|May the Lord
grant you Peace!
On Saturday, 1 January, the
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace, the Holy
Father opened the Holy Door and presided at a Eucharistic celebration in
the Basilica of St Mary Major. The Pope stressed the value of peace,
saying that in his Message for World Day of Peace this year he had
recalled "some of conditions and requirements for strengthening the
progress of peace at the international level. It is a path that is
unfortunately always threatened, as we are reminded by the painful events
that have marked the history of the 20th century on various occasions.
This is why, more than ever, we must wish each other peace in God's
name". Here is a translation of his homily, which was given in
1. "When the time had fully
come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4:4).
Yesterday evening we paused to meditate
on the meaning of Paul's words, taken from the Letter to the Galatians,
and asked ourselves about the meaning of the "fullness of
time" of which he speaks, in relation to the progress that marks
man's way through history. The moment we are living is full of
significance: at midnight the year 1999 entered the past, giving way to a
new year. Here we are just a few hours into the Year 2000!
What does this mean for us? We are
beginning to write a new page of history. Yesterday evening we looked back
at the past, at how the world was when the second millennium began. Today,
beginning the Year 2000, we cannot but wonder about the future: what
direction will the great human family take in this new phase of its
2. Taking into account the start of a
new year, today's liturgy expresses good wishes to all people of go will
with these words: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and
give you peace" (Nm 6:26).
May the Lord grant you peace! This is
the Church's wish to all humanity on the first day of the new year, a day
dedicated to the celebration of the World Day of Peace. In my
Message for this Day I recalled some of the conditions and requirements
for strengthening the peace process at the international level. This
process is unfortunately always threatened, as we are reminded by the
painful events that have marked the history of the 20th century on various
occasions. This is why, more than ever, we must wish each other peace in
God's name: may the Lord give you peace!
God has heard our prayer for peace
I am thinking at this moment of the
prayer meeting for peace which gathered representatives of the world's
main religions in Assisi, in October 1986. We were still in the period of
the so-called "Cold War": together, we prayed to avert the great
threat of a conflict which seemed to menace humanity. In a certain sense,
we gave voice to everyone's prayer, and God heard his children's
supplication. Even if we had to note the outbreak of dangerous local and
regional conflicts, we were nonetheless spared the great world conflict
which had loomed on the horizon. This is why, with greater awareness, we
wish one another peace as we cross the threshold of the new century: may
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you.
Year 2000 coming to meet us, may Christ
grant you peace!
3. "The fullness of time"!
St Paul says that this "fullness" was achieved when God "sent
forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4:4). Eight days after
Christmas, today, the first day of the new year, we commemorate in a
special way the "Woman" of whom the Apostle speaks, the Mother
of God. In giving birth to the eternal Son of the Father, Mary contributed
to achieving the fullness of time; she contributed uniquely to ensuring
that human time would reach the measure of its fullness in the Incarnation
of the Word.
On this most significant day, I have
had the joy of opening the Holy Door in this venerable Liberian Basilica,
the first one in the West to be dedicated to the Virgin Mother of Christ.
A week after the solemn rite held in St Peter's Basilica, today it is as
though the ecclesial communities of every nation and continent were
gathering here in spirit, under the Mother's gaze, to cross the threshold
of the Holy Door which is Christ.
It is, in fact, to her, the Mother of
Christ and of the Church, that we wish to entrust the Holy Year just
begun, to protect and encourage the journey of all who become pilgrims in
this time of grace and mercy (cf. Incarnationis mysterium, n. 14).
4. The liturgy of today's solemnity has
a profoundly Marian character, although this is rather soberly expressed
in the biblical texts. The passage from the Evangelist Luke summarizes, as
it were, what we heard on Christmas night. It says that the shepherds went
to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the Child lying in the manger.
After seeing him, they recounted what they had been told of him. And all
were amazed at the shepherds' tale. "But Mary kept all these
things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19).
It is worth reflecting on this sentence
which expresses a wonderful aspect of Mary's motherhood. In a certain
sense, the whole liturgical year follows in the footsteps of this
motherhood, beginning with the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March,
exactly nine months before Christmas. On the day of the Annunciation, Mary
heard the Angel's words: "Behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.... The Holy Spirit will
come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God"
(Lk 1:31-33, 35).
And she answered: "Let it be to
me according to your word" (ibid., 1:38).
Every person's history is written in
his mother's heart
Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit.
Like every mother, in her womb she carried that Son, whom she alone knew
to be the Only-begotten Son of God. She gave birth to him in the night of
Bethlehem. Thus began the earthly life of the Son of God and his mission
of salvation in the world's history.
5. "Mary kept all these things,
pondering them in her heart".
How can we marvel that the Mother of
God should remember all this in a special and indeed unique way? Every
mother has a similar knowledge of the beginning of a new life within her.
Every person's history is written first of all in his own mother's heart.
It is no wonder that the same was true for the earthly fife of the Son of
"Mary kept all these things,
pondering them in her heart".
Today, the first day of the new year,
on the threshold of a new year, of this new millennium, the Church returns
to this inner experience of the Mother of God. She does so not only by
thinking back to the events of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, to the
various stages, that is, of the Redeemer's earthly life, but also by
considering all that his Life, Death and Resurrection have brought about
in human history.
Mary was present with the Apostles on
the day of Pentecost; she participated directly in the birth of the
Church. Since then her motherhood accompanies the history of redeemed
humanity, the journey of the great human family, for whom the work of
Redemption is intended.
At the beginning of the Year 2000, as
we move into the Jubilee season, we trust in your motherly
"memory", O Mary! We set out on this special path of salvation
history, which is kept alive in your heart as Mother of God. To you we
entrust the days of the new year, the future of the Church, the future of
humanity, the future of the entire universe.
Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Peace,
watch over us.
Mary, Salus Populi Romani, pray