2. “I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”.
Sustained by the Word of God, the Church constantly proclaims the goodness of the Lord. Where there is hatred, she proclaims love and forgiveness; where there is war, reconciliation and peace; where there is loneliness, acceptance and solidarity. In every corner of the earth, she prolongs Christ's prayer which re-echoes in today's Gospel: “That they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Today, more than ever, man needs to know God in order to entrust to him, in an attitude of confident abandonment, the weakness of his wounded nature. He notices, often without realizing it, the need to experience the divine love by which he is reborn to new life.
Through the various apostolates that bring it into contact with old and new forms of poverty, both spiritual and material, every ecclesial community is called to foster this encounter with “the only true God” and with the One whom he has sent, Jesus Christ. Every community is moved and prompted by the awareness that helping others does not consist merely in offering them material aid and support, but above all in leading them, by the witness of their own availability, to experience the divine goodness, which is revealed with particular force in the human mediation of fraternal charity.
3. I am very pleased today to welcome you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come in such large numbers for the Day of Charity organized by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. I am very happy to celebrate the Eucharist with you and for you, remembering all the “witnesses of charity” who in every part of the world dedicate themselves to eliminating the injustice and poverty which unfortunately still exist in so many obvious and hidden forms. I am thinking here of the countless faces of volunteer service, of those whose work is inspired by the Gospel: religious institutes and associations of Christian charity, organizations for human development and missionary service, groups involved in the civil sphere, and organizations for social, educational and cultural work. Your activities embrace every area of human life and your actions reach countless people in trouble. I express my esteem and gratitude to each of you.
I thank Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes and the staff of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, who organized this meeting. It is taking place during the year of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the year dedicated to the heavenly Father, rich in goodness and mercy. I thank those who gave their testimonies and all who have wanted to take part in this highly significant gathering.
I would also like to encourage each of you to continue your noble mission to which you are committed as sons and daughters of the Church wherever human beings live and suffer in situations of hardship. To everyone you meet bring the comfort of Christian solidarity; vigorously proclaim and bear witness to Christ, the Redeemer of man. He is the hope that illumines humanity's way. Be spurred and supported by the witness of the saints, particularly that of St Vincent de Paul, patron of all charitable associations.
4. It is consoling to note the increase in the number of volunteer services which bring together people of various backgrounds, cultures and religions in humanitarian activities. I feel a spontaneous desire in my heart to thank the Lord for this growing movement of concern for the human person, of generous philanthropy and of shared solidarity. Christians are called to make their own specific contribution to this vast humanitarian effort. They know that in Sacred Scripture the call to love our neighbour is linked with the command to love God with all our heart, soul and strength (cf. Mark 12:29-31).
How could we fail to emphasize this divine source of service to our brothers and sisters? Yes, love of neighbour conforms to Christ's mandate and example only if it is joined to the love of God. Jesus who gives his life for sinners is the living sign of God's goodness; at the same time, through their generous self-giving Christians enable the brothers and sisters they meet to experience the merciful and provident love of the heavenly Father.
Certainly, the highest expression of divine charity is forgiveness, which is born of love for one's enemy. In this regard Jesus says that there is no particular merit in loving our friends and those who do good to us (cf. Matthew 5:46-47). True merit is found in loving one's enemy. But who would have the strength to reach such a lofty height, if he were not sustained by the love of God? At this moment we see before our eyes the noble figures of heroic servants of love, who in our century offered their lives for their brethren by dying in fulfilment of Christ's greatest commandment. As we welcome their teaching, we are invited to follow in their footsteps, knowing that Christians express their love of Jesus in self-giving to others, because whatever they do to the least of their brethren, they do to the Lord himself (cf. Matthew 25:31-46).
5. “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus ...” (Acts 1:14).
The icon of volunteer service is certainly that of the Good Samaritan, who promptly tended the wounds of the unknown traveler who had fallen among thieves as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho (cf. Luke 10:30-37). Next to this image, on which we must continually reflect, the liturgy today offers us another: in the Upper Room the Apostles and Mary pray together as they wait to receive the Holy Spirit.
Action presupposes contemplation: it springs from the latter and is nourished by it. Love cannot be given to one's brothers and sisters unless it has first been drawn from the genuine source of divine charity, and this happens only in prolonged moments of prayer, of listening to the Word of God, of adoring the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. Prayer and active involvement form a vital, inseparable and fruitful combination.
Dear brothers and sisters, may these two “icons of love” inspire all your actions and your whole life. May Mary, the Virgin who listens, obtain from the Holy Spirit the gift of charity for each of you. May she make you all artisans of the culture of solidarity and builders of the civilization of love. Amen!
JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 16 may 1999
1. I joyfully greet all of you who have gathered today in St Peter's Square for the Day of Charity organized by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. Some of you hold positions of responsibility in those great Catholic aid organizations which expend considerable effort in trying to combat poverty in the world. Others represent that vast family of “volunteers” who in many parts of the world freely dedicate themselves to serving their neighbour. At the time of natural disasters, emergency situations, wars and illness, hosts of men and women in a spirit of generous altruism care for all who are in trouble and devote time and energy to them in the image of the Good Samaritan. It is precisely the Good Samaritan, spoken of in the Gospel, which is the icon of the volunteer who makes himself a neighbour to his needy brother or sister (cf. Luke 10:30ff.).
May God grant that this peaceful “army of hope” may extend its work far and wide, with initiatives to defend human rights, to aid those in need and to promote the culture of solidarity and the civilization of love.
2. In view of this encouraging growth of organizations for assistance and human development, what is the specific contribution that Christians are called to make? In the light of Gospel teaching, they know that they must bear witness above all and in every possible way to the supreme commandment of love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength ... You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). To love God and to love one's neighbour: this is the believer's vocation and mission. Love for one's brothers and sisters stems from the love of God and can attain its fullness only in those who live the love of God. Philanthropy, however praiseworthy, proves impotent when faced with certain forms of human destitution.
When it remains faithful to the mandate and example of Jesus, the charitable work of Christians proclaims and bears witness to Christ who gives his life, heals the human heart, cares for the wounds inflicted by hatred and sin, and brings joy and peace to all.
The world of volunteer service, which brings together people of every social background, with various cultural and religious viewpoints, is waiting for Christians to make their specific contribution. If they do not notice this apostolic need, they run the risk of failing in their own evangelizing mission of being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (cf. Matthew 5:13-14).
3. Therefore I turn to you, dear brothers and sisters, who take the inspiration for your work from the Gospel. You have received the gift of charity: know that you are the witness and stewards of this gift. Your mission must never be reduced to being mere social workers or generous philanthropists.
The Gospel of charity is the great prophetic message for our times. It is the language of evangelization most readily understood even by those who still do not know Christ. He himself is present in our needy brother or sister. His own words assure us of this: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
In thanking you for everything you do, I say to you on the Church's behalf: show to the people of our time Christ, who died and rose for the salvation of every human being without distinction of race or culture! He is the hope shining on humanity's horizon.
May Mary, the Virgin who listens and the loving Mother of all human beings, sustain you. And may you be accompanied by my Blessing, which I gladly impart to you, to your initiatives and to everyone you meet in your activities of human advancement and Christian solidarity.
Today the Church is celebrating the World Day of Social Communications. In extending a cordial greeting to all who work in the world of the mass media, I encourage them — as I wrote in my annual Message for this day — to see that the means of social communication are always a friendly presence accompanying the men and women of our time, helping them in their search for God, goodness and truth.
I am pleased this morning to welcome a large group of Kosovar refugees, the guests of several Italian Caritas agencies. Dear brothers and sisters, in this month of May we are praying in a particular way for peace. May the intercession of Blessed Mary obtain this for you and for all people tormented by war.
I affectionately greet the pilgrims present, particularly the group that came on horseback from Tuscany along the ancient Via Francigena, and the amateur cyclists from Senigallia.
I also greet the faithful from the Diocese of Lugano, the new revenue officers from Mondovì, the young people from Treviglio, the pupils of the Don Guanella School in Como and the children from the Francesco Gattola School in Massa Lubrense, with my best wishes to the “Immacolatine” Sisters who are celebrating the centenary of the death of their founder, Fr Francesco Gattola.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Saint John Paul II, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
World Communications Day
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today in many countries, Italy among them, the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven is being celebrated. On this feast the Christian community is invited to turn its gaze to the One who, 40 days after his Resurrection, to the astonishment of the Apostles, "was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight" (Acts 1: 9).
We are called, therefore, to renew our faith in Jesus, the only true hope of salvation for all humanity. Ascending to Heaven, he reopened the pathway to paradise, our final homeland. Now, with the power of his Spirit, he sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth.
World Communications Day is being celebrated this Sunday on the theme: "The communications media: at the service of understanding among peoples". In today's world of imagery, the mass media effectively become an extraordinary resource to promote solidarity and understanding within the human family. We have had incredible proof of this recently on the occasion of the death and solemn funeral rites of my beloved Predecessor, John Paul II. It all depends, however, on how these means are used.
These important tools of communication can support reciprocal knowledge and dialogue or, on the contrary, fuel prejudice and contempt between individuals and peoples; they can contribute to spreading peace or fomenting violence. This is why an appeal must always be made to personal responsibility; all must do their part to ensure objectivity, respect for human dignity and attention to the common good in all forms of communication. In this way they contribute to bringing down the walls of hostility that continue to divide humanity, and to strengthening the bonds of friendship and love which are signs of God's Kingdom in history.
Let us return to the Christian mystery of the Ascension. After the Lord ascended to Heaven, the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room, with the Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1: 14), invoking together the Holy Spirit who would invest them with the power to witness to the Risen Christ (cf. Luke 24: 49; Acts 1: 8). United to the Most Blessed Virgin, every Christian community relives in these days this unique spiritual experience in preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost. We too turn now to Mary with the hymn of the Regina Caeli, imploring her protection on the Church and especially on those who dedicate themselves to the work of evangelization through the means of social communication.
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8 June 2014