S. John Paul II Homil. 1282
1. "And they were all full of the Holy Spirit" (Ac 2,4).
Thus it happened at Jerusalem on Pentecost. Today, gathered in this square, heart of the Catholic world, we relive the climate of that day. Even in our own day, as in the Upper Room at Jerusalem, a "strong wind" blows through the Church. She experiences the divine breath of the Spirit who opens her for the evangelization of the world.
By a happy coincidence, in our solemnity today we have the joy of hosting, beside the altar, the venerated relics of Bl. John XXIII, whom God formed with his Spirit making him a wonderful witness of his love. My venerable predecessor passed to the better life on 3 June 1963, 38 years ago, while in St Peter's Square a great crowd of the faithful were praying for him, spiritually gathered around him as he lay on his death bed. Our present celebration rejoins that prayer and, while we commemorate the Blessed Pope, we give praise to God who gave him to the Church and to the world.
As Priest, Bishop and Pope, Bl. Angelo Roncalli was docile to the action of the Holy Spirit who guided him on the way of holiness. And so with the living communion of saints, I want to celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, particularly attuned to him, and guided by some of his spiritual reflections.
2. "The light of the Holy Spirit breaks forth from the first words of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.... The intense movement of the divine Spirit precedes and accompagnies the evangelizers and breaks into the souls of those who listen, while extending the confines of the Catholic Church to the ends of the earth, allowing her to traverse all the centuries of history" (Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui del S. Padre Giovanni XXIII, II, p. 398).
With these words, spoken on Pentecost 1960, Pope John helped us to grasp the unlimited missionary impulse proper to the mystery we celebrate on this solemnity. The Church is born as missionary, because she is born of the Father who sent Christ into the world, she is born of the Son who, dead and risen, sent the Apostles to all nations, and she is born of the Holy Spirit, who pours out on them the necessary light and force to accomplish their mission.
Even in her distinctive missionary dimension, the Church is the icon of the Holy Trinity: for she reflects in history the superabundant fruitfulness proper to God himself, the subsisting fount of love who generates life and communion.
With her presence and action in the world, the Church propagates among men this mysterious dynamism, spreading the kingdom of God that "is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rm 14,17).
3. The Second Vatican Council, announced, summoned and opened by Pope John XXIII, was aware of the missionary vocation of the Church.
1283 We can say that the Holy Spirit was the protagonist of the Council, from the time the Pope convoked it, declaring that he had received the idea as an interior voice from on high that resounded in his spirit (cf. Apostolic Constitution Humanae salutis, 25 December 1961, n. 6). That "light breeze" became a "strong wind" and the conciliar event took the form of a renewed Pentecost. "It is in the doctrine and spirit of Pentecost", Pope John affirmed, "that the great event of the Ecumenical Council takes its substance and life" (Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui, cit., p. 398).
If today, brothers and sisters, we remember that singular ecclesial season, it is because the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 was placed in continuity with the Second Vatican Council. It reproposed many aspects of conciliar doctrine and method. And the recent Extraordinary Consistory reproposed its ongoing value and richness for new Christian generations. All this is for us a further motive of gratitude to Bl. Pope John XXIII.
4. In particular, within the present celebration, which associates with Pentecost a solemn act of veneration, I wish to emphasize that the most precious gift that Pope John left to the People of God was himself, his witness of holiness.
What he affirmed of the saints also applies to him, "each of them is a masterpiece of the Holy Spirit", (ibid., p. 400). And thinking of the saints and martyrs buried in St Peter's, he added a comment that it is moving to think of today: "Sometimes the relics of their bodies are reduced to a few bones; but their memory and prayer continue to palpitate in them" (ibid., p. 400). He exclaimed: "Oh, the saints, the saints of the Lord, who everywhere delight us, encourage us and bless us" (ibid., p. 401).
These expressions of Pope John, reinforced by the luminous example of his life, reveal the importance of the aspiration to holiness as the privileged way of the Church at the beginning of the new millennium (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 30-31). The generous will to collaborate with the Spirit in one's own sanctification and that of one's brothers is in fact a preliminary and indispensable condition for the new evangelization.
5. If evangelization requires holiness, in turn holiness requires the nourishment of the spiritual life: prayer and intimate union with God by means of the Word and of the Sacraments. In a word, it requires a profound and personal life of the Spirit.
How can we not remember, even in this regard, the rich spiritual legacy left us by the Bl. John XXIII in his Journal of the Soul? In those pages one can admire at first hand the daily effort, even from his days in the seminary, which he brought to the desire to correspond fully with the action of the Holy Spirit. Each day he let himself be formed by the Spirit, with patient tenacity striving to be conformed ever more to his will. Here is the secret of the goodness with which he won over the People of God and so many persons of good will.
6. Entrusting ourselves to his intercession, today I wish to ask the Lord that the grace of the great Jubilee be spread throughout the new millennium, by the witness of Christian holiness. We confidently confess that holiness is possible. It is possible by the action of the Spirit, the Paraclete, who according to the promise of Christ, always remains with us.
Inspired by sure hope, we can use the same words as Bl. John XXIII to pray: "O Holy Spirit, Paraclete, perfect in us the work begun by Jesus: enable us to continue to pray fervently in the name of the whole world: hasten in everyone of us the growth of a profound interior life; give vigour to our apostolate so that it may reach all men and all peoples, all redeemed by the Blood of Christ and all belonging to him. Mortify in us our natural pride, and raise us to the realms of holy humility, of real fear of God, of generous courage. Let no earthly bond prevent us from honouring our vocation, no cowardly considerations disturb the claims of justice, no meanness confine the immensity of charity within the narrow bounds of petty selfishness. Let everything in us be on a grand scale: the search for truth and the devotion to it, and readiness for self-sacrifice, even to the cross and death; and may everything finally be according to the last prayer of the Son to his heavenly Father, and according to the pouring out of your Spirit, O Holy Spirit of love, whom the Father and the Son desired to be poured out over the Church and her institutions, over the souls of men and of nations." (Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui, cit., IV, p. 350).
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.
10 June 2001
1284 1. "Blessed be God the Father and his only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit: for great is his love for us" (Entrance Antiphon).
The entire liturgy is focused on the Trinitarian mystery, source of life for every believer, but especially today, on the feast of the Blessed Trinity.
"Glory to the Father, glory to the Son, glory to the Holy Spirit": every time we proclaim these words, the synthesis of our faith, we adore the only true God in three Persons. With amazement we contemplate the mystery that completely surrounds us. Mystery of love, mystery of ineffable holiness.
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of sabbaoth" we will sing in a little while, entering into the heart of the Eucharistic prayer. The Father created everything with his wisdom and loving providence; the Son redeemed us with his death and resurrection; the Holy Spirit sanctifies with the fullness of his gifts of grace and mercy.
We can correctly define today's solemnity as the feast of holiness. It is a perfect day for the ceremony of the canonization of the five blesseds: Luigi Scrosoppi, Agostino Roscelli, Bernardo da Corleone, Teresa Eustochio Verzeri, Rafqua Pietra Choboq Ar-RayŤs.
2. "Justified ... by faith, we are in peace with God by means of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 5,1).
For the apostle Paul, as we have heard in the second reading, holiness is a gift which the Father communicates to us through Jesus Christ. Faith in him is the principle of sanctification. By faith man enters the order of grace; by faith he hopes to take part in the glory of God. This hope is not a vain illusion, but the sure fruit of an ascetic path through many trials, that are faced with patience and proven virtue.
This was the experience of St Luigi Scrosoppi, during a life entirely spent for the love of Christ and his neighbour, especially, the weaker and the defenceless.
"Charity, charity": this exclamation burst from his heart at the moment of leaving the world for heaven. He exercised charity in an exemplary way, above all, in the service of abandoned orphan girls, involving a group of teachers, with whom he was able to start the Congregation of the "Sisters of Divine Providence".
Charity was the secret of his long and untiring apostolate, nourished by a constant contact with Christ, contemplated and imitated in the humility and poverty of his birth at Bethlehem, in the simplicity of his life of hard work at Nazareth, in the complete immolation on Calvary, and in the astonishing silence of the Eucharist. Consequently, the Church holds him up to priests and to the faithful as a model of a deep and effective union of communion with God and the service of his neighbour. In other words, he is a model of a life lived in intense communion with the Holy Trinity.
3. "Great is his love for us". The love of God for men is revealed with special emphasis in the life of St Agostino Roscelli, whom we contemplate today in the splendour of holiness. His existence, entirely permeated by deep faith, can be considered a gift offered for the glory of God and the good of souls. Faith made him ever obedient to the Church and her teachings, in docile adherence to the Pope and to his own bishop. From faith he knew how to draw comfort in bleak times, in bitter difficulties and in painful events. Faith was the solid rock to which he held on tightly in order to avoid yielding to discouragement.
1285 He felt the duty to communicate the same faith to others, above all, to those whom he approached in the ministry of confession. He became a master of the spiritual life, especially for the congregation of sisters founded by him. The sisters always found him serene even in the the most trying situations. St Agostino Roscelli exhorts us always to trust in God, immersing ourselves in the mystery of his love.
4. "Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit".
The evangelical witness of St Bernard of Corleone, elevated to the honour of the altars today, observed within the mystery of the Trinity gains a particular effectiveness. All wondered and asked how a simple lay brother could disccourse so well about the mystery of the Trinity. In fact, his life was entirely directed toward God, by a constant ascetical exertion joined with prayer and penance. Those who knew him agreed in testifying that "he was always at prayer", "never ceased to pray", "prayed constantly" (Summ., 35). From such an uninterrupted conversation with God, which found in the Eucharist its ongoing impulse, he drew the lifeblood for his courageous apostolate, responding to the social challenges of the time, with all their tensions and disquiet.
Even today the world needs saints like Brother Bernard immersed in God and for that very reason able to hand on God's truth and love. The humble example of the Capuchin saint offers an encouragement never to tire of prayer, since prayer and listening to God are the soul of authentic holiness.
St Teresa Eustochio Verzeri: faith in providence and abandonment to direction of Spirit
5. "The Spirit of truth will lead you into all truth" (Communion antiphon). Teresa Eustochio Verzeri, whom today we contemplate in the glory of God, in her brief but intense life knew how to be led with docility by the Holy Spirit. God revealed himself to her as a mysterious presence before whom we must bow with profound humility. Her joy was to be considered under constant divine protection, feeling herself in the hands of the heavenly Father, whom she learned to trust in forever.
Abandoning herself to the action of the Spirit, Teresa lived the particular mystical experience of the "absence of God". Only an unshakable faith kept her from losing her confidence in the provident and merciful Father, who put her to the test: "It is right, she wrote, that the spouse after having followed the bridegroom in all the pain that marked his life, should share in the most terrible" (Book of Duties, III, 130).
This was the teaching that St Teresa left to her Institute of the "Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" founded by her. This is the teaching that she left us all. In the midst of contradictions and inner and exterior sufferings one must keep alive faith in God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
6. By canonizing Blessed Rafqa Choboq Ar-RayŤs, the Church sheds a very particular light on the mystery of love given and received for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. This nun of the Lebanese Maronite Order desired to love and to give her life for her people. In the sufferings which never left her for 29 years of her life, St Rafqa always showed a passionate and generous love for the salvation of her brothers, drawing from her union with Christ, who died on the cross, the force to accept voluntarily and to love suffering, the authentic way of holiness.
May St Rafqa watch over those who know suffering, particularly over the peoples of the Middle East who must face a destructive and sterile spiral of violence. Through her intercession, let us ask the Lord to open hearts to the patient quest for new ways to peace and so hasten the advent of reconciliation and harmony.
7. "O Lord our God, how great is your name through all the earth" (Ps 8,2 Ps 8,10). Contemplating these outstanding examples of holiness, the psalmist's exclamation comes spontanously to mind.
1286 The Lord does not stop giving to the Church and to the world wonderful examples of men and women who are reflections of the glory of the Trinity. Their witness incites us to raise our eyes to heaven and to seek without pause the kingdom of God and his justice.
May Mary the Queen of all saints, who first heard the call of the Most High, uphold us in our service of God and neighbor. And may you go with us saints Luigi Scrosoppi, Agostino Roscelli, Bernardo da Corleone, Teresa Eustocchio Verzeri, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-RayŤs, so that our lives like yours may give praise to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
1. "Ecce panis Angelorum, / factus cibus viatorum: / vere panis filiorum" "Behold the bread of angels, as pilgrims' food inherited, it is the bread of all true heirs" (Sequence).
Today the Church shows the world the Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ. And she invites us to adore him: Venite adoremus - Come let us adore him.
The attention of believers is focused on the Sacrament in which Christ has left himself: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is the reason for considering it as the holiest reality: "the Blessed Sacrament", living memorial of the redeeming Sacrifice.
On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we return to that "Thursday" which we call "Holy", on which the Redeemer celebrated his last Passover with the disciples: it was the Last Supper, fulfilling the Jewish passover supper and inaugurating the Eucharistic rite.
For this reason, for centuries the Church has chosen Thursday for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, feast of adoration, contemplation and exaltation. On the feast the People of God draw close to the most precious treasure left by Christ, the Sacrament of his own Presence, and they praise, celebrate and carry it in procession through the streets of our cities.
2. "Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem!" "Praise, O Sion, your Redeemer". (Sequence).
The new Sion, the spiritual Jerusalem in which God's children are gathered from every nation, language and culture, praises our Saviour with hymns and canticles. Indeed, wonder and gratitude for the gift received are inexhaustible. This gift "exceeds all praise, there is no hymn worthy of it" (ibid.).
1287 It is a sublime and ineffable mystery, a mystery before which we remain astonished and silent, in a state of deep and ecstatic contemplation.
3. "Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui" "Let us fall down in adoration of so great a sacrament".
Christ who died and rose for us is really present in the Holy Eucharist.
In the consecrated Bread and Wine, the same Jesus of the Gospels remains with us whom the disciples met and followed, whom they saw crucified and risen, whose wounds Thomas touched, exclaiming prostrate in adoration: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20,28) (cf. ibid., 17-20).
In the Sacrament of the altar, there are offered for our contemplation the full depths of the mystery of Christ, the Word and the flesh, the divine glory and his tent among men. Before this Sacrament, we are sure that God is "with us", that in Jesus Christ he assumed all the dimensions of our human nature, except sin, emptying himself of his glory to clothe us with it (cf. ibid., 21-23).
The invisible face of Christ, the Son of God, is manifest in his Body and Blood in the simplest and, at the same time, the most exalted way possible in this world.
The ecclesial community responds to people in every age who ask perplexed: "We wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12,21), by repeating what the Lord did for the disciples of Emmaus: He broke the bread. In the breaking of the bread, the eyes of those who seek him with a sincere heart are opened. In the Eucharist, the intuition of the heart recognizes Jesus and his unmistakable love lived "to the end" (Jn 13,1). And in him, in that gesture, it recognizes the Face of God!
4. "Ecce panis Angelorum ... vere panis filiorum" "The angel's food is given ... see the bread of the sons [of God]".
We are nourished with this bread to become authentic witnesses of the Gospel. We need this bread to grow in love, the necessary means for us to recognize the face of Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters.
Our diocesan community has need of the Eucharist in order to continue on the path of missionary renewal on which it has set out. In the last few days the diocesan convention was held, which examined "the perspectives of communion, formation and mission in the Diocese of Rome for the coming years". It is necessary to continue to "set out anew" from Christ, that is, from the Eucharist. Let us walk generously and courageously, seeking communion within our ecclesial community, and lovingly dedicated to humble and disinterested service to all, especially the neediest.
On this journey Jesus goes before us, with the gift of himself to the point of sacrifice and offers himself to us as nourishment and support. Indeed he does not cease to repeat to the Pastors of the People of God in all the ages: "Give them something to eat" (Lc 9,17); break this bread of eternal life for everyone. A demanding and exalting task. A mission that lasts until the end of time.
1288 5. "All ate and were satisfied" (Lc 9,17). The echo of a feast that has gone on without interruption for 2,000 years reaches us through the words of the Gospel we have just heard. A Feast of the people on their way in their exodus from the world, nourished by Christ, the true Bread of salvation.
At the end of the Mass we will process in the heart of Rome, carrying the Body of Christ hidden in our hearts and clearly visible in the monstrance. We will accompany the Bread of immortal life through the city streets. We will adore him and around him will be gathered the Church, living monstrance of the Saviour of the world.
May Rome's Christians, revived by his Body and Blood, show Christ to everyone through their way of life: through their unity, their joyful faith and their kindness.
May our diocesan community courageously set out anew from Christ, the Bread of immortal life.
And you, Jesus, living Bread who gives life, bread of pilgrims, "may you feed us, may you guard us, may you let us see good things in our homeland eternally". Amen.
Sunday, 24 June 2001
Kyiv (Chayka Airport)
1. "The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name" (Is 49,1).
Today we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist. The words of the Prophet Isaiah are well-suited to describe this great biblical figure who stands between the Old and the New Testaments. In the long line of Israelís prophets and just men and women, John "the Baptizer" was placed by Godís providence immediately before the Messiah, in order to prepare the way before him by his preaching and by the witness of his life.
Of all the Saints, John is the only one whose birth is celebrated by the Liturgy. We heard in the first Reading that the Lord called his Servant "from his motherís womb". This statement refers in its fullest sense to Christ, but in a derivative way it can also be applied to his Precursor. Both are born as the result of a special intervention by God: the first is born of the Virgin, the second of an elderly and barren woman. Even from his motherís womb John indicates the One who will reveal to the world the loving plan of God.
2. "From my motherís womb you called me" (Responsorial Psalm)
1289 Today we can make our own these words of the Psalmist. God knew and loved us even before our eyes could contemplate the marvels of creation. At birth all men and women receive a human name. But even before that, each one has a divine name: the name by which God the Father knows and loves them from eternity and for eternity. This is true for everyone, with the exception of none. No one is nameless in Godís sight! All have equal value in his eyes: all are different, yet all are equal, and all are called to be sons and daughters in the Son.
"His name is John" (Lc 1,63). Before his astonished kinsmen, Zechariah confirms that this is the name of his son, writing it on a tablet. God himself, through his angel, had given that name, which in Hebrew means "God is benevolent". God is benevolent to human beings: he wants them to live; he wants them to be saved. God is benevolent to his people: he wants to make of them a blessing for all the nations of the earth. God is benevolent to humanity: he guides its pilgrim way towards the land where peace and justice reign. All this is contained in that name: John!
Dear brothers and sisters! John the Baptist was the messenger, the forerunner: he was sent to prepare the way for Christ. How does the figure of Saint John the Baptist speak to us here, in Kyiv, at the beginning of this pilgrimage in your country? Is it not in some way providential that this figure speaks to us precisely here in Kyiv?
3. This is the place of the Baptism of Rusí. From Kyiv there began that flowering of Christian life which the Gospel first brought forth in the land of the ancient Rusí, then in the lands of Eastern Europe and, later, beyond the Urals, in the lands of Asia. In a certain sense, then, Kyiv itself played the role of a "precursor of the Lord" among the many peoples who would receive the proclamation of the Gospel from here.
Saint Volodymyr and the inhabitants of Rusí were baptized by missionaries sent from Constantinople, the greatest centre of Christianity in the East. Thus the new-born Church entered the sphere of the exceedingly rich patrimony of faith and culture of the Byzantine Church. This was at the end of the first millennium. While living according to two different traditions, the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome were still in full communion. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Euntes in Mundum: "We ought to thank the Lord together for this fact, which today represents a good omen and a hope. God willed that Mother Church, visibly united, should welcome into her bosom, already rich with nations and peoples, and at a moment of missionary expansion both in the West and in the East, this her new daughter on the banks of the Dnieper" (No. 4).
If, as we celebrate the Eucharist today according to the Roman tradition, we recall that moment so profoundly linked to the Byzantine tradition, we do so with gratitude. And we do so with the desire that the memory of the one baptism which we share will help to restore that situation of communion in which diversity of traditions posed no obstacle to unity in faith and ecclesial life.
4. The Baptism which took place here, in Kyiv, inaugurated the thousand-year history of Christianity in the lands of todayís Ukraine and in the whole region. Today, having the grace of coming to this historic place, my thoughts go back through the more than ten centuries in which the gift of that first Baptism has continued to be poured out upon successive generations of the sons and daughters of this Nation. What a flowering of spiritual, liturgical and ecclesial life developed from the meeting of different cultures and religious traditions! This splendid inheritance is now entrusted to you, dear brothers and sisters. During these days of my pilgrimage to your country, I join you in praying that your own generation, at the beginning of a new millenium, will prove worthy of the great traditions of its past.
From this City, the cradle of the Christian faith for Ukraine and for the whole area, I greet and embrace with heartfelt affection all the men and women living in these lands. In a special way I greet Cardinals Marian Jaworski and Lubomyr Husar, together with the beloved Bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, Jan PurwiĹski, my venerable Brothers from the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference and the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. I greet the clergy, the men and women religious and the lay faithful of your glorious and sorely-tried Churches; with great courage they were able to keep alight the lamp of faith even in the dark times of persecution.
5. People of God, you who believe, hope and love in the land of Ukraine, joyfully savour once more the gift of the Gospel which you received over a thouand years ago! Look today to John the Baptist, an enduring model of fidelity to God and his Law.John prepared the way for Christ by the testimony of his word and his life. Imitate him with docile and trusting generosity.
Saint John the Baptist is above all a model of faith. Following the example of the great Prophet Elijah, in order to listen more attentively to the word of the one Lord of his life, he leaves everything and withdraws to the desert, from which he would issue the resounding call to prepare the way of the Lord (cf. Mt Mt 3,3 and parallels).
He is a model of humility, because to those who saw in him not only a Prophet, but the Messiah himself, he replied: "Who do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie" (Ac 13,25).
1290 He is a model of uprightness and courage in defending the truth, for which he was prepared to pay in his person, even to the point of imprisonment and death.
Land of Ukraine, drenched with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel which you have given to Christians the world over! So many of your sons and daughters walked in complete fidelity to Christ; many of them remained constant even to the supreme sacrifice. May their witness serve as an example and a stimulus for the Christians of the third millenium.
6. In the school of Christ, in the footsteps of Saint John the Baptist and of the saints and martyrs of this land, may you too, dear brothers and sisters, be brave enough always to give priority to the values of the spirit.
Dear Bishops, priests, men and women religious, who have faithfully accompanied this people at the price of personal sacrifices of every kind, sustaining them in the dark times of the Communist terror, I thank you and I offer you this encouragement: continue to be zealous witnesses to Christ and good shepherds of his flock in this beloved country of Ukraine.
You, dear young people, be brave and free! Do not let yourselves be taken in by the deceptive mirages of an easy happiness. Follow the way of Christ: he is demanding, certainly, but he alone can help you to savour the full meaning of life and enjoy peace of heart.
You, dear parents, prepare the way of the Lord before your children. Bring them up with love, and set a good example by living the principles you teach. And you, teachers and leaders of society, deepen your commitment to promoting the complete development of the human person, fostering in the young a deep sense of justice and of solidarity with the less fortunate.
May you be, one and all, "a light to the nations" (Is 49,6)!
7. City of Kyiv, may you be a "light to Ukraine". From you there set out the evangelizers who down the centuries have been "John the Baptists" for the peoples dwelling in these lands. How many of them, like John, suffered in order to bear witness to the truth, and by their blood became the seed of new Christians. May future generations never lack men and women of the mettle of these, your glorious ancestors.
Most Holy Virgin, Protectress of Ukraine, you have always guided the Christian people on their pilgrim way. Continue to watch over your children. Help them never to forget the "name", the spiritual identity which they received in Baptism. Help them to rejoice always in the priceless grace of being followers of Christ (cf. Jn 3,29). May you be the guide of each one. You, Mother of God and our Mother, Mary!
Monday, 25 June 2001
Kyiv, Chayka Airport
1291 1. "As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so may they be in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me" (cf. Jn Jn 17,21).
The passage from the Gospel of Saint John just proclaimed takes us back in mind and heart to the Upper Room, the place of the Last Supper, where Jesus, before his Passion, prays to the Father for his Apostles. He has just entrusted to them the Holy Eucharist and made them ministers of the New Covenant, with the task now of continuing his mission for the salvation of the world.
In the Saviourís words there appears the consuming desire to rescue humanity from the spirit and mind-set of the world. At the same time there emerges his conviction that salvation passes through that "being one" which, patterned after the life of the Trinity, must characterize the daily experience and decisions of all his disciples.
2. "Ut unum sint ó That they may all be one!" (Jn 17,21). The Upper Room is the place of unity that is born of love. It is the place of mission: "so that the world may believe!" (ibid.). There is no authentic evangelization without full fraternal communion.
For this reason, in the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, showing himself in the Upper Room to his disciples, the Risen Lord reconfirms the close connection between mission and communion as he tells them: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20,21), and he adds: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20,22-23).
And it is also in the Upper Room, on the day of Pentecost, that the disciples together with Mary, Jesusí Mother, receive the Holy Spirit, who was manifested in this way: "A sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them" (Ac 2,2-3). From the gift of the Risen Christ is born the new humanity, the Church, in which communion overcomes the divisions and dispersion generated by the spirit of the world and symbolized in the biblical account of the Tower of Babel: "each one heard them speaking in his own language" (Ac 2,6). Having been made one by the power of the Paraclete, the disciples become instruments of dialogue and peace, and they set in motion the mission of evangelizing the nations.
3. "That they may all be one". This is the mystery of the Church willed by Christ. Unity founded on revealed Truth and on Love does not nullify man, his culture or his history; rather it makes him part of the communion of the Trinity, in which everything authentically human is enriched and strengthened.
This is a mystery that is well represented also in this Liturgy, concelebrated by Catholic Bishops and priests of the Eastern and Latin traditions. In the new humanity, born from the Fatherís heart, and having Christ as its head, and living through the gift of the Spirit, there is a plurality of traditions, rites, canonical disciplines which, far from undermining the unity of the Body of Christ, on the contrary enrich it with the gifts brought by each one. In this, the miracle of Pentecost is continuously repeated: people of different languages, traditions, and cultures feel united in the profession of the one faith within the one communion that is born from on high.
With these sentiments, I greet all here present. I greet especially Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians, and Archbishop Marian Jaworski, Metropolitan of Lviv of the Latins, and the Bishops of the respective rites, the priests and the faithful. I greet every representative of the Ecclesial Community which shows forth its array of riches in a unique way in this Land, where the traditions of East and West meet. Your living side by side in charity should become a model of a unity that exists within a legitimate pluralism and has its guarantee in the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter.
4. Since the beginning, in effect, your Church has benefited from different cultural relationships and from a Christian witness coming from various sources. According to tradition, at the dawn of Christianity it was the Apostle Andrew himself who, visiting the places where we are gathered today, spoke of the holiness found here. In fact, it is told that, as he contemplated the cliffs of the Dnieper, he blessed the land of Kyiv and said: "On these mountains will shine the glory of God". Thus he foretold the conversion to the Christian faith of the Great Prince of Kyiv, the holy baptizer Volodymyr, thanks to whom the Dnieper became as it were the "Jordan of the Ukraine", and the capital Kyiv a "new Jerusalem", the mother of Slav Christianity in Eastern Europe.
What testimonies to holiness have followed one upon another in your Land since the day of its Baptism! Standing out at the beginning are the martyrs of Kyiv, Prince Boris and Prince Hlib, whom you call "bearers of passion", who accepted martyrdom at the hand of their brother without taking arms against him. It is they who formed the spiritual features of the Church of Kyiv, where martyrdom in the name of brotherly love, in the name of Christian unity, showed itself to be a truly universal charism. The history of the recent past has also amply confirmed this.
1292 5. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call" (Ep 4,4). Are not the stories of the martyrs of your Church a fulfilment of the words of the Apostle Paul just proclaimed in the reading of the Epistle? He said to the Christians of Ephesus: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,1-3).
Your re-won independence has opened a new and promising period which commits your countryís citizens, as Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytskyi liked to recall, to the goal of "rebuilding their own home", Ukraine. For ten years your Country has been a free and independent State. These ten years have shown that, despite the temptations linked to crime and corruption, its spiritual roots are strong. My heartfelt hope is that Ukraine will continue to draw strength from the ideals of personal, social and ecclesial morality, of service of the common good, of honesty and sacrifice, not forgetting the gift of the Ten Commandments. The dynamic quality of your countryís faith and its Churchís capacity for rebirth are surprising: the roots of its past have become a pledge of hope for the future.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! The Lordís power which has sustained your Country is a gentle power, a power which relies on human support. It works through your fidelity and your generosity in responding to Christís call.
At this particular moment, I wish to pay homage to those who have gone before you in the faith and who, despite the great trials endured, have preserved the Sacred Tradition. May their shining example encourage you to have no fear. Filled with the Spirit of Christ, be eager to build your future according to his plan of love.
6. As we recall your Landís centuries-old fidelity to the Gospel, we are brought back today as if by instinct to the Upper Room and to the words spoken by Christ on the eve of his Passion.
The Church constantly returns to the Upper Room, where she was born and where her mission began. The Church needs to return there, where the Apostles, after the Lordís Resurrection, were filled with the Holy Spirit, receiving the gift of tongues in order to proclaim in the midst of the peoples and nations of the world the great things done by God (cf. Acts Ac 2,11).
Today we wish to return spiritually to the Upper Room in order to understand better the reasons for the unity and mission which have guided this far, on the banks of the Dnieper, the steps of the brave heralds of the Gospel, so that among the multitude of languages there would not be missing that of the inhabitants of Rusí.
"Ut unum sint!". We wish to join in the prayer of the Lord for the unity of his disciples. It is a heartfelt appeal for the unity of Christians. It is an unceasing prayer, which rises from hearts that are humble and ready to feel, think and work generously so that Christís desire may be fulfilled. From this Land, sanctified by the blood of whole hosts of martyrs, I raise with you my prayer to the Lord that all Christians may once again be "one", according to the desire of Jesus in the Upper Room. May the Christians of the third millennium present themselves before the world with one heart and one soul!
I entrust this ardent yearning to Jesusí Mother, who from the beginning has been praying with the Church and for the Church. May she, as in the Upper Room, sustain us through her intercession. May she guide us on the path of reconciliation and unity, so that in every part of the earth Christians will finally be able to proclaim together Christ and his message of salvation to the men and women of the new millennium.
S. John Paul II Homil. 1282