion for men's salvation. Love the Church which is holy, because she was purified by the blood Christ shed on the cross.

Strive to be holy too! Accept St Paul’s exhortation re-echoed in the second reading, "so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness" (1Th 3,13). The call to mission stems from the call to holiness. Respond to it generously. Open the doors of your life to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, who renews the face of the earth and turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh capable of loving as Christ loved us (cf. Jn Jn 15,12).

4. As you visit every home and the families of your parishes, you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul: I came to you in weakness and in much fear and trembling, to proclaim to you Jesus Christ and him crucified (cf. 1Co 2,1-3). The true strength of your missionary service lies in the simplicity of your proclamation, accompanied by love for the persons you visit. Compared to the many persuasive and attractive human messages which bombard peoples' lives every day, the Gospel can perhaps seem weak and poor when viewed superficially, but in reality it is the most powerful and effective word that can be spoken, because it penetrates hearts and, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s mysterious action, leads to conversion and the encounter with God.

I would like to make my own the Apostle’s invitation to grow and to distinguish yourselves by doing good: "you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God ... you do so more and more" (1Th 4,1). In fact, the Mission must be a suitable occasion for each parish to begin a new relationship with the people living in its territory, so that it is better able to reach everyone with the offer of faith, to be more available to requests and expectations and more present in each person’s daily life. Thus the parish can be more authentically itself in its generous apostolic and missionary commitment to those who live outside it.

799 5. Dear missionaries of Rome! Today I say to each of you what I wrote to young people on 8 September last, inviting them to be willing to accept and help those who would like to approach the faith and the Church. May none of those the Father sets on our path go astray! (cf. Letter to the Young People of Rome, n. 9; L’Osservatore Romano, 14 September 1997, p. 6).

I also repeat it to you, priests and deacons, that you may rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of the Bishop’s hands (cf.
2Tm 1,6). With the Good Shepherd’s love and concern, go in search of all who have strayed and are awaiting a gesture, a word from you to be able to rediscover God’s love and forgiveness.

I would like to point the Mission out to you, men and women religious, as a fertile ground for giving a strong witness of joyful Gospel service. I ask cloistered religious, in particular, to put themselves at the very heart of the Mission by their constant prayer of adoration and contemplation of the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.

Once again I say to you, dear young people and children: your active participation in the City Mission is an indispensable gift for the community. Take the lead in the most beautiful and thrilling adventure to which you can devote your life: that of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel. With your gifts and talents made available to the Lord, you can and must contribute to the work of salvation in our beloved city.

I also renew my invitation to you, dear Christian families, rich in the gift of faith and love; I invite you to live your call to mission with dedication, offering your service to the other families who live near by, with friendship, solidarity and courage in presenting the truth of the Gospel.

I address a special thought to you, dear friends who are sick, elderly or alone. You have been entrusted with a task of great importance in the Mission: offer your daily prayers and sufferings for the success of this apostolic undertaking, so that the Lord’s grace may accompany the missionaries’ visits to families and make the hearts of those who welcome them open and disposed to conversion.

6. "Behold the days are coming ... when I will fulfil the promise I made" (Jr 33,14). By the Spirit’s action, the Lord leads the history of salvation down the ages until its ultimate fulfilment. "Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!". As you did for Mary, the Virgin of Advent, send your Spirit upon us. Send your Spirit, O Lord, on the city of Rome and renew its face! Send your Spirit into the whole world that is preparing to enter the third millennium of the Christian era.

Help us to accept, like Mary, the gift of your divine presence and protection. Help us to be docile to the promptings of the Spirit, so that we can proclaim with courage and apostolic zeal the Word who became flesh and came to dwell among us: Jesus Christ, God made Man, who has redeemed us by his Death and Resurrection. Amen!




Friday, 12 December 1997

"In those days Mary arose ..." (Lc 1,39).

1. How evocative it is to hear again in this celebration the Gospel passage about the Visitation, to conclude the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops!

800 The Church is always "journeying", always on the move. She is sent and exists in order to move through time and space, announcing and witnessing to the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

About five centuries ago, the Church on pilgrimage through history journeyed to the American continent, which had just been discovered. Since then she has been established in the varied cultures of those lands; her face has taken on the features of the local people, as shown by the eloquent icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose memory we celebrate in today’s liturgy.

And so a continental Synod has been held this year, while the entire People of God is advancing towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. This is certainly a point of arrival; but even more so, a new point of departure: the Christian community, following Mary's example, is journeying again, spurred by the love of Christ, to undertake the new evangelization of the American continent. It is the beginning of a new mission, which has found its "upper room" and "pentecost" in the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, at the very beginning of a year totally dedicated to the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit who ceaselessly guides the Christian people along the paths of salvation history. We want to thank the Lord for this today, recognizing that Christ himself is present among us and is walking with us.

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, dear Brothers and Sisters, let us go together on spiritual pilgrimage to Bethlehem and offer the fruits of our commitment at the feet of the Son of God, who has come to save us: "Regem venturum, Dominum, venite adoremus!".

2. In these weeks we have made our own the last words of Christ the incarnate Son of God, his testament, which is also his great missionary mandate for the baptized: "Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (
Mt 28,18-20).

In fidelity to this mandate upon which our ministry is founded, you, the Pastors of the Churches in America, do not tire of proclaiming to a world hungry for truth the living Christ, our sole salvation. He alone is our peace; he alone is that richness from which we can always receive strength and inner joy.

During the course of the Synod, we have heard echoes of the voices of the first great evangelizers of America, reminding us of our duty to be profoundly converted to Christ, the one source of authentic communion and solidarity. Now is the time of the new evangelization, a providential occasion to lead the People of God in America to cross the threshold of the third millennium with renewed hope.

How can we fail to thank God today for all those missionaries who for five centuries of history were committed to the evangelization of the continent? The Church is greatly indebted to them. Many of their names are known to us, because they have been raised to the glory of the altars. But most of those missionaries remain unknown, the majority of them religious, to whom America owes much, not only religiously but also culturally. Just as in Europe, from where the missionaries came, so too in America the intimate link between faith, evangelization and culture gave rise to countless works of art, architecture and literature, as well as many popular celebrations and traditions. A rich tradition thus arose, one which represents a significant patrimony of the peoples of South, Central and North America.

Between these regions there are differences which go back to the very origins of evangelization. The Synod, however, has highlighted very clearly how the Gospel harmonized them. Those taking part in the Synod have personally experienced this unity, the source of fraternal solidarity. In this way, the Synod has accomplished its principle task, indicated by its very name, synodos, that is communion of paths. We thank the Lord for this communion of paths, on which whole generations of Christians on that great continent have journeyed.

3. Dear brothers and sisters, during the Synod Assembly, the problems and prospects of the new evangelization in America have been examined. Any solution is based on the awareness of the urgent duty of ardently and courageously proclaiming Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the whole man and of every man. It is only in drawing from this living source that we can effectively stand up to all the challenges.

801 I would like to recall some of these: the authentic teaching of the Church's doctrine and a catechesis faithful to the Gospel, adapted to the needs of the time; the tasks and interaction of the different vocations and different ministries in the Church; the defence of human life from the moment of conception until its natural end; the primordial role of the family in society; the need to ensure that society, with its laws and institutions, is in harmony with the teachings of Christ; the value of human work, by which the human person cooperates in God’s creative action; the evangelization of the cultural world in its various aspects. Through apostolic action rooted in the Gospel and open to the challenges of society, you can help to spread throughout America that much desired civilization of love, which underscores the primacy of man and the promotion of his dignity in all its dimensions, beginning with his spiritual dimension.

The Church in America can realize more profoundly and more extensively the consequences of authentic reconciliation with Christ, who opens hearts and enables brothers and sisters in the faith to renew their ways of working together. For the new evangelization, it is essential to have concrete collaboration between the different vocations, the different ministries and the various apostolates and charisms given by the Holy Spirit, whether those of traditional religious institutes or those of new movements and associations of the faithful established more recently.

4. Venerable and beloved Synod Fathers who formed the Special Assembly of the Synod for America, I now express to you my cordial greetings and heartfelt thanks. I have tried as much as possible to be present for the work of the Synod. This was a significant experience for me, making it easier to reinforce the bonds of affective and pastoral communion which unite me with you in Jesus Christ. This spiritual unity is now concluding in the celebration of the Eucharist, centre and summit of the Church's life and her entire apostolic project.

As you leave Rome to return to the various Dioceses of America, I impart my blessing to you and extend it to your faithful, especially to the priests, your co-workers, the religious who belong to your communities, to the lay faithful involved in the apostolate, to the young, the sick and the elderly. I assure them of my prayers and my affection. The Holy Spirit, in this year specially dedicated to him, helps us to walk together in the name of the Lord!

We have concluded the Synod's work on the day dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first witness to Christ's presence in America. Her shrine in the heart of the American continent represents an indelible reminder of the evangelization achieved in the past five centuries. The Mother of Christ appeared to a humble man, a Native American named Juan Diego. She chose him as the representative of all her beloved sons and daughters of those lands, in order to proclaim that divine Providence calls for the salvation of people of all races and cultures; the indigenous peoples, who lived there centuries ago, as well as people who came from Europe, in order to bring, despite their limitations and faults, the immense gift of the Good News.

During the Synod, we experienced the special presence of Our Lady, the Mother of God, venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe. And today we want to entrust her with the future path of the Church on the great continent of America.

5. A few days ago, at the end of the the Synod's work, you accepted the proposal of the three Presidents Delegate and expressed the desire that for the promulgation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation I return as a pilgrim to her shrine in Mexico City. In this matter I entrust the entire project and desire to her. However, I now prostrate myself spiritually at her feet, recalling my first pilgrimage in January 1979, when I knelt before that wonderful image to invoke her maternal help and protection on my recently begun pontifical service. On that occasion I placed the evangelization of America — especially Latin America — in her hands, and afterwards took part in the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Puebla.

In your name, I renew today the call I made to her then: Mary, Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of all America, help us to be faithful stewards of the great mysteries of God. Help us to teach the truth your Son proclaimed and to spread love, which is the first commandment and first fruit of the Holy Spirit. Help us to confirm our brothers and sisters in the faith. Help us to spread hope in eternal life. Help us to guard the great spiritual treasures of the members of God's people who are entrusted to us.

Queen of the Apostles! Accept our willingness to serve unreservedly the cause of your Son, the cause of the Gospel and of peace, based on justice and love among individuals and between peoples.

Queen of peace! Save the nations and peoples of the whole continent who trust in you; save them from war, hatred and subversion. May all, governors and the governed, learn to live in peace; may they be educated for peace, and undertake everything required by justice and respect for the rights of each person, so that peace may be strengthened.

Listen to us, "morenita" Virgin, Mother of Hope, Mother of Guadalupe!



Tuesday, 16 December 1997

"Rorate caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem" (Entrance antiphon; cf. Is Is 45,8). 1. With these words today's liturgy expresses the world's expectation of the Saviour who is about to come.

For some years now the season of Advent, which urges believers to "go with good works to meet" Christ who comes, has been an occasion for teachers and students to share with their Bishop the grace and joy of waiting for the Lord. Moreover, the participation of representatives from non-Roman athenaeums gives the event a richer and broader dimension, making it in a way an Advent celebration for the whole Italian academic world. On this occasion I would like to offer each of you my cordial Christmas greetings and, above all, to ask the divine Child for the graces needed by everyone who works in the university world. I especially thank the professor and student who conveyed the sentiments you share.

2. The Word of God proclaimed a few moments ago refers to the Lord's vineyard, an evocative allegory that occurs frequently in the Gospels and is the main theme of today's passage. What does the image of the vineyard call to mind? Following the Gospel texts, we could say that it represents the whole created cosmos which, through Christ's coming, becomes God's property in a special way. In fact, through Christ's Redemption, the cosmos and man begin to belong to God in a new way. We can therefore say that in a certain sense Christmas is the holy day when the visible and the inanimate assume, on the basis of that event, a different and unexpected meaning, because "God", as the Evangelist John reminds us, "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). Do not these words contain the pregnant meaning of the vineyard image, to which Jesus often refers in his preaching?

Through the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, man and the cosmos can rejoice in discovering that it is they who are the "Lord's vineyard", the object of God's saving love.

3. "Go and work in my vineyard!" (cf. Mt Mt 21,28), says the father to his two sons in the Gospel parable, and he expects an answer from them: he is not satisfied with words; he wants an actual commitment. The two respond differently: the first says he is willing but then does nothing; the other apparently refuses his father's invitation, but after some evasiveness does what he is asked. The Evangelist Matthew thus presents a typology of the attitudes towards God that men have taken down through history. The Gospel invitation to work in the Lord's vineyard echoes in the lives and hearts of every man and woman, called to dedicate themselves actively to the divine vineyard and to become involved in the mission of salvation. In this parable each one of us can recognize his own personal experience.

4. Dear friends, the university world you represent here is a particularly fertile ground for the development of the human talents which the Lord has given each individual for the good of all. By using them and developing them through study and research, whoever possesses them is capable of undertaking initiatives that can promote the authentic progress of the world.

However, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "the advantages of human progress are fraught with grave temptations: the hierarchy of values has been disordered, good and evil intermingle, and every man and every group is interested only in its own affairs, not in those of others. So it is that the earth has not yet become the scene of true brotherhood; rather, man's swelling power at the present time threatens to put an end to the human race itself" (Gaudium et spes GS 37).

5. Only when man, letting himself be guided by the divine Spirit, undertakes to enliven earthly affairs in view of God's kingdom (cf. ibid., n. 72), does he co-operate in bringing about the authentic progress of humanity. By fostering the encounter with the Son of the living God, it is the Spirit who removes from man's heart every intellectual presumption and leads him to the true good and to true wisdom, which is a gift to be sought and received with humility. As I wrote in the Letter to the Young People of Rome for the City Mission - it is up to you, dear young people, to listen to the Spirit of the Lord in order to release the fresh, generous cultural energies that the enthusiasm of your age can certainly muster. The Pope entrusts this task especially to you, as your vocation and service on the journey of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the third millennium.

It corresponds, moreover, to the fitting efforts of the Italian Church to develop and make fruitful a cultural project with a Christian orientation.

Knowledge based on faith, in fact, has genuine cultural dignity. Knowledge of the faith illumines man's search and makes it fully human because "it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh" as the Second Vatican Council teaches, "that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.... Christ, the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling" (ibid., n. 22).

803 In this way a culture of man and for man develops; a culture rich in values, drawn by the splendour of the Truth, the Gospel of life for human beings in every age, which spreads and gains momentum in the fields of knowledge, enlivens the forms of life and behaviour, and the right ordering of society. The order of ethical values, in fact, has a role of primary importance in every culture.

6. Regarding the evangelization of culture, I would like to recall here two events of great significance. The 50th anniversary of the University Chapel of "La Sapienza" occurs in 1998. The chapel was a precious gift of my venerable Predecessor Pius XII. The anniversary celebration in this place of high symbolic value will see the chaplains of European universities gathered in congress for the first time: a timely initiative, which I would like to encourage and for which I would like to thank the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for Culture, together with the chaplains and all the members of "La Sapienza" University, starting with the Rector Magnificus.

More distant in time but just as important is the project mentioned at the beginning of this celebration: the World Meeting of University Teachers, which will take place in the Year 2000 on the occasion of the Great Jubilee, with the theme: The University for a New Humanism.The scientific congresses for the individual disciplines, which will precede the plenary meeting with the Pope and will be held at various universities, will be a special opportunity to show how the Word of faith can illumine the ways in which man expresses the authentic gifts of his intelligence, which in every age seeks, discovers and expresses itself in the varied cultural production of the sciences, literature and the arts.

7. Dear brothers and sisters who live and work in the university world, the inspiring atmosphere of Christmas, which we are already enjoying, invites us to welcome with total readiness the Word who becomes flesh to save and ennoble the human creature. Gathered round the altar for the Eucharistic celebration, as we contemplate the mystery of Christ's birth, we are moved to ask ourselves how we can be faithful and generous workers in the service of his vineyard.

Jesus calls each of us to increase the places in our city where his Word of truth is proclaimed and studied, so that it may become a light and a support for everyone.

Let us open our hearts to the Lord who comes, so that when he arrives, he will find us all prepared to do his will.

Mary, Mother of Wisdom, help us to be like you, docile servants of your Son Jesus.




Sunday, 21 December 1997

1. "Blessed is she who believed" (Lc 1,45). The first beatitude mentioned in the Gospels is reserved for the Virgin Mary. She is proclaimed blessed because of her attitude of total trust in God and full acceptance of his will, shown by the 'yes' spoken at the time of the Annunciation.

By proclaiming herself "the handmaid of the Lord" (Gospel acclamation; cf. Lk Lc 1,38), Mary expresses the faith of Israel. She is the fulfilment of the long wait for salvation which, starting in the garden of Eden, passes through the Patriarchs and the history of Israel, to reach that "city of Galilee named Nazareth" (Lc 1,26). Because of Abraham's faith, the great work of salvation begins to be revealed; because of Mary's faith, the new times of the Redemption are inaugurated.

804 In today's Gospel passage we listened to the account of the Mother of God's visit to her elderly relative, Elizabeth. The first meeting between John the Baptist and Jesus takes place through their mothers' greeting. St Luke tells us that Mary "went with haste" (cf. Lk Lc 1,39) to Elizabeth. This anxiety to visit her cousin indicates her wish to be of assistance to her during her pregnancy, but above all her desire to rejoice with her that the time of salvation had arrived. In the presence of Mary and the incarnate Word, John leapt for joy and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk Lc 1,41).

2. We find reflected in Mary's visitation the hopes and expectations of the humble, God-fearing people who were awaiting the fulfilment of the prophetic promises. The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Micah announces the coming of a new king, after God's heart. A king who will not try to display greatness and power, but who will rise from humble origins like David and, like him, will be wise and faithful to the Lord. "But you, Bethlehem ... who are little ... from you shall come forth ... one who is to be ruler" (5:2). This promised king will care for his people with the strength of God himself and will bring peace and security to the ends of the earth (cf. Mi Mi 5,4). All these ancient promises will be fulfilled in the Child of Bethlehem.

3. Dear brothers and sisters of St Bartholomew the Apostle Parish, I am pleased to celebrate the Eucharist with you on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, as we now approach Christmas. I greet you all affectionately. I greet the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishop of this area, your parish priest, Fr Alfonso Carlos Urréchua Líbano, and his closest co-workers. I particularly mention the members of the Institute of Identes Missionaries, to whom this parish belongs.

As I recalled a few moments ago, today's Gospel offers us the "missionary" episode of Mary's visit to Elizabeth. By accepting the divine will, Mary offered her active co-operation so that God could become man in her maternal womb. She bore the divine Word within her as she went to visit her elderly cousin who, in turn, was awaiting the Baptist's birth. In this act of human solidarity, Mary demonstrated that authentic charity which grows within us when Christ is present.

4. Beloved parishioners of St Bartholomew the Apostle, may everything your community does always be inspired by this Gospel message! I am well aware of how committed you are to spreading the Gospel in your district, and I know of the challenges and difficulties you encounter. These are spiritual challenges, but social and economic challenges are present as well. I am thinking especially of the scourge of drugs which, unfortunately, ensnares many young people of this neighbourhood, as in other parts of the city. I am thinking of the lack of centres offering healthy recreation and opportunities for cultural growth to adolescents and adults. I am thinking of the situations of isolation, sometimes even physical, in which many people here live.

In view of these situations, you are not idle. Indeed, enlivened by apostolic and missionary zeal, your community never ceases to bear witness to the hope that the Gospel brings those who accept it and make it their rule of life. I encourage you, dear people, to continue in this direction. Whoever actively participates in parish life cannot fail to hear the baptismal call to be close to those who are tried by hardship and suffering. Bring to each one the Christmas message: Do not be afraid, Christ is born for us! Spread this proclamation everywhere now that you are involved in the City Mission. Go to where people live, and be prepared, as far as you can, to help them escape from every form of isolation. To each and every one, proclaim and witness to Christ and to the joy of his Gospel.

This mission is yours, dear families: the Church calls you to mobilize yourselves to transmit the faith and especially to live it deeply yourselves. It is your task, first of all, to build a new solidarity that will facilitate the prevention and recovery of those who unfortunately fall into the grip of drug dependency. I would like to assure the families affected by this sad phenomenon that the Church is close to them and invites them not to submit passively, but to react with courage and determination, relying on divine help and the active support of their brothers and sisters, to combat this scourge of our time, which continues to ruin the bodies and minds of so many young people. However, convinced that medical and social interventions are not enough, the Church asks for an increasingly convinced witness to human and Christian values in society and for authentic solidarity to individuals, especially if they are weak and lonely.

As Christmas approaches, may today's celebration inspire in everyone the enthusiasm to love life, to defend it and to promote it by every legitimate means. This is the best way to celebrate Christmas, by sharing with every person of goodwill the joy of salvation that the incarnate Word brought to the world.

I hope also that the Christmas season and the beginning of the new year will renew a strong missionary fervour in each individual. May this community and the whole Diocese see a rebirth of the zeal experienced by the ancient Christian community of Rome described in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts Ac 28,15).

5. "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God" (He 10,7). In presenting the mystery of the Incarnation, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the attitude of the divine Word as he enters the world: "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me" (10:5). The true and perfect sacrifice, offered by Jesus to the Father, is that of full adherence to the plan of salvation. The total obedience to the Father that marks Jesus' earthly life from the very first instant will be definitively fulfilled in the mystery of Easter. Thus the paschal dimension is already present at Christmas. This is the beginning of Jesus' Redemption, which will be totally fulfilled by his Death and Resurrection.

May Mary, model of faith for all believers, help us prepare worthily to welcome the Lord who comes. Together with St Elizabeth we acknowledge the great things that the Lord accomplished in her. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (Lc 1,42). May Jesus, the blessed fruit of the Virgin Mary's womb, bless your families, the young people, the elderly, the sick and those who are alone. May he, who became a child to save mankind, bring everyone light, hope and joy.


S. John Paul II Homil. 797