S. John Paul II Homil. 1331



Christmas, 24 December 2001

1. "Populus, qui ambulabat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Is 9,1).

Every year we listen again to these words of the Prophet Isaiah in the moving context of the liturgical re-evocation of Christ’s Birth. Every year these words take on new meaning and cause us to relive the atmosphere of expectation and hope, of amazement and joy typical of Christmas.

To the people, oppressed and suffering, who walked in darkness, there appeared "a great light". A truly "great" light indeed, because the light which radiates from the humility of the crib is the light of the new creation.If the first creation began with light (cf. Gen Gn 1,3), how much more splendid and "great" is the light which inaugurates the new creation: it is God himself made man!

Christmas is an event of light, it is the feast of light: in the Child of Bethlehem the primordial light once more shines in humanity’s heaven and dissipates the clouds of sin. The radiance of God’s definitive triumph appears on the horizon of history in order to offer a new future of hope to a pilgrim people.

2. "Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone" (Is 9,1).

These joyful tidings, proclaimed just now in our assembly, are also meant for us, the men and women of the dawn of the third millennium. Throughout the world the community of believers gathers in prayer to listen to it once again. Amid the cold and snow of winter or in the torrid heat of the tropics, tonight is a Holy Night for all.

Long awaited, the splendour of the new Day at last shines forth. The Messiah is born, Emmanuel, God-with-us! He is born, who was announced by the Prophets of old and long invoked by all "who dwelt in the land of gloom". In the silence and the darkness of the night, the light becomes a word and message of hope.

But does this certainty of faith not seem to clash with the way things are today? If we listen to the relentless news headlines, these words of light and hope may seem like words from a dream. But that is precisely the challenge of faith, which makes this proclamation at once comforting and demanding. It make us feel that we are wrapped in the tender love of God, while at the same time it commits us to a practical love of God and of our neighbour.

3. "The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all" (Tt 2,11).

1332 Our hearts this Christmas are anxious and distressed because of the continuation in various parts of the world of war, social tensions, and the painful hardships in which so many people find themselves. We are all seeking an answer that will reassure us.

The passage from the Letter to Titus which we have just heard reminds us that the birth of the Only-begotten Son of the Father has been revealed as "an offer of salvation" in every corner of the earth, at every time in history. The Child who is named "Wonder-Counsellor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace" (
Is 9,5) is born for every man and woman. He brings with him the answer which can calm our fears and reinvigorate our hope.

Yes, in this night filled with sacred memories, our trust in the redemptive power of the Word made flesh is confirmed. When darkness and evil seem to prevail, Christ tells us once more: Fear not! By his coming into the world he has vanquished the power of evil, freed us from the slavery of death and brought us back to the banquet of life.

It is up to us to draw from the power of his victorious love by appropriating his "logic" of service and humility. Each of us is called to overcome with Christ "the mystery of iniquity", by becoming witnesses of solidarity and builders of peace. Let us go then to the cave of Bethlehem to meet him, and to meet, in him, all the world’s children, every one of our brothers and sisters afflicted in body or oppressed in spirit.

4. The shepherds, "once they had seen, made known what had been told them concerning this child" (Lc 2,17).

Like the shepherds, we too on this wonderful night cannot fail to experience the desire to share with others the joy of our encounter with this "child wrapped in swaddling cloths", in whom the saving power of the Almighty is revealed. We cannot pause in ecstatic contemplation of the Messiah lying in the manger, and forget our obligation to bear witness to him.

In haste we must once more set out on our journey. With joy we must leave the cave of Bethlehem in order to recount everywhere the marvel which we have witnessed. We have encountered light and life! In him, love has been bestowed upon us.

5. "A child is born to us...".

We welcome you with joy, Almighty Lord of heaven and earth, who out of love became a Child "in Judea, in the city of David, which is called Bethlehem" (Lc 2,4).

We welcome you with gratitude, new Light rising in the night of the world.

We welcome you as our brother, the "Prince of Peace", who "made of the two one people" (cf. Eph Ep 2,14).

1333 Fill us with your gifts, you who did not hesitate to begin human life like us. Make us children of God, you who for our sake desired to become a son of man (cf. Saint Augustine, Homilies, 184).

You, "Wonder-Counsellor", sure promise of peace; you, powerful presence of the "God-Hero"; you, our one God, who lie poor and humble in the dim light of the stable, welcome us around your crib.

Come, peoples of the earth, open to him the doors of your history! Come to worship the Son of the Virgin Mary, who descended among us, on this night prepared for down the centuries.

Night of joy and peace.

Venite, adoremus!



Monday 31 December 2001

1. "Lord, is this the hour?": how often man asks this question, especially in history's dramatic moments! He has an acute desire to know the meaning and dynamics of the individual and community events in which he finds himself involved. He would like to know "in advance" what will happen "later", so as not to be taken by surprise.

Indeed, the Apostles were not free from this desire. However, Jesus did not favour their curiosity. Whenever he was asked this question, he would answer that it is heavenly Father only who knows and fixes the times and seasons (cf. Acts Ac 1,7 but , "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall my witnesses ... to the end of the earth" (Acts 1,8). In other words, he asked them to adopt "new" attitude towards time.

Jesus urges us not to pry, uselessly, into what is reserved for God to know - precisely the course of events - but to use the time that each of us is granted - the present - to work with filial love to spread the Gospel to every corner of the earth. This reflection is particularly appropriate for us, at the end of the year and a few hours before the beginning of the new year.

2. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Ga 4,4). Before Jesus was born, man was subject to the tyranny of time, like a slave who has no idea what his master is thinking. However, when "The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us" (Jn 1,14), this perspective was completely reversed.

On the Christmas night that we celebrated a week ago, the Eternal One entered history, the "not yet" of time, marked by the ongoing succession of days, and mysteriously became the "already" of the manifestation of the Son of God. In the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation, time attains its fullness. God embraces the history of men and women on earth to bring it to its definitive fulfillment.

1334 For us believers therefore, the meaning and end of history and of every human event are recapitulated in Christ. In Him, the eternal Word made flesh in Mary's womb, eternity takes holds of you, because God wanted to make himself visible, in order to reveal the depth of history and the goal of the labour of every living person on earth.

That is why, in this liturgy, as we take our leave of 2001, we feel the need to renew with deep joy our gratitude to God who has introduced us into his mystery in his Son, giving rise to the new and definitive age.

3. Te Deum laudamus, /Te Dominum confitemur.

With the words of the ancient hymn, we express to God our deep thanks for all the good he has bestowed upon us in the past 12 months.

Whilst the many events of 2001 flash through our minds, I would like to greet with affection the Cardinal Vicar, accompanied by the Auxiliary Bishops and numerous parish priests, my precious collaborators in pastoral service to the Church of Rome. I extend my greeting to the Mayor of Rome, and to the members of the Regional Board and City Council as well as to the other authorities present and those who are here as representatives of other urban institutions.

From this Basilica, so dear to Rome's inhabitants, may my best wishes reach out to the entire population of the city, and especially those who are spending these holidays amid hardships and problems. I assure everyone that I keep you present in intense and fervent prayer, as I invite each one to continue his life of service, trusting in Providence, ever loving in his mysterious designs.

4. The echoe of the Great Jubilee still rings strongly in our city. It made a deep impression on the life of Rome and its citizens, spreading great riches of grace in the community of believers. The Diocesan Assembly of June 2001, that was extensively prepared within parishes and ecclesial communities, renewed the commitment to the permanent mission, as a goal for the coming years, in accord with the suggestions of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte and the follow up in the diocesan pastoral programme.

Rome feels a constant need to proclaim Christ and to be one with him in listening to his word, in the Eucharist and in charity. May apostolic zeal grow in the hearts of priests, men and women religious and the many lay people who have understood their call to be witnesses of the Lord among their families and in the workplace.

I repeat to everyone what I wrote in the Message I sent to the Diocesan Assembly ""Put out into the deep', in order to bring the Gospel into homes, workplaces, neighbourhoods and the entire city" (n. 4).

May every Christian community be a school of prayer and a place for training in holiness, a family of families, where acceptance of the Lord and brotherhood around the Eucharist are expressed in the enthusiasm of a renewed evangelization.

5. In connection with the permanent mission there is another great objective, mentioned in the diocesan pastoral programme, which will be the object of special reflection at the Diocesan Convention in June 2002: the ministry of recruiting vocations.

1335 Every parish and community is called to pray constantly so that the Lord will send workers to his harvest, and for a dynamic and confident work of formation among young people and families, so that God's call may be understood with its liberating power and accepted with joy and gratitude.

I turn especially to you, dear pastors and priests, to ensure that the joy of being Christ's ministers and the generosity of your service to the Church may define your services. This is an important condition if the ministry for recruiting is to be effective. At the root of every priestly and religious vocation there is almost always a priest who, by his example and spiritual direction, set the person who is searching on a path of "gift" and "mystery" and accompanied him.

6. Te Deum laudamus! This hymn of praise and thanksgiving rises from our hearts this evening: thanksgiving for the benefits received, for the apostolic goals achieved, for the good that has been done. In particular, I would like to give thanks for the 300 parishes of our city that I have so far been able to visit. I ask God for the strength to continue faithfully, as long as he wills, to serve the Church of Rome and the whole world.

At the end of a year, dear brothers and sisters, it is particularly fitting to be aware of our own fragility and of the times when we have not been entirely faithful to the love of God. Let us ask the Lord's forgiveness for our failures and omissions: Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. Let us continue to abandon ourselves with confidence to the Lord's goodness. He will not fail to treat us mercifully and to help us continue in our apostolic mission.

7. In Te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum! Let us entrust ourselves and abandon ourselves to your keeping, Lord of time and eternity. You are our hope: the hope of Rome and of the world: the pillar of the weak and the comfort of the bewildered, the joy and peace of those who welcome and love you.

As this year draws to a close and we are already looking towards the new one, our hearts confidently embrace your mysterious plans of salvation.

Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quaemadmodum speravimus in Te.

May your mercy always be with us: in you have we hoped. Our hope is in you alone, O Christ, Son of the Virgin Mary, your loving Mother and ours.




Tuesday, 1 January 2002

1. "Hail, holy Mother! The Child to whom you gave birth is the King of heaven and earth for ever" (cf. Entrance Antiphon).

1336 With this ancient greeting, today, the eighth day of the Octave of Christmas and the first of the year 2002, the Church greets the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking her as Mother of God.

In her the eternal Son of the Father took our very flesh and through Her became "son of David and son of Abraham" (
Mt 1,1). Thus Mary is his true Mother: the Theotokos, Mother of God!

If Jesus is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life.
If Jesus is Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.
If Jesus is Peace, Mary is the Mother of Peace, Mother of the Prince of Peace.

Entering the new year, let us ask this holy Mother to bless us. Let us ask Her to give us Jesus, our full Blessing, in whom the Father blessed all history once and for all, making it become the history of salvation.

2. Hail, holy Mother! I have placed The World Day of Peace under Mary's motherly gaze. Let us reflect on peace in this climate of widespread anxiety on account of the recent tragic events that have shaken the world. But although it may seem humanly difficult to look to the future with optimism, we must not give in to the temptation to despair. On the contrary, we must work for peace courageously, certain that evil will not prevail.

The light and hope for this commitment come to us from Christ. The Child born in Bethlehem is the eternal Word of the Father who became flesh for our salvation, he is "God-with-us", who brings with him the secret of true peace. He is the Prince of Peace.

3. With these sentiments, I respectfully greet the distinguished Ambassadors to the Holy See who have wished to take part in this solemn celebration. I warmly greet the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal François Nguyên Van Thuân, and all who work with him, thanking them for all they do to spread my annual Message for the World Day of Peace, whose theme this year is: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness".

Justice and forgiveness: these are the two "pillars" of peace, and I wanted to draw attention to them both. Between justice and forgiveness there is not opposition but complementarity, because both are essential for promoting peace. Indeed, far more than a temporary ceasefire, this is the deep healing of the wounds that weary souls (cf. Message, n. 3). Only forgiveness can quench the thirst for revenge and open hearts to an authentic and lasting reconciliation among peoples.

4. Today we turn our gaze to the Child whom Mary holds in her arms. In Him we recognize the One in whom mercy and truth meet, justice and peace embrace (cf. Ps 84,11). In Him we adore the true Messiah, in whom, for our salvation, God joined together truth and mercy, justice and forgiveness.

1337 In God's name I renew my heartfelt appeal to all, believers and non-believers, so that the two words, "justice and peace" may always be impressed upon relations between individuals, social groups and peoples.

This appeal is first and foremost for those who believe in God, in particular for the great "Abrahamic religions": Judaism, Christianity and Islam, called to declare their firm and decisive rejection of violence. No one, for any reason, can kill in the name of God, who is one and merciful. God is life and the source of life. To believe in Him means to witness to His mercy and forgiveness, rejecting the exploitation of his holy Name.

An agonizing cry for peace is being raised from various parts of the world; it is rising particularly from the Land which God blessed with his Covenant and his Incarnation and for this reason is called "Holy". "The voice of your brother's blood" cries out to God from that land (cf. Gn
Gn 4,10); the blood of brothers poured out by brothers who hark back to the same Patriarch Abraham; sons, like every human being, of the same heavenly Father.

5. "Salve, Madre santa"! Virgin Daughter of Zion, how deeply must your Mother's heart suffer for this bloodshed!

The Child you embrace has a name that is dear to the peoples of biblical religion: "Jesus", which means "God saves". So the Archangel named him before he was conceived in your womb (cf. Lk Lc 2,21). In the face of the newborn Messiah, we recognize the face of all your children, who suffer from being despised and exploited. We recognize especially the faces of your children, to whatever race, nation or culture they may belong.

For them, O Mary, for their future, we ask you to move hearts hardened by hatred so that they may open to love and so that revenge may finally give way to forgiveness.

Obtain for us, O Mother, that the truth of this affirmation - No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness - be engraved on every heart. Thus the human family will be able to find the true peace, that flows from the union of justice and mercy.

Holy Mother, Mother of the Prince of Peace, help us!
Mother of Humanity and Queen of Peace, pray for us!



Sunday, 6 January 2002

1. "Lumen gentium ... Christus", "Christ is the light of the nations" (Lumen gentium LG 1).

1338 The theme of light dominates the Solemnities of Christmas and Epiphany that in the first centuries - and still today in the East - were celebrated together in a single great "feast of lights". The light appears in the warm intimacy of the Holy Night of Christmas Eve; Christ, the Light of humanity, is born. He is the "sun that shall dawn upon us from on high" (Lc 1,78). He is the sun that came into the world to dispel the darkness of evil and flood it with the splendour of divine love. John the Evangelist writes: "The true light that enlightens every man came into the world" (Jn 1,9).

"Deus lux est - God is light", St John reminds us, summing up not a gnostic theory but "the message that we received from him" (1Jn 1,5), from Jesus. In his Gospel he quotes the words on the lips of the Teacher: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn 8,12).

In becoming flesh, the Son of God was manifested as light. He is not just an external light in the history of the world, but a light within the human person, in his personal history. He became one of us, giving infinite meaning and immortality to our earthly existence. Thus, with full respect for human freedom, Christ became "lux mundi - the light of the world". He is the light that shines in the darkness (cf. Jn Jn 1,5).

2. On today's Solemnity of the "Epiphany", a word for "manifestation", we are struck by the theme of the light. The Messiah who showed himself in Bethlehem to the lowly shepherds of the region continues to reveal himself as the light of every people of every time and place. To the Magi, coming from the East to adore him, the light of the one "who has been born king of the Jews" (Mt 2,2) appears in the form of a heavenly body, so bright as to attract their attention and guide them to Jerusalem. Thus he sets them on the trail of the ancient messianic prophecies: "a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise from Israel..." (NM 24,17).

How striking is the symbol of the star that recurs in all the images of Christmas and Epiphany! It still gives rise to deep feelings although, as with so many other sacred signs, it risks becoming common place because of its commercial overuse. Restored to its original context, the star we contemplate over the crib also speaks to the mind and heart of the man of the third millennium. It speaks to secularized man, awakening in him the nostalgia of his condition as pilgrim in search of the truth with a deep desire for the absolute. The etymology of the word "desire" reminds us of the experience of sailors who find their way at night by observing the stars called in Latin the "sidera".

3. Who does not feel the need for a "star" to guide him on his earthly journey? Individuals and nations both feel the need. To satisfy the universal yearning for salvation, the Lord himself chose a people to be the guiding star for "all the families of the earth" (Gn 12,3). With the Incarnation of his Son, God then expanded his choice to every people, no matter what their race or culture. Thus the Church came into being, formed of men and women who, "united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men" (Gaudium et spes GS 1).

The oracle of the Prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading rings out for the entire ecclesial community: "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.... And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Is 60,1 Is 60,3).

4. Dear Brothers, through today's episcopal ordination you are constituted pastors of the special messianic people which is the Church. Christ likewise makes you his ministers, and calls you to be missionaries of his Gospel. Some of you will exercise this "ministry of God's grace" (Ep 3,2) as papal representatives in different countries: you, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, in Senegal and Mauritania; you, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan; you, Archbishop Tito Yllana, in Papua New Guinea; and you, Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Others will be the pastors of particular Churches: you, Bishop Daniel Mizonzo, will guide the Diocese of Nkayi, in the Republic of the Congo; you, Bishop Louis Portella, that of Kinkala, also in the Republic of the Congo. To you, Bishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, I have entrusted the Diocese of Mahagi-Nioka, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and to you, Bishop Franco Agostinelli, that of Grosseto in Italy. You, Bishop Amândio José Tomás, as Auxiliary Bishop, will help the Archbishop of Évora in Portugal.

Lastly, you, Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, as Delegate of the Fabric of St Peter's, will continue your service to the Church here in the Vatican, in this Patriarchal Basilica that is particularly dear to you.

5. A year ago, on the feast of Epiphany at the end of the Holy Year, in spirit, I presented to the family of believers and all humanity the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte that begins with Christ's invitation to Peter and to the others: "Duc in altum! - Put out into the deep!"

1339 Dear Brothers, I return to that unforgettable moment and once again offer to each of you the programme of the new evangelization. I repeat to you the Redeemer's words: "Duc in altum!". Do not be afraid of the darkness of the world, because the one who is calling you is "the light of the world" (Jn 8,12), "the bright morning star" (Ap 22,16).

Jesus, one day you said to your disciples: "You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,14); may you grant that the Gospel witness of these Brothers of ours may shine out for the people of our time. Make their mission effective, so that all whom I have entrusted to their pastoral care may always glorify our Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt Mt 5,16).

Mother of the Incarnate Word, faithful Virgin, may you keep these new bishops under your constant protection so that they may be courageous missionaries of the Gospel, for you are the faithful reflection of the love of Christ, who is the light of humanity and the hope of the world.


Sunday, 13 January 2002

1. "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3,17).

We have just heard in the Gospel the words that rang out from heaven when Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan. They were spoken by a voice from on high: the voice of God the Father. They reveal the mystery that we are celebrating today, the Baptism of Christ. The Man on whom the Holy Spirit descended like a dove is the Son of God who took human flesh from the Virgin Mary to redeem it from sin and death.

How great is the mystery of salvation! Dear parents and godparents, the children you present are introduced into this mystery today. By receiving in the Church the sacrament of Baptism, they becomes sons and daughters of God, "sons in the Son". It is the mystery of the "second birth".
The faith of the Church gives the receptivity to grace that the infants need to pass from the state of sin to spiritual life

2. Dear parents, I address you with special consideration, since you have given these creatures life, collaborating with the work of God, the author of all life, and, particularly, each human life. You have given them birth and today you present them at the baptismal font so that they may receive a second birth from water and the Holy Spirit. Christ's grace will transform their life from mortal to immortal, freeing it from original sin. Give thanks to the Lord for the gift of their birth and for their spiritual rebirth today.

But what power enables these innocent and unknowing infants to make such a deep spiritual "transition"? It is faith, the faith of the Church, professed particularly by you, dear parents and godparents. It is precisely in this faith that your little ones are baptized. Christ does not bring about the miracle of regenerating man without human collaboration, and the first form of cooperation is faith, so that interiorly attracted by God, the creature freely entrusts himself into his hands.

Today these children receive Baptism on the basis of your faith, which I will shortly call you to profess. How much love, dear friends, and how much responsibility are found in the act you will perform in the name of your children!

1340 3. Some day in the future, when they will be able to understand, with their personal freedom, they will have to make the spiritual journey that with God's grace will lead them to confirm in the sacrament of Confirmation, the gift they receive today.

But will they be able to be open to faith if they do not receive a supportive witness to it from the adults who surround them? These children need you first of all, dear parents; then they also need you, dear godparents, in order to learn to know the true God who is merciful love. It is up to you to introduce them to this knowledge, first and foremost, through the witness of your behaviour in the relationships you have with them and with others, relationships marked by attention, acceptance and forgiveness. They will understand that God is fidelity if they can first recognize his reflection, even if it is limited and faint, in your loving presence.

Great is the responsibility of parents to cooperate in the spiritual growth of their children! The blessed couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, were well aware of this. I recently had the joy of raising them to the honour of the altars, and I ask you to get to know them and imitate them. If you find great the mission of being parents "according to the flesh", how much greater is that of collaborating in the divine fatherhood, offering your own contribution to shaping in these creatures the image of Jesus, the perfect Man.

4. Do not ever feel alone in this demanding mission! May you be comforted by confidence in the guardian angels, for God has entrusted to them his unique message of love for each one of your children. Then the whole Church, for you have the grace of belonging, is committed to helping you: in Heaven the saints are watching over them, especially, those whose names the children bear and who will be their "patrons". On earth there is the ecclesial community, and there it is possible to strengthen your faith and Chistian life by the good food of prayer and the sacraments. You will not be able to give to your children what you have not been the first to receive and assimilate!

For all of them, there is our Mother according to the Spirit: the Blessed Virgin Mary. To her I entrust your babies, so that they may become true Christians. I also entrust you, dear parents and godparents, to the Virgin Mary so that you may always know how to pass on to these infants the love they need to grow and to believe. Indeed, life and faith go hand in hand! With God's help may this always be true in the life of every baptized person!


Saturday, 2 February 2002

VI Day of Consecrated Life

1. "They brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord...)" (Lc 2,22).

Today, forty days after Christmas, the Church relives the mystery of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. She relives it with the astonishment of the Holy Family of Nazareth, enlightened by the full revelation of that "child", who - as the first and second readings have reminded us - is the eschatological judge promised by the prophets (Ml 3,1-3), the "merciful and faithful high priest" who came to "expiate the sins of the people" (He 2,17). The Child, whom Mary and Joseph lovingly brought to the Temple, is the Word Incarnate, the Redeemer of man and of history!

Today, commemorating what took place on that day in Jerusalem, we are invited to enter the Temple, to meditate on the mystery of Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father who, by means of his Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery, became the Firstborn of redeemed humanity.
This feast prolongs the mystery of Christ the Light, who shines upon us in the Solemnities of Christmas and Epiphany.

1341 2. "Light of revelation for the nations and glory of your people Israel" (Lc 2,32). The venerable old Simeon pronounced these prophetic words, inspired by God, as he takes the Child Jesus in his arms. At the same time, he foretells that "the Messiah of the Lord" will carry out his mission as a "sign of contradiction" (Lc 2,34). As for Mary his Mother, she will personally participate in the Passion of her divine Son (cf. Lk Lc 2,35).

In today's feast, therefore, we celebrate the mystery of consecration: consecration of Christ, consecration of Mary, consecration of all who follow Jesus for love of the Kingdom.

3. As I greet Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo who is presiding at this celebration, I am pleased to be able to be with you, dear brothers and sisters who one day, recently or long ago, made the total gift of yourselves to the Lord in the vocation of the consecrated life. While I cordially greet each one of you, I am thinking of the great things that God has worked and is working in you, "drawing to himself" your entire life.

I praise the Lord with you, because he is so great and beautiful a Love as to deserve the priceless gift of the whole person in the unfathomable depths of the heart, and in the concrete unfolding of daily duty through the various stages of life.

Your "Here I am!", modelled on that of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin, is symbolized by the candles that this evening light up the Vatican Basilica. Today's feast is especially dedicated to you who among the People of God re- present in an outstanding way the eschatological newness of Christian life. You are called to be lights of truth and of justice, witnesses of solidarity and peace.

4. How can I can forget the Day of Prayer for Peace, celebrated ten days ago in Assisi. For this extraordinary mobilization for peace in the world, I knew and I know, that I could count particularly on you, dear consecrated persons. On this occasion too, I express deep gratitude to you.

Thank you, first of all, for your prayer. How many contemplative communities, entirely devoted to prayer, knocking night and day at the heart of the God of peace, cooperate in Christ's victory over hatred, revenge and the structures of sin!

Besides prayer, many of you, dear brothers and sisters, build peace with the witness of brotherhood and communion, spreading the Gospel spirit in the world like yeast that makes humanity grow towards the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank you for this!

On many frontiers men and women religious are offering their effective dedication to justice, working among those on the fringes of society, dealing with the root causes of conflicts to help build a substantial, lasting peace. Wherever the Church is at work in defending and promoting human persons and the common good, you are there, dear consecrated men and women, who to belong entirely to God belong entirely to your brothers and sisters. Every person of goodwill is grateful to you for this.

5. The icon of Mary that we contemplate as she offers Jesus in the temple prefigures that of the Crucifixion and also anticipates its true interpretation of Jesus, Son of God, sign of contradiction. Indeed, on Calvary, the sacrifice of the Son, and with it, that of his Mother, reach fulfillment. The same sword pierces both, the Mother and the Son (cf. Lk Lc 2,35). The same sorrow, the same love.

On this road, the Mother of Jesus became the Mother of the Church. Her pilgrimage of faith and consecration is the archetype for that of every baptized person. This is particularly true for those who embrace the consecrated life.

1342 How comforting it is to know that Mary is beside us, as Mother and Teacher, on our path of consecration! Not just on a simply emotional level, she is profoundly close to us at the level of supernatural efficacy, attested by the Scriptures, by Tradition and by the testimony of the saints, many of whom followed Christ on the demanding path of the evangelical counsels.

Mary, Mother of Christ and our Mother, we thank you for the tender care with which you guide us on the ways of life, and we ask you: present us today anew to God, our only Good, so that our lives, consumed by love, may be a sacrifice that is living, holy, and pleasing to him. Amen!

S. John Paul II Homil. 1331