S. John Paul II Homil. 1108
St. Catherine’s Monastery, 26 February 2000
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In this year of the Great Jubilee, our faith leads us to become pilgrims in the footsteps of God. We contemplate the path he has taken through time, revealing to the world the magnificent mystery of his faithful Love for all humankind. Today, with great joy and deep emotion, the Bishop of Rome is a pilgrim to Mount Sinai, drawn by this holy mountain which rises like a soaring monument to what God revealed here. Here he revealed his name! Here he gave his Law, the Ten Commandments of the Covenant!
How many have come to this place before us! Here the People of God pitched their tents (cf. Ex Ex 19,2); here the prophet Elijah took refuge in a cave (cf. 1R 19,9); here the body of the martyr Catherine found a final resting- place; here a host of pilgrims through the ages have scaled what Saint Gregory of Nyssa called “the mountain of desire” (The Life of Moses, II, 232); here generations of monks have watched and prayed. We humbly follow in their footsteps, to “the holy ground” where the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob commissioned Moses to set his people free (cf. Ex Ex 3,5-8).
2. God shows himself in mysterious ways – as the fire that does not consume – according to a logic which defies all that we know and expect. He is the God who is at once close at hand and far-away; he is in the world but not of it. He is the God who comes to meet us, but who will not be possessed. He is “I AM WHO I AM” – the name which is no name! I AM WHO I AM: the divine abyss in which essence and existence are one! The God who is Being itself! Before such a mystery, how can we fail to “take off our shoes” as he commands, and adore him on this holy ground?
Here on Mount Sinai, the truth of “who God is” became the foundation and guarantee of the Covenant. Moses enters “the luminous darkness” (The Life of Moses, II, 164), and there he is given the Law “written with the finger of God” (Ex 31,18). But what is this Law? It is the Law of life and freedom! At the Red Sea, the people had experienced a great liberation. They had seen the power and fidelity of God; they had discovered that he is the God who does indeed set his people free as he had promised. But now on the heights of Sinai, this same God seals his love by making the Covenant that he will never renounce. If the people obey his Law, they will know freedom for ever. The Exodus and the Covenant are not just events of the past; they are for ever the destiny of all God’s people!
3. The encounter of God and Moses on this Mountain enshrines at the heart of our religion the mystery of liberating obedience, which finds its fulfilment in the perfect obedience of Christ in the Incarnation and on the Cross (cf. Phil Ph 2,8 He 5,8-9). We too shall be truly free if we learn to obey as Jesus did (cf. Heb He 5,8).
The Ten Commandments are not an arbitrary imposition of a tyrannical Lord. They were written in stone; but before that, they were written on the human heart as the universal moral law, valid in every time and place. Today as always, the Ten Words of the Law provide the only true basis for the lives of individuals, societies and nations. Today as always, they are the only future of the human family. They save man from the destructive force of egoism, hatred and falsehood. They point out all the false gods that draw him into slavery: the love of self to the exclusion of God, the greed for power and pleasure that overturns the order of justice and degrades our human dignity and that of our neighbour. If we turn from these false idols and follow the God who sets his people free and remains always with them, then we shall emerge like Moses, after forty days on the mountain, “shining with glory” (Saint Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, II, 230), ablaze with the light of God!
1109 To keep the Commandments is be faithful to God, but it is also to be faithful to ourselves, to our true nature and our deepest aspirations. The wind which still today blows from Sinai reminds us that God wants to be honoured in and through the growth of his creatures: Gloria Dei, homo vivens. In this sense, that wind carries an insistent invitation to dialogue between the followers of the great monotheistic religions in their service of the human family. It suggests that in God we can find the point of our encounter: in God the All Powerful and All Merciful, Creator of the universe and Lord of history, who at the end of our earthly existence will judge us with perfect justice.
4. The Gospel Reading which we have just listened to suggests that Sinai finds its fulfilment on another mountain, the Mountain of the Transfiguration, where Jesus appears to his Apostles shining with the glory of God. Moses and Elijah stand with him to testify that the fullness of God’s revelation is found in the glorified Christ.
On the Mountain of the Transfiguration, God speaks from the cloud, as he had done on Sinai. But now he says: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mc 9,7). He commands us to listen to his Son, because “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11,27). And so we learn that the true name of God is FATHER! The name which is beyond all other names: ABBA! (cf. Gal Ga 4,6). And in Jesus we learn that our true name is SON, DAUGHTER! We learn that the God of the Exodus and the Covenant sets his people free because they are his sons and daughters, created not for slavery but for “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rm 8,21).
So when Saint Paul writes that we “have died to the law through the body of Christ” (Rm 7,4), he does not mean that the Law of Sinai is past. He means that the Ten Commandments now make themselves heard through the voice of the Beloved Son. The person delivered by Jesus Christ into true freedom is aware of being bound not externally by a multitude of prescriptions, but internally by the love which has taken hold in the deepest recesses of his heart. The Ten Commandments are the law of freedom: not the freedom to follow our blind passions, but the freedom to love, to choose what is good in every situation, even when to do so is a burden. It is not an impersonal law that we obey; what is required is loving surrender to the Father through Christ Jesus in the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom Rm 6,14 Ga 5,18). In revealing himself on the Mountain and giving his Law, God revealed man to man himself. Sinai stands at the very heart of the truth about man and his destiny.
5. In pursuit of this truth, the monks of this Monastery pitched their tent in the shadow of Sinai. The Monastery of the Transfiguration and Saint Catherine bears all the marks of time and human turmoil, but it stands indomitable as a witness to divine wisdom and love. For centuries monks from all Christian traditions lived and prayed together in this Monastery, listening to the Word, in whom dwells the fullness of the Father’s wisdom and love. In this very Monastery, Saint John Climacus, wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent, a spiritual masterpiece that continues to inspire monks and nuns, from East and West, generation after generation. All this has taken place under the mighty protection of the Great Mother of God. As early as the third century Egyptian Christians appealed to her with words of trust: We have recourse to your protection, O Holy Mother of God! Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genetrix! Through the centuries, this Monastery has been an exceptional meeting place for people belonging to different Churches, traditions and cultures. I pray that in the new millennium the Monastery of Saint Catherine will be a radiant beacon calling the Churches to know one another better and to rediscover the importance in the eyes of God of the things that unite us in Christ.
6. I am grateful to the many faithful from the Diocese of Ismayliah, led by Bishop Makarios, who have come to join me in this pilgrimage to Mount Sinai. The Successor of Peter thanks you for your steadfastness in faith. God bless you and your families!
I cordially greet His Beatitude Makari, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of All Sinai and, with gratitude for his presence, ask him to take my prayerful good wishes to the faithful of his Diocese.
In particular I wish to thank Archbishop Damianos for his kind words of welcome, and for the hospitality which he and the monks have given us today. May the Monastery of Saint Catherine be a spiritual oasis for members of all the Churches in search of the glory of the Lord which settled on Mount Sinai (cf. Ex Ex 24,16). The vision of this glory prompts us to cry out in overflowing joy: “We give thanks to you, O holy Father, for your holy name, which you have made to dwell in our hearts” (Didache, X). Amen.
Sunday, 5 March 2000
1. "I will praise you, O God my Saviour; I will give thanks to your name, for you have been ... my helper and have delivered my body" (Si 51,1-2).
You, Lord, have been my helper! I hear these words from the Book of Sirach echoing in my heart as I contemplate the wonders God has wrought in the lives of these brothers and sisters in the faith who have won the palm of martyrdom. Today I have the joy of raising them to the glory of the altars, presenting them to the Church and to the world as a shining witness to God's power in the frailty of the human person.
1110 You, Lord, have delivered me! This is the cry of André de Soveral, Ambrósio Francisco Ferro and 28 Companions, diocesan priests, lay men and women; Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, diocesan priest; Maria Stella Adela Mardosewicz and 10 professed sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth; Pedro Calungsod and Andrew of Phú Yên, lay catechists.
Yes, the Almighty was their powerful help in their time of trial and now they are experiencing the joy of eternal reward. Although these humble servants of the Gospel, whose names are for ever written in heaven, lived in different historical periods and in very diverse cultural contexts, they are linked by an identical experience of fidelity to Christ and to the Church. They are united by the same unconditional trust in the Lord and the same deep passion for the Gospel.
I will praise you, O God my Saviour! With their lives offered for the cause of Christ, these new blesseds, the first of the Jubilee Year, proclaim that God is "Father" (cf. ibid., v. 10), God is "protector" and "helper" (cf. v.2); he is our Saviour who listens to the appeals of those who trust in him with all their heart (cf. v. 11).
2. These are the sentiments that fill our hearts as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of Brazil, which occurs this year. In this immense country, the implanting of the Gospel encountered many difficulties. The Church's presence was gradually strengthened through the missionary activity of various orders and religious congregations and by priests of the diocesan clergy. The martyrs beatified today came, at the end of the 17th century, from the communities of Cunhaú and Uruaçu in Rio Grande do Norte. Fr André de Soveral, Fr Ambrósio Francisco Ferro and 28 lay companions belong to this generation of martyrs who watered their homeland, making it fertile for a generation of new Christians. They are the first fruits of the missionary work, the protomartyrs of Brazil. One of these, Mateus Moreira, had his heart ripped out through his back while he was still alive, and yet he had the strength to proclaim his faith in the Eucharist, saying: "Praised be the Blessed Sacrament".
Today, the words of Christ recalled in the Gospel ring out again: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Mt 10,28). The blood of defenceless Catholics, many of whose names are unknown - children, the elderly, whole families - will be an incentive for strengthening the faith of new generations of Brazilians, reminding them especially of the value of the family as an authentic and irreplaceable teacher of faith and moral values.
3. "I shall praise your name unceasingly and gratefully sing its praises" (Si 51,10). Fr Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung's priestly life was an authentic hymn of praise to the Lord. A man of prayer, Fr Nicolas was outstanding in teaching the faith, in seeking out the lapsed, and in his charity towards the poor. Constantly seeking to make Christ known to those who had never heard his name, Fr Nicolas undertook the difficulties of a mission through the mountains and into Burma. The strength of his faith was made clear to all when he forgave those who falsely accused him, deprived him of his freedom and made him suffer much. In prison, Fr Nicolas encouraged his fellow prisoners, taught the catechism and administered the sacraments. His witness to Christ exemplified the words of St Paul: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (2Co 4,8-10).
Through the intercession of Bl. Nicolas, may the Church in Thailand be blessed and strengthened in the work of evangelization and service.
4. God was also a true "protector and helper" for the martyrs of Nowogródek - for Bl. Maria Stella Mardosewicz and her 10 sisters, professed religious of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. For them he was a helper throughout their lives and at the moment of their terrible test, when for an entire night they awaited death; he was a helper especially on the way to the place of execution, and finally at the moment they were shot.
Where did these women find the strength to give themselves in exchange for the lives of imprisoned residents of Nowogródek? From where did they draw the courage to accept calmly the death sentence that was so cruel and unjust? God had slowly prepared them for this moment of greater trial. He sowed the seed of his grace in their hearts at the time of holy Baptism and then, tended with great care and responsibility, it developed firm roots and bore the most beautiful fruit, which is the gift of life. Christ says: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15,13). Yes, there is no greater love than this: to be ready to lay down one's life for one's brothers and sisters.
We thank you, O blessed martyrs of Nowogródek, for your witness of love, for your example of Christian heroism and for your trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. "Christ chose and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit in your lives and that your fruit should abide" (cf. Jn Jn 15,16). You are the greatest inheritance of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. You are the inheritance of the whole Church of Christ for ever!
5. "If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Mt 10,32). From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Fr Diego de San Vitores to join him on the Mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Fr Diego, but as a "good soldier of Christ" preferred to die at the missionary's side. Today Bl. Pedro Calungsod intercedes for the young, in particular those of his native Philippines, and he challenges them. Young friends, do not hesitate to follow the example of Pedro, who "pleased God and was loved by him" (Sg 4,10) and who, having come to perfection in so short a time, lived a full life (cf. ibid., v. 13).
1111 6. "If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Mt 10,32). Andrew of Phú Yên in Viêt Nam made these words of the Lord his own with heroic intensity. From the day he received Baptism at the age of 16, he strove to develop a deep spiritual life. Amid the difficulties to which all who adhered to the Christian faith were subjected, he lived as a faithful witness to the risen Christ and tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel in the "Maison Dieu" association of catechists. For love of the Lord he spent all his energy in serving the Church and assisting priests in their mission. He persevered to the point of bloodshed in order to remain faithful to the love of the One to whom he had totally given himself.
The words he repeated as he resolutely advanced on the path of martyrdom are the expression of what motivated his whole life: "Let us return love for love to our God, let us return life for life".
Today Bl. Andrew, protomartyr of Viêt Nam, is given as a model to the Church of his country.
May all Christ's disciples find in him strength and support in trial, and be concerned to strengthen their intimacy with the Lord, their knowledge of the Christian mystery, their fidelity to the Church and their sense of mission!
7. "Fear not, therefore" (Mt 10,31). This is Christ's invitation. It is also the exhortation of the new blesseds, who remained steadfast in their love of God and of their brothers and sisters, even in the midst of trial. This invitation comes to us as an encouragement in the Jubilee Year, a time for conversion and profound spiritual renewal. Let us not be afraid of trials and difficulties; may we not be hindered by obstacles from making courageous decisions consistent with the Gospel!
What do we have to fear, if Christ is with us? Why doubt, if we remain on Christ's side and accept the commitment and responsibility of being his disciples? May the celebration of the Jubilee strengthen our determination to follow the Gospel. The new blesseds are an example to us and they offer us their help.
May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, who at the foot of the Cross shared fully in her Son's sacrifice, sustain us in courageously bearing witness to our faith!
1. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me" (Ps 51,10-11).
Today, Ash Wednesday, this is how the Psalmist, King David, prays: a great and powerful king in Israel, but at the same time frail and sinful. At the beginning of these 40 days of preparation for Easter, the Church puts his words on the lips of all who take part in the austere liturgy of Ash Wednesday.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, ... take not your holy Spirit from me". We hear this plea echoing in our hearts, while in a few moments we will approach the Lord's altar to receive ashes on our forehead in accordance with a very ancient tradition. This act is filled with spiritual allusions and is an important sign of conversion and inner renewal. Considered in itself, it is a simple liturgical rite, but very profound because of its penitential meaning: with it the Church reminds man, believer and sinner, of his weakness in the face of evil and especially of his total dependence on God's infinite majesty.
1112 The liturgy calls for the celebrant to say these words as he places ashes on the foreheads of the faithful: "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return"; or, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel".
2. "Remember, ... to dust you will return".
Earthly life is marked from its beginning by the prospect of death. Our bodies are mortal, that is, subject to the inevitable prospect of death. We live with this end before us: every passing day brings us inexorably closer to it. And death has something destructive about it. With death it seems that everything will end for us. And here, precisely in the face of this disheartening prospect, man, who is aware of his sin, raises a cry of hope to heaven: O God, "create in me a clean heart and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me".
Today too, the believer who feels threatened by evil and death calls on God in this way, knowing that he has reserved for him a destiny of eternal life. He knows that he is not only a body condemned to death because of sin, but that he also has an immortal soul. Therefore he turns to God the Father, who has the power to create out of nothing; to God the Only-begotten Son, who became man for our salvation, died for us and now, risen, lives in glory; to God the immortal Spirit, who calls us to life and restores life.
"Create in me a clean heart and put a new and right spirit within me". The whole Church makes the Psalmist's prayer her own. These are prophetic words that penetrate our spirit on this special day, the first day of the Lenten journey that will bring us to the celebration of Easter during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
3. "Repent and believe in the Gospel". This invitation, which we find at the beginning of Jesus' preaching, introduces us into the Lenten season, a time to be dedicated in a special way to conversion and renewal, to prayer, to fasting and to works of charity. In recalling the experience of the chosen people, we too set out as it were to retrace the journey that Israel made across the desert to the Promised Land. We too will reach our goal; after these weeks of penance, we will experience the joy of Easter. Our eyes, purified by prayer and penance, will be able to behold with greater clarity the face of the living God, to whom man makes his own pilgrimage on the paths of earthly life.
"Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me" - this man, created not for death but for life, prays in exactly this way. Although he is aware of his weaknesses, he walks sustained by the certainty of his divine destiny.
May almighty God hear the prayers of the Church which, in today's Ash Wednesday liturgy, lifts up her heart to heaven with greater trust. May the merciful Lord grant us all to open our hearts to the gift of his grace, so that we can all take part with new maturity in the paschal mystery of Christ, our only Redeemer.
Sunday, 12 March 2000
1. "We implore you, in Christ's name: be reconciled to God! For our sake God made him who did not know sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Co 5,20-21).
These are words of St Paul which the Church rereads every year on Ash Wednesday, at the beginning of Lent. In the Lenten season, the Church desires to be particularly united to Christ, who, moved inwardly by the Holy Spirit, began his messianic mission by going into the wilderness and fasting there for 40 days and 40 nights (cf. Mk Mc 1,12-13).
1113 At the end of that fast he was tempted by Satan, as we are told briefly by the Evangelist Mark in today's liturgy (cf. 1: 13). Matthew and Luke, on the other hand, deal more amply with Christ's struggle in the desert and with his definitive victory over the tempter: "Begone, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve'" (Mt 4,10).
The One speaking in this way is he "who did not know sin" (2Co 5,21), Jesus, "the Holy One of God" (Mc 1,24).
2. "He made him who did not know sin to be sin" (2Co 5,21). A few moments ago, in the second reading, we heard this surprising assertion made by the Apostle. What do these words mean? They seem, and in effect are, a paradox. How could God, who is holiness itself, "make" his Only-begotten Son, sent into the world, "to be sin"? Yet this is exactly what we read in the passage from St Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians. We are in the presence of a mystery: a mystery which at first sight is baffling, but is clearly written in divine Revelation.
Already in the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah speaks of it with inspired foresight in the fourth song of the Servant of Yahweh: "We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all" (Is 53,6).
Although Christ, the Holy One, was absolutely sinless, he agreed to take our sins upon himself. He agreed in order to redeem us; he agreed to bear our sins to fufil the mission he had received from the Father, who - as the Evangelist John writes - "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him ... may have eternal life" (Jn 3,16).
3. Before Christ who, out of love, took our guilt upon himself, we are all invited to make a profound examination of conscience. One of the characteristic elements of the Great Jubilee is what I described as the "purification of memory" (Bull Incarnationis mysterium, n. 11). As the Successor of Peter, I asked that "in this year of mercy the Church, strong in the holiness which she receives from her Lord, should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters" (ibid.). Today, the First Sunday of Lent, seemed to me the right occasion for the Church, gathered spiritually round the Successor of Peter, to implore divine forgiveness for the sins of all believers. Let us forgive and ask forgiveness!
This appeal has prompted a thorough and fruitful reflection, which led to the publication several days ago of a document of the International Theological Commission, entitled: "Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past". I thank everyone who helped to prepare this text. It is very useful for correctly understanding and carrying out the authentic request for pardon, based on the objective responsibility which Christians share as members of the Mystical Body, and which spurs today's faithful to recognize, along with their own sins, the sins of yesterday's Christians, in the light of careful historical and theological discernment.
Indeed, "because of the bond which unites us to one another in the Mystical Body, all of us, though not personally responsible and without encroaching on the judgement of God who alone knows every heart, bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 11). The recognition of past wrongs serves to reawaken our consciences to the compromises of the present, opening the way to conversion for everyone.
4. Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbour, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.
Let us confess, even more, our responsibilities as Christians for the evils of today. We must ask ourselves what our responsibilities are regarding atheism, religious indifference, secularism, ethical relativism, the violations of the right to life, disregard for the poor in many countries.
We humbly ask forgiveness for the part which each of us has had in these evils by our own actions, thus helping to disfigure the face of the Church.
1114 At the same time, as we confess our sins, let us forgive the sins committed by others against us. Countless times in the course of history Christians have suffered hardship, oppression and persecution because of their faith. Just as the victims of such abuses forgave them, so let us forgive as well. The Church today feels and has always felt obliged to purify her memory of those sad events from every feeling of rancour or revenge. In this way the Jubilee becomes for everyone a favourable opportunity for a profound conversion to the Gospel. The acceptance of God's forgiveness leads to the commitment to forgive our brothers and sisters and to be reconciled with them.
5. But what does the word "reconciliation" mean to us? To grasp its precise sense and value, we must first recognize the possibility of division, of separation. Yes, man is the only creature on earth who can have a relationship of communion with his Creator, but he is also the only one who can separate himself from him. Unfortunately, he has frequently turned away from God.
Fortunately many people, like the prodigal son spoken of in the Gospel of Luke (cf. Lk Lc 15,13), after leaving their father's house and squandering their inheritance, reach the very bottom and realize how much they have lost (cf. Lk Lc 15,13-17). Then they set out to return home: "I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned...'" (Lc 15,18).
God, clearly represented by the father in the parable, welcomes every prodigal child who returns to him. He welcomes him through Christ, in whom the sinner can once again become "righteous" with the righteousness of God. He welcomes him, because for our sake he made his eternal Son to be sin. Yes, only through Christ can we become the righteousness of God (cf. 2Co 5,21).
6. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son". Here, in synthesis, is what the mystery of the world's redemption means! We must fully understand the value of the great gift the Father has given us in Jesus. We must keep the eyes of our soul fixed on Christ - the Christ of Gethesmane, Christ scourged, crowned with thorns, carrying the cross and, finally, crucified. Christ took upon himself the burden of the sins of all people, the burden of our own sins, so that through his saving sacrifice we might be reconciled to God.
Today, Saul of Tarsus who became St Paul, stands before us as a witness: he had an extraordinary experience of the power of the Cross on the way to Damascus. The risen Christ revealed himself to him in all his dazzling power: ""Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'... "Who are you, Lord?' ... "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting'" (Ac 9,4-5). Today Paul, who had such a powerful experience of the Cross of Christ, addresses a fervent prayer to us: "We beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain". This grace is offered to us, St Paul insists, by God himself, who tells us today: "In an acceptable time I have heard you; on a day of salvation I have helped you" (2Co 6,1-2).
Mary, Mother of forgiveness, help us to accept the grace of forgiveness which the Jubilee generously offers us. Make the Lent of this extraordinary Holy Year an acceptable time, a time of reconciliation, a time of salvation for all believers and for everyone who is searching for God!
1. God, “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Rm 8,32).
It is the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans who asks this question, in which the central theme of today's liturgy stands out clearly: the mystery of God's fatherhood. And in the Gospel passage it is the eternal Father who presents himself to us when he admonishes us from the luminous cloud that envelops Jesus and the Apostles on the mount of the Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mc 9,7). Peter, James and John realize — later they will understand better — that God has spoken to them, revealing himself and the mystery of his inmost reality.
After the Resurrection, they and the other Apostles will proclaim the astonishing message to the world: in his incarnate Son, God has reached out to every man as the merciful Father. In him every human being is held in the Father's strong yet tender embrace.
S. John Paul II Homil. 1108