Teach Us Wisdom of Heart
The Jubilee of Bishops concluded on Sunday morning, 8 October,
with a solemn Mass in St Peter's Square and the Act of Entrustment
to Mary Most Holy. Concelebrating with the Pope were 76 Cardinals
and over 1,400 Bishops from around the world. The liturgy began with
the statue of Our Lady of Fatima being carried in procession from
Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, where it had spent the
night, to St Peter's Square, where it was placed at the foot of the
large cross next to the altar. The statue was preceded by the
servers, deacons and Cardinals, and the Holy Father walked in
procession behind it. After the Gospel had been chanted in Latin,
the Pope preached the following homily in Italian. Here is a
1. "Teach us, 0 God, wisdom of heart" (Responsorial
Psalm; Italian Lectionary).
Today St Peter's Square is like a great Upper Room: for it is
hosting Bishops from every part of the world, who have come to Rome
to celebrate their Jubilee. The memory of the Apostle Peter, called
to mind by his tomb beneath the altar of the great Vatican Basilica,
invites us to return in spirit to the first site of the Apostolic
College, to that Upper Room in Jerusalem where I recently had the
joy of celebrating Mass during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Today a spiritual bridge spanning centuries and continents links
the Upper Room with this square, where the successors of those first
Apostles of Christ have gathered in the Holy Year 2000. I offer my
cordial embrace to you all, dear and venerable Brothers, and I
extend it with equal affection to all who have been unable to come
but are spiritually united with us in their sees.
Together let us make our own the invocation of the Psalm:
"Teach us, O God, wisdom of heart". In this "sapientia
cordis", which is God's gift, we can sum up the fruit of
our Jubilee gathering. It consists in our interior conformation to
Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, through the action of the Holy
Spirit. To receive this gift, indispensable if we are to govern the
Church well, we, her Pastors, must first pass through him, "the
door of the sheep" (Jn 10:7). We must imitate him, the
"Good Shepherd" (Jn 10: 11, 14), so that in listening to
us the faithful will listen to him, and in following us they can
follow him, the one Saviour, yesterday, today and forever.
The Gospel must first be proclaimed by our lives
2. God gives wisdom of heart through his Word, living, effective
and capable of laying bare the depths of man—as the author of the
Letter to the Hebrews told us (cf. Heb 4:12) in the passage just
proclaimed. The divine Word, after being spoken "of old in many
and various ways to our fathers through the prophets" (Heb
1:1), has been sent in these last days to men and women in the very
person of the Son (cf. Heb 1:2).
We Pastors, by virtue of the munus docendi, are called to
be qualified preachers of this Word. "He who hears you hears
me" (Lk 10:16). An exhilarating task, but also a great
responsibility! We have been entrusted with a living word: we must
therefore proclaim it by our lives even before with our lips. It is
a word that coincides with the person of Christ himself, the
"Word made flesh" (Jn :14): it is therefore the face of
Christ that we must show men; his Cross that we must proclaim, doing
so as vigorously as Paul: "I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (I Cor 2:2).
3. "Lo, we have left everything and followed you"
(Mk 10:28). Peter's statement expresses the radicalness of the
choice requested of the apostle. A radicalness which becomes clear
in the light of Jesus' demanding conversation with the rich young
man. The Teacher indicated the observance of the commandments to him
as a condition for eternal life. To his desire for greater
perfection, he answered with a loving look and an unconditional
proposal: "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor; and
you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mk
10:21). The sadness of refusal fell on these words of Christ like a
sudden darkening of the sky. It was then that Jesus spoke one of his
severest sayings: 'How hard it will be for those who have riches to
enter the kingdom of God!" (Mk 10:24). A saying which he
himself mitigated in the face of the Apostles' dismay: "all
things are possible with God" (Mk 10:27).
Peter's statement became an expression of the grace by which God
transforms man and makes him capable of a total gift. "We have
left everything and followed you" (Mk 10:28). This is how we
become apostles. And this is how we also experience the fulfilment
of Christ's promise about the "hundredfold": the apostle
who has left everything to follow Christ already lives a fulfilled
and joyful life on this earth, despite the inevitable trials.
At this moment how can we not express, venerable Brothers, our
gratitude to the Lord for the gift of our vocation, first to the
priesthood and then to its fullness in the Episcopate? Looking back
over the events of our lives, emotion fills our hearts at seeing the
many ways in which the Lord has shown us his love and mercy. Truly, "misericordias
Domini in aeternum cantabo!" (Ps 89 :2).
The 20th century has been richly blessed with martyrs
4. The Bishop, a successor of the Apostles, is someone for whom
Christ is everything: "For to me to live is Christ..."
(Phil 1:21). He must bear witness to this in all his actions. The
Second Vatican Council teaches: "Bishops should devote
themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses of Christ to all
men" (Decree Christus Dominus, n. 11).
In speaking of the Bishops as witnesses, I cannot fail to recall
at this solemn Jubilee celebration the many Bishops who, in the
course of two millennia, have borne the supreme witness to Christ of
martyrdom, following the apostolic model and making the Church
fruitful by the shedding of their blood.
In a particular way, the 20th century has been richly blessed
with such witnesses, some of whom I have had the joy of raising to
the honours of the altar. A week ago, I enrolled among the saints
four Bishops, martyrs in China: Gregory Grassi, Anthony Fantosati
Francis Fogolla and Louis Versiglia Among the blesseds, we
venerate Michal Kozal, Antoni Julian Nowowiejski, Leon Wetmanski and
Wladyslaw Goral, who died in Nazi concentration camps. In addition
to them are Diego Ventaja Milan, Manuel Medina Olmos, Anselmo
Polanco and Florentino Asensio Barroso, killed during the Spanish
Civil War. And in Eastern Europe the blessed martyrs Vilmos Apor, a
Hungarian, Vincent Eugene Bossilkov, a Bulgarian, and Alojzije
Stepinac, a Croatian, blossomed in the long winter of communist
At the same time, it is beautiful and only right to thank God for
all the wise and generous Pastors who, down the centuries, have
brought honour to the Church by their teaching and example. How many
holy and blessed confessors there are among the Bishops! I am
thinking, for example, of shining figures such as Charles Borromeo
and Francis de Sales; I am also thinking of Popes Pius IX and John
XXIII, whom I recently had the joy of proclaiming blessed.
Dear Brothers, "surrounded by so great a cloud of
witnesses" (Heb 12:1), let us renew our response to the gift of
God received with episcopal ordination. "Let us also lay aside
every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with
perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus"
(Heb 12:1-2), the Shepherd of shepherds.
May the Lord prosper the work entrusted to us
5. Reflecting on the mystery of the Church and her mission in the
contemporary world, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council felt the
need to devote special attention to the pastoral office of Bishops.
Today, on the threshold of the third millennium, the challenge of
the new evangelization further emphasizes the episcopal ministry:
the Pastor is the first to take responsibility for and to encourage
the ecclesial community, both in the requirement of communion and in
missionary outreach. Regarding the relativism and subjectivism which
mar so much of contemporary culture, Bishops are called to defend
and promote the doctrinal unity of their faithful. Concerned for
every situation in which the faith has been lost or is unknown, they
work with all their strength for evangelization, preparing priests,
religious and lay people for this task and making the necessary
resources available (cf. Christus Dominus, n. 6).
Mindful of the Council's teaching (cf. ibid., n. 7), today we
would like to express from this square our fraternal solidarity with
Bishops who have been persecuted, who are in prison or are prevented
from exercising their ministry. And in the name of our sacramental
bond, we affectionately extend our remembrance and prayer to our
brother priests who are suffering the same trials. The Church is
grateful to them for the inestimable good that they bring to the
Mystical Body by their prayer and sacrifice.
6. "May the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our
hands!" (Ps 90 :17).
During our Jubilee, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the gracious
care of the Lord has been given to us in abundance. The light and
strength which come from it will not fail to prosper the "work
of our hands", that is, the work entrusted to us in God's field
which is the Church.
For our support and comfort, we have wished to emphasize during
these Jubilee days the presence in our midst of Mary Most Holy, our
Mother. We did so yesterday evening by reciting the Rosary as a
community; we do so today with the Act of Entrustment, which we will
make at the end of Mass. It is an act that we will make in a
collegial spirit, while sensing the closeness of the many Bishops
who, in their respective sees, are joining in our celebration and
making this same Act together with their faithful. May the venerable
image of Our Lady of Fatima, which we have the joy of hosting in our
midst, help us to relive the experience of the first Apostolic
College, gathered in prayer in the Upper Room with Mary, the Mother
Queen of Apostles, pray with us and for us, so that the Holy
Spirit will descend in abundance upon the Church, and that she will
shine throughout the world ever more united, holy, catholic and