2. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).


At the beginning of Lent, an important liturgical season which invites us to conversion, Jesus' words re-echo for each of us. Let us allow "the word that proceeds from the mouth of God" to challenge us and to nourish our spirit, since "man does not live by bread alone". Above all, our hearts need God.


Dear brothers and sisters of St Raymond Nonnatus Parish, I am pleased to be among you today. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Vicegerent, your parish priest, Fr Eraclio Contu of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy, the Mercedarians, and all his confrères who share his pastoral responsibility for the parish community. I greet the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea and the residents of their institute. I greet you all, dear parishioners, and everyone living in this neighbourhood. I extend a special greeting to the members of the équipes and parish groups, the catechists, the members of the Mercedarian Youth Movement, the young people, the families and all who in various ways are actively involved in the life of the community.


3. Although the territory of your parish is not very large, it is made up of two very different human and social milieus. In fact, the older residences are close to the church, while further off, in the recently urbanized areas, are the newly arrived families who are still tied to their original communities. Perhaps because of their different composition, these two neighbourhoods have some difficulty in communicating and being integrated, with results that are not always positive for complete harmony in liturgical and pastoral activities.


I know that you are working to overcome these difficulties and I urge you to continue to know one another better so that you can grow together. I sincerely hope that you will strengthen the unity of the parish, making it a genuine "family of families". In this regard, the project "New Images of Parish", which you have chosen as your pastoral plan, will be a great help. I am especially pleased with the strong commitment to participation in the City Mission. For this reason too, I hope that the spirit and style of the Mission will become a permanent style of apostolic action for your community, as for all the others.


If individuals and families tend to be self-contained and find it difficult to come together in the parish - as sometimes happens in a city like Rome - the parish itself must become "missionary". That is, Christians must feel compelled to take the initiative and to reach out to their brothers and sisters in their homes, in the neighbourhood and in the places where they live and work: wherever it is possible to listen together to the one word of salvation - the Word of God - which is more indispensable than bread for everyone's life.


4. "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned" (Responsorial Psalm).


Lent, as we know so well, is an important time of penance and grace. This year it is an even more significant call to repentance and conversion because of the Jubilee of the Year 2000. Conversion, as you know, "includes both a "negative" aspect, that of liberation from sin, and a "positive" aspect, that of choosing good, accepting the ethical values expressed in the natural law, which is confirmed and deepened by the Gospel" (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 50).


Dear friends, let us live Lent in this spirit! Pay special attention to the sacrament of Penance. In the frequent reception of this sacrament, the Christian experiences divine mercy and in turn is able to forgive and to love. May the approach of the Jubilee reawaken in every believer an active interest in this sacrament; may priests be readily available to administer this indispensable sacrament with care and dedication; may places for the sacramental rite of Penance be increased in the city, with confessors available at different hours of the day, ready to dispense God's inexhaustible mercy in abundance.


5. "Have mercy on me according to your steadfast love ... wash me thoroughly from my iniquity ... create in me a clean heart ... restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit ... O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise" (Responsorial Psalm).


The prayer of David, after he was shaken by the words of the prophet Nathan, reverberate in our spirit. It is the psalm "Miserere", frequently used in the liturgy and dear to popular piety. Lent is the appropriate time to make this prayer our own and to awaken in our souls the right dispositions for meeting the God of reconciliation and peace with "a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart".


"Have mercy on me according to your steadfast love": thus as today's liturgy suggests, we will undertake our Lenten journey, O Lord, in the strength of your word, "to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and to arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit".







First Sunday of Lent
17 February 2002


1. "Have mercy on us, Lord, for we have sinned!". The invocation of the responsorial psalm which we have just heard, expresses the sentiment that motivates us on this First Sunday of Lent. We are at the beginning of a special journey of penance and conversion. We realize that this is a favourable opportunity to recognize sin that clouds our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. "I recognize my sin", the Psalmist proclaims, "for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight" (Psalm 50 [51],5-6).

The passage from the Book of Genesis that we have just heard (cf. Genesis 3,1-7), clearly shows what sin is and what are its consequences for the life of the human being. Our first parents gave in to the enticement of the tempter, abruptly breaking off their dialogue of confidence and love with God. Evil, suffering and death entered the world and one will have to wait for the promised Saviour to re-establish, even more wonderfully, the original plan of the Creator (cf. ibid., 3,8-24).


By turning to the will of the Father, Christ resists the threefold temptation of the Evil One
2. The Messiah did not avoid the insidious action of the Evil One, as St Matthew tells in today's Gospel:
"Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Matthew 4,1). In the desert, He is subjected to a threefold temptation, which however, he resisted with firmness. Jesus firmly asserted that it is not lawful to put God to the test; it is not permissible to worship any other god; one cannot determine by oneself one's own fate. For every believer the final source of guidance is the Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.


In these few lines I have outlined the programme of our Lenten journey. We too are called to cross the desert of everyday life, facing the recurring temptation to create distance between ourselves and God. We are invited to imitate the attitude of the Lord, who willingly obeys the Word of his heavenly Father, and in this way re-establishes the hierarchy of values according to the original plan of God.

3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, of St Henry's parish! Yours is the 301st parish that I have the joy of visiting, continuing my pastoral pilgrimage in our diocese. As I already had the opportunity to underline, these welcome Sunday meetings give me a special opportunity to "exercise my mission as Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter, in a more concrete way" (Letter to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, L'Osservatore Romano, p. 4, 16 December 2001).


I greet Cardinal Ruini, the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, Bishop Dieci, your busy parish priest, Fr Romano Esposito, and the young parish vicars. With a grateful thought to all who welcomed me at the beginning of this celebration, I now greet the members of the Pastoral Council, of the Council for the Economic Affairs, and other parish associations. I affectionately salute each one of you here present, and I bring to mind all the members of this young and promising Christian community, and those who live in this part of Rome.


4. Yours is a young community, born in 1998 from the "mother Parish" of Saint Alexander. It consists mainly of recently formed families, who settled in this neighbourhood in the last decade. Only since June 1999 does it have a real parish church. A flock of children and young people live here who bring life and cheer it up.


I am thinking of those who belong to the "Ardent Marian Youth Group" (Gioventù Ardente Mariana), of those who are following the journey of re-discovering their own Baptism, of the Caritas group and of the Centre for the elderly and immigrants, of the "Community of love", that desires to help young married and engaged couples to live the Christian sacrament of Marriage. I am thinking of all the lectors, altar servers and choir members, who contribute to fill the liturgical celebrations with life and participation.


I also know that you are working to support families, and that you are concerned with the education of children, first of all, with those who are preparing to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then with those who use the parish recreational centre. To involve the parents while you are catechizing their children is undoubtedly an excellent method for helping families to live together these sacramental events.


I know that with equal generosity you prepare to collaborate in the various initiatives that the Diocese of Rome is planning: the ecclesial congress on the subject of vocations, that will be held in June, and other events like the one for young persons in St Peter's Square this coming 21 March. Continue your generosity and God will make your work fruitful for the good of all.

"As through the disobedience of one man all have been made sinners, so now through the obedience of one man all have been made just " (Romans 5:19). This consoling word of the Apostle Paul to the Romans comforts us on our spiritual journey. Over the world, in which evil and sin often hold sway, the light of Christ shines victoriously. With his passion and resurrection he has defeated sin and death, opening to believers the gates of eternal salvation. The liturgy today gives us this encouraging message.


To participate fully in the victory of Christ, relying on the light of the word of God, we should dedicate ourselves to changing our way of thinking and acting.


"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 50 [51],10). Let us make our own the prayer of the Psalmist. It is a most fitting prayer for the time of Lent.


Create, Lord, a clean heart in me! Renew us in your love! O Virgin Mary obtain for us a new heart and a steadfast spirit. May we come to celebrate Easter, renewed and reconciled with God and our brothers and sisters.



First Sunday of Lent
Sunday, 13 February 2005


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. Welcome! Once again we meet in this place to praise the Lord. I would like to thank you - and all those who are following us via radio and television - for your closeness and affection, and above all for your prayers during the days of my stay at the Gemelli Polyclinic.

I always feel in need of your help before the Lord in order to carry out the mission that Jesus has entrusted to me.

2. Last Wednesday, with the rite of Ashes,
we began Lent, the liturgical season that reminds us every year of a fundamental truth: we do not enter eternal life without bearing our cross in union with Christ. We do not attain happiness and peace without courageously facing inner combat. This combat is won with the weapons of penance: prayer, fasting and works of mercy. All this must be done in secret, without hypocrisy, in a spirit of sincere love for God and our brothers and sisters.


3. This evening I will begin spiritual exercises, as I do every year, together with my collaborators in the Curia. In silence and recollection I will pray to the Lord for all the needs of the Church and of the world. I also ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to accompany us with your prayers.

May Mary Most Holy, who in the midst of her daily tasks always kept in her mind and heart the mystery of her Son, guide us to carry out a fruitful Lenten journey.




After the Angelus the Pope said:


While I continue to pray for peace in the Middle East, I address my heartfelt appeal for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist, and all who have been kidnapped in Iraq.


I cordially greet the French-speaking pilgrims, especially the school of faith from Fribourg. A good Lent to all.


I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims, including the members of the Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, London. May God bless you and your families!


I greet with affection the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, particularly those from Extremadura. Intensify your journey of conversion with prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Thank you very much!


I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially the faithful from the Parishes of Sts Peter and Paul in Mezzate and St Francis in Pavia, as well as the confirmandi from the Parish of St Mary in Torregalli in Scandicci.


I wish you all a good Sunday!


Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us. 



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23 March 2014