Lent Jubilee 2000
Pope St John Paul II's Message
(Mt 28, 20) - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"I am with you always, to the close of the age"
Brothers and Sisters,
1. This year, the celebration of Lent, a time of conversion and reconciliation, takes on a particular character, occurring as it does during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The time of Lent is in fact the culminating point of the journey of conversion and reconciliation which the Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favour, offers to all the faithful, so that they can renew their fidelity to Christ and proclaim his mystery of salvation with renewed ardour in the new millennium. Lent helps Christians to enter more deeply into this “mystery hidden for ages” (Eph 3:9): it leads them to come face to face with the word of the living God and urges them to give up their own selfishness in order to receive the saving activity of the Holy Spirit.
2. We were dead through sin (cf. Eph 2:5): this is how Saint Paul describes the situation of man without Christ. This is why the Son of God wished to unite himself to human nature, ransoming it from the slavery of sin and death.
This is a slavery which man experiences every day, as he perceives its deep roots in his own heart (cf. Mt 7:11). Sometimes it shows itself in dramatic and unusual ways, as happened in the course of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, which deeply marked the lives of countless communities and individuals, the victims of cruel violence. Forced deportations, the systematic elimination of peoples, contempt for the fundamental rights of the person: these are the tragedies which even today humiliate humanity. In daily life too we see all sorts of forms of fraud, hatred, the destruction of others, and lies of which man is both the victim and source. Humanity is marked by sin. Its tragic condition reminds us of the cry of alarm uttered by the Apostle to the nations: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10; cf. Ps 14:3).
3. In the face of the darkness of sin and man’s incapacity to free himself on his own, there appears in all its splendour the saving work of Christ: “God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding of his blood, and so showed his justness” (Rom 3:25). Christ is the Lamb who has taken upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29). He shared in human life “unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8), to ransom mankind from the slavery of evil and restore humanity to its original dignity as children of God. This is the paschal mystery in which we are reborn. Here, as the Easter Sequence says, “Death with life contended, combat strangely ended”. The Fathers of the Church affirm that in Christ Jesus, the devil attacks the whole of humanity and ensnares it in death, from which however it is freed through the victorious power of the Resurrection. In the Risen Lord death’s power is broken and mankind is enabled, through faith, to enter into communion with God. To those who believe, God’s very life is given, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the “first gift to those who believe” (Eucharistic Prayer IV). Thus the redemption accomplished on the Cross renews the universe and brings about the reconciliation of God and man, and of people with one another.
4. The Jubilee is the time of grace in which we are invited to open ourselves in a particular way to the mercy of the Father, who in the Son has stooped down to man, and to reconciliation, the great gift of Christ. This year therefore should become, not only for Christians but also for all people of good will, a precious moment for experiencing the renewing power of God’s forgiving and reconciling love. God offers his mercy to whoever is willing to accept it, even to the distant and doubtful. The people of our time, tired of mediocrity and false hopes, are thus given an opportunity to set out on the path that leads to fullness of life. In this context, Lent of the Holy Year 2000 is par excellence “the acceptable time . . . the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2), the particularly favourable opportunity “to be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).
During the Holy Year the Church offers various opportunities for personal and community reconciliation. Each Diocese has designated special places where the faithful can go in order to experience a particular presence of God, by recognizing in his light their own sinfulness, and though the Sacrament of Reconciliation to set out on a new path of life. Particular significance attaches to pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to Rome, which are special places of encounter with God, because of their unique role in the history of salvation. How could we fail to set out, at least spiritually, to the Land which two thousand years ago witnessed the passage of the Lord? There “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14) and “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52); there he “went about all the cities and villages . . . preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity” (Mt 9:35); there he accomplished the mission entrusted to him by the Father (cf. Jn 19:30) and poured out the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church (cf. Jn 20:22).
I too hope, precisely during Lent of the year 2000, to be a pilgrim in the Holy Land, to the places where our faith began, in order to celebrate the two-thousandth Jubilee of the Incarnation. I invite all Christians to accompany me with their prayers, while I myself, on the various stages of the pilgrimage, shall ask for forgiveness and reconciliation for the sons and daughters of the Church and for all humanity.
5. The path of conversion leads to reconciliation with God and to fullness of new life in Christ. A life of faith, hope and love. These three virtues, known as the “theological” virtues because they refer directly to God in his mystery, have been the subject of special study during the three years of preparation for the Great Jubilee. The celebration of the Holy Year now calls every Christian to live and bear witness to these virtues in a fuller and more conscious way.
The grace of the Jubilee above all impels us to renew our personal faith. This consists in holding fast to the proclamation of the Paschal Mystery, through which believers recognize that in Christ crucified and risen from the dead they have been given salvation. Day by day they offer him their lives; they accept everything that the Lord wills for them, in the certainty that God loves them. Faith is the “yes” of individuals to God, it is their “Amen”.
For Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, Abraham is the exemplar of the believer: trusting in the promise, he follows the voice of God calling him to set out on unknown paths. Faith helps us to discover the signs of God’s loving presence in creation, in people, in the events of history and above all in the work and message of Christ, as he inspires people to look beyond themselves, beyond appearances, towards that transcendence where the mystery of God’s love for every creature is revealed.
Through the grace of the Jubilee, the Lord likewise invites us to renew our hope. In fact, time itself is redeemed in Christ and opens up to a prospect of unending joy and full communion with God. For Christians, time is marked by an expectation of the eternal wedding feast, anticipated daily at the Eucharistic table. Looking forward to the eternal banquet “the Spirit and Bride say: 'Come' ” (Rev 22:17), nurturing the hope that frees time from mere repetition and gives it its real meaning. Through the virtue of hope, Christians bear witness to the fact that, beyond all evil and beyond every limit, history bears within itself a seed of good which the Lord will cause to germinate in its fullness. They therefore look to the new millennium without fear, and face the challenges and expectations of the future in the confident certainty which is born of faith in the Lord’s promise.
Through the Jubilee, finally, the Lord asks us to rekindle our charity. The Kingdom which Christ will reveal in its full splendour at the end of time is already present where people live in accordance with God’s will. The Church is called to bear witness to the communion, peace and charity which are the Kingdom’s distinguishing marks. In this mission, the Christian community knows that faith without works is dead (cf. Jas 2:17). Thus, through charity, Christians make visible God’s love for man revealed in Christ, and make manifest Christ’s presence in the world “to the close of the age”. For Christians, charity is not just a gesture or an ideal but is, so to speak, the prolongation of the presence of Christ who gives himself.
During Lent, everyone — rich and poor — is invited to make Christ’s love present through generous works of charity. During this Jubilee Year our charity is called in a particular way to manifest Christ’s love to our brothers and sisters who lack the necessities of life, who suffer hunger, violence or injustice. This is the way to make the ideals of liberation and fraternity found in the Sacred Scripture a reality, ideals which the Holy Year puts before us once more. The ancient Jewish jubilee, in fact, called for the freeing of slaves, the cancellation of debts, the giving of assistance to the poor. Today, new forms of slavery and more tragic forms of poverty afflict vast numbers of people, especially in the so-called Third World countries. This is a cry of suffering and despair which must be heard and responded to by all those walking the path of the Jubilee. How can we ask for the grace of the Jubilee if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor, if we do not work to ensure that all have what is necessary to lead a decent life?
May the millennium which is beginning be a time when, finally, the cry of countless men, our brothers, who do not have even the minimum necessary to live, is heard and finds a benevolent response. It is my hope that Christians at every level will become promoters of practical initiatives to ensure an equitable distribution of resources and the promotion of the complete human development of every individual.
6. “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” These words of Jesus assure us that in proclaiming and living the Gospel of charity we are not alone. Once again, during this Lent of the year 2000, he invites us to return to the Father, who is waiting for us with open arms to transform us into living and effective signs of his merciful love.
To Mary, Mother of all who suffer and Mother of Divine Mercy, we entrust our intentions and our resolutions. May she be the bright star on our journey in the new millennium.
With these sentiments I invoke upon everyone the blessings of God, One and Triune, the beginning and the end of all things, to whom we raise “to the close of the age” the hymn of blessing and praise in Christ: “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.”
From Castel Gandolfo, 21 September 1999
Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's Catechesis on Ash Wednesday
General Audience, 8 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"1. Lent is the culminating point of that journey of conversion and reconciliation which the Jubilee Year, a special time of grace and mercy, offers to all the faithful, so that they can renew their fidelity to Christ, man's only Saviour. So I wrote in my Message for Lent 2000, and with this conviction today, Ash Wednesday, we undertake the Lenten journey of penance. Today's liturgy invites us to pray that the heavenly Father will grant the Christian people to embark on the path of true conversion by fasting, so that with the arms of penance they may triumph in the struggle against the spirit of evil.
This is the message of the Great Jubilee, which becomes even more eloquent in Lent. The human person, every human person, is called to conversion and repentance, is spurred to friendship with God, in order to receive the gift of supernatural life which satisfies the deepest longings of his heart.
2. By receiving ashes on our head, we are reminded today that we are dust and to dust we will return. This thought, which is a human certainty, is not emphasized to make us passively resigned to our fate. On the contrary, while the liturgy stresses that we are mortal creatures, it reminds us of God's merciful initiative in wanting to give us a share in his own eternal and blessed life.
In the moving rite of giving ashes, believers hear an invitation not to be tied to material concerns which, however valuable, will eventually fade away. Instead, they must let themselves be transformed by the grace of conversion and repentance in order to scale the arduous yet gratifying heights of the supernatural life. Only in God does man fully find himself and discover the ultimate meaning of his life.
The Jubilee door is open to all! Let anyone enter who knows he is oppressed by guilt and poor in merit; let anyone enter who feels like dust that the wind scatters; let the weak and discouraged come to draw renewed strength from the Heart of Christ.
3. Today the distribution of ashes is accompanied by the traditional practice of fast and abstinence.
These are not mere external observances, ritual gestures, but eloquent signs of a necessary change of life. Fast and abstinence primarily strengthen the Christian for his struggle against evil and his service of the Gospel.
Penance and fasting call the believer to give up lawful material goods and satisfactions in order to gain greater interior freedom, enabling him to hear the Word of God and generously help his brothers and sisters in need.
Fast and abstinence, therefore, must be accompanied by acts of solidarity towards those who are suffering or going through difficult moments. Penance thus becomes a sharing with the marginalized and the needy. This too is the spirit of the Great Jubilee, which urges us all to show Christ's love in a practical way to our brothers and sisters who lack the necessities of life, who suffer hunger, violence or injustice. In this regard, I wrote in my Message for Lent: "How can we ask for the grace of the Jubilee if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor; if we do not work to ensure that all have what is necessary to lead a decent life?" (n. 5).
4. "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1: 15). Let us open our hearts to these words which we will hear many times during the Lenten season. May the journey of conversion and fidelity to the Gospel, which we are beginning today, enable us all to realize that we are children of one Father and reinvigorate the longing for Christian unity and harmony among peoples. I pray the Lord that in this Jubilee Lent every Christian will deeply sense his duty to be reconciled with God, with himself and with his brothers and sisters. This is the way to achieve the full communion of all Christ's disciples that we desire. May the time quickly come when, through the prayer and faithful witness of Christians, the world will acknowledge Jesus as the one Saviour and attain peace by believing in him.
May Mary most holy guide us on the first steps of our Lenten journey, so that we may all cross the threshold of the holy door of conversion and experience the grace of being transformed into the image of Christ."
"J'accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française, notamment les jeunes, et les étudiants de l'École de la Foi de Fribourg. Je souhaite à tous d'entrer avec ardeur dans l’esprit du Carême et je les bénis de grand cœur.
I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from Denmark and the United States. Praying that your visit will strengthen your faith and love, I invoke upon you and your families the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Wallfahrer und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gepilgert sind. Besonders heiße ich willkommen: die Oberinnen der Dillinger Franziskanerinnen der Bamberger Provinz. Euch, Euren Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich gern den Apostolischen Segen.
Doy mi cordial bienvenida a todos los peregrinos de lengua española. De modo especial saludo a los superiores y alumnos del Seminario de Ciudad Rodrigo, acompañados por su obispo Mons. Julián López y a los otros grupos procedentes de España, Argentina, México y otros países de Latinoamérica. Que la peregrinación a la tumba de San Pedro, al comenzar la Cuaresma del Año Santo, os renueve el deseo de seguir siempre a Cristo. Muchas gracias.
Saúdo aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa aqui presentes; a todos faço os Meus votos de uma proveitosa Quaresma na esperança da feliz ressurreição do Redentor dos homens. De modo especial saúdo os peregrinos brasileiros, que acompanharam o Senhor Cardeal Eugênio Sales na ainda recentemente beatificação dos mártires do Nordeste, e os grupos de Portugal de Alcantarilha, Vila Real, Vilar de Besteiros e do Mosteiro de Fráguas bem como uma representação da Capelania para espanhóis do Patriarcado de Lisboa. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.
Srdecne vítám poutníky z Kutné Hory a skupinu Kapucínu z Cech a Moravy!
Dnes jsme prijetím posveceného popelce zahájili postní dobu, drahocenný cas modlitby a pokání, který nás privádí k obrácení a k prohloubení lásky k Bohu i bliznímu. Vyuzijme plne tohoto období mimorádných milostí!
Všem vám rád zehnám.
Draga braco i sestre, kršcani naših dana imaju zivotno vazan zadatak: svjedociti pred svijetom da je njihova vjera i njihova nada u Bogu (usp. 1 Pt 1, 21). Ta se obveza, potaknuta i prozeta ljubavlju, mora pretvoriti u stalno naviještanje spasenja, koje Trojedini Bog nudi svakoj osobi i svakoj ljudskoj društvenoj zajednici.
Srdacno pozdravljam nazocne hrvatske hodocasnike i svima rado udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov.
Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
Srdecne vítam slovenských pútnikov z Bratislavy, Michaloviec, Prešova, Kavecian, Sabinova, Solivaru, Zürichu a z cirkevných škôl z Košic a Vranova.
Drahí bratia a sestry, apoštol Pavol nás vyzýva: "V mene Krista vás prosíme, zmierte sa s Bohom" (2 Kor 5,20). Pocúvajme na zaciatku pôstneho obdobia túto výzvu, ktorá je adresované kazdému z nás osobne a velkodušne ho nasledujme.
Všetkým vám i vašim drahým udelujem svoje Apoštolské pozehnanie.
Pochválený bud Jeziš Kristus!
Een woord van welkom aan alle Nederlandse en Belgische pelgrims, in het bijzonder de pelgrims van het bisdom Roermond, vergezeld van de bisschop en de hulpbisschop.
Vandaag, op Aswoensdag, begint de Kerk de weg van boete en verzoening, waartoe dit Jubileumjaar, een jaar van genade en barmhartigheid, ons uitnodigt. Moge de Veertigdagentijd voor u daarom de verbondenheid met Christus, de enige Redder van de mens, vernieuwen.
Van harte verleen ik u de Apostolische Zegen.
Geloofd zij Jezus Christus!
Oggi, Mercoledì delle Ceneri, la Chiesa intraprende l’itinerario di conversione e di riconciliazione , che l’Anno Giubilare, anno di grazia e di misericordia propone a tutti noi. Vi auguro che questa Quaresima rinnovi la propria adesione a Cristo,unico Salvatore dell’uomo.
Di cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo !"
Papa San Juan Pablo II's Homily on Ash Wednesday
Basilica of St Sabina on the Aventine Hill, Rome - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"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.
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."
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