Dec. 18 - Dec. 22
UNITED TO CHRIST IN SUFFERING
At Wednesday's general audience, John Paul II said that in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the prophet Simeon announces to Mary her sharing in Jesus'suffering, that “will lead the Blessed Virgin to understand more deeply the mystery of her Son.”
The Messiah is “‘a sign of contradiction,’ destined to encounter strong opposition from his contemporaries. But Simeon joins the vision of Mary's soul pierced by a sword to Christ's suffering, thus associating the Mother to the painful fate of the Son.… This motherly suffering will reach its culmination in the passion, when it will unite with the Son in the redeeming sacrifice.”
“Simeon's prophecy is followed by the encounter with the prophetess [Anna].… The prophetic faith and wisdom of the old woman who, ‘serving God night and day,’keeps hope in the Messiah alive with fasting and prayer, offer the Holy Family a further impulse to place their hope in the God of Israel. At such a special moment, [Anna's] behavior is for Mary and Joseph like a sign from the Lord, a message of illumined faith and persevering service.”
The Pope concluded by recalling that “after Simeon's prophecy, Mary unites her life in an intense and mysterious way to Christ's sorrowful mission: She will cooperate faithfully with her Son to save of the human race.”
‘STRONG MOMENTS’ OF 1996
John Paul II met Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall with members of the Roman Curia for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings and reviewed the principal events in the life of the Church in 1996.
The Pope spoke of the just-initiated three-year preparation period for the Great Jubilee and said that the first year “must be one of growth in our love for Christ, to whom we must give an ever clearer and more coherent witness. I hear in me the strong echo of the question that Christ asked Peter. ‘Do you love me?’ This is a question that fills me with a great sense of responsibility. I would like to redirect this to you, who help me daily in the care of the entire Church.”
The Holy Father recalled that one of the “strong moments” of this year was the publication of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation Vita Consacrata, which is part of a trilogy together with Christifideles Laici and Pastores Dabo Vobis.
He explained that “in the lay life Christ is glorified as the foundation from which all of created reality draws its value and meaning. In the lives of consecrated persons, who dedicate themselves to him with ‘an undivided heart,’in taking on the evangelical counsels, he is contemplated as the eschatological end to which everyone aims. In the priestly ministry … he is revealed as the Good Shepherd, who never ceases caring for the People acquired with his blood.”
Later, he referred to the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination: “In the affection which the entire Church showed me, accentuated by the circumstance of my hospital stay, I not only saw regard for me personally, but also the esteem that the Christian community cultivates for the priestly ministry.”
“The Church,” added the Pope, “has continued this year to walk along the path of ecumenism, with the ardent desire of full unity along all believers. I recall in this regard the visits of the Catholicos-Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians Karekin I, and of the Archbishop of Canterbury George Leonard Carey.
The FAO World Food Summit, which took place in Rome this past November, “wished to call everyone's attention to the ‘scandal’ of hunger and malnutrition, which still strikes one person in five throughout the world.… In this regard, the pontifical council Cor Unum has recently published a document on Hunger in the World.”
“Several populations are afflicted by the tragedy of ethnic and nationalistic conflicts which casts numerous innocents into desperation and death.” Even if “significant progress was made this year … in solving the problem of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the meantime a drama of disturbing proportions is taking place in central Africa. The Church wants to be the voice for those who have none, and asks all who have power and responsibility not to back away from this dramatic emergency.”
John Paul II concluded by assuring the members of the Roman Curia that he knows that “you draw your deepest motivation from God himself, whose inexhaustible source of grace nourishes your love for the Church. Precisely such motives are the secret behind curial work, even though it has the inevitable weight of bureaucratic aspects, never losing its Gospel inspiration and a great human warmth.”
BECOME ‘BUILDERS OF PEACE’
The Holy Father received a small representation of the boys and girls of Italian Catholic Action Saturday for their annual Christmas visit and told them: “This year, in thinking of the forthcoming World Peace Day, I entrust you with the duty of living and spreading pardon, thus becoming builders of peace.”
“The Son of God has loved us who have offended him” continued the Holy Father. “We too must wish well to those who offended us, and thus win over evil with good. Hate the sin, but love the sinner: this is the path to peace, the path the Lord teaches us, starting with the mystery of his birth.”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
At Sunday's Angelus the Pope explained to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square the meaning of the name of Jesus, which “evokes his identity and mission as Savior” and “means ‘God saves.’”
“But this name,” he continued, “in the supreme sacrifice of Golgotha, shone as the name of life, in which the grace of reconciliation and peace is offered by God to all men. In this name, the Church finds all its goodness, invokes it ceaselessly, proclaims it with an ever new ardor.”
The Pope said that “Jesus himself indicates to us the saving power of his name, giving us this consoling certainty: ‘Whatever you ask of the Father, he will give you in my name.'thus whoever invokes with faith the name of Jesus can have an experience similar to the one described by the evangelist Luke, when he writes that the people sought to touch Jesus, ‘for power came forth from him and healed them all.’”
“Let us learn to repeat with love the Holy Name of Jesus,” he concluded, “especially during this first year of the three-year preparatory period for the Great Jubilee of 2000! As we all know, 1997 is dedicated to reflection on Christ and repeating the name of Jesus with devoted love, putting it at the center of our prayer, especially liturgical prayer, we will make the apostle Paul's instruction our own: ‘That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.’” (VIS)