6TH WORLD YOUTH DAY –  CZĘSTOCHOWA
Pope John Paul II: Mary’s pilgrimage through faith
 
Homily for Solemnity of the Assumption, Jasna Góra, Poland, 1991

1. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God" (Rom 8:14).

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters from Poland and various parts of the world.

I begin this homily, which is entirely in Polish, with some trepidation. However, if there is something to console me, it is the realization that our guests can also hear it in their own language. It is a little like Pentecost in Jerusalem. And not only because those who have come from afar can participate in this liturgical event while "listening to" the homily with the aid of the screens so graciously offered to us by our Italian brothers. Last of all, I am also consoled because of the beautiful weather and the sunshine.

Mr President of the Republic, Mr Prime Minister, Representatives of the Government and the Parliament, all of you, my dear Brothers in the episcopate, Cardinals, Bishops, all of my brother priests, brothers and sisters in the religious vocation, in the Christian and human vocation, all of you present here.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I greet all of you, my dear young people, who have gathered here from various European countries and from other continents. You have come to Jasna Góra with the knowledge that you received a spirit of adoption" (Rom 8:15). Thanks to this "you are heirs of God", and at the same time, "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). Together with him you can exclaim: "Abba, Father!" (Rom 8:15). In fact, "the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8:16).

In our meeting last evening we reflected on the truth concerning your vocation in Christ, by concentrating on three signs: the Cross, the Bible and the image of Mary.

In today's solemnity we wish to turn our attention in a particular way to the woman who was especially guided by the Spirit of God: Mary. We greet her as the beloved daughter of God the Father, who was chosen as the human mother of the Son of God. We greet Mary as the one who accepted this eternal election, giving birth to Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit: the Virgin of Nazareth believed that what is impossible for men is possible for God (cf. Lk 1:37).

2. With particular solemnity the Church today celebrates her Assumption into heaven. This definitive fulfilment of the life and vocation of the Mother of God allows us—in the light of the liturgy—to look at Mary's whole preceding earthly life, at her maternal pilgrimage through faith. During the visitation, the words of Elizabeth express this in a much more precise and, at the same time, complete way: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk 1:45).

The words heard by Mary at the Annunciation were fulfilled in a wonderful way: from the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem to the cross on Golgotha, and then from Easter morning until the day of Pentecost. Throughout these stages of earthly pilgrimage, Mary realized ever more profoundly how "the Mighty One has done great things for me" (cf. Lk 1:49). In the Assumption all those "great things" (magnalia Dei) have been almost definitively crowned. Mary enters as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit into the house of humanity's supreme destiny. Her eternal dwelling is found in the dwelling of the Most Holy Trinity. And here, on earth, "all ages call her blessed" (cf. Lk 1:48).

And we also, this particular community of young people, proclaim Mary as blessed among women, thus giving the greatest honour to the only begotten Son of the Father, who became the blessed fruit of her womb. In fact, in him "we have all received adoption" (cf. Rom 8:15).

3. The liturgy of the solemnity of the Assumption cannot be exhausted here. It makes us look not only towards that "temple of God, which was opened in heaven" (cf. Rv 11:19), in which all the adopted children of God, together with the Mother of God, as "joint heirs with Christ" take part in the ineffable life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the definitive fullness of every truth and love. The Book of Revelation makes us look at the Assumption as a "great sign": "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rv 12: 1). Therefore, this is the sign of the fulfilment, in view of all its cosmic dimensions: in this sign everything returns to God, who is the Creator, that is, the absolute beginning of all that exists, creation in all its manifold richness.

In this sign, one can see how man, who was created in the image and likeness of God, returns to God. We must all return in the same way, if we have received the adoption of the only begotten Son of God, who became for the sake of our adoption, the Son of Man: the Son of Mary.

Nevertheless, that all-inclusive return of the children to the Father, over the course of mankind's entire history on earth, is linked to a particular drama. Today's liturgy lays emphasis on this drama, through the words of the Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians: "Death came through a human being; ... in Adam all die" (I Cor 15:21-22). This death has a more profound dimension than that which is only biological death.

4. It is a death which strikes the spirit, depriving it of the life which comes from God himself. It is caused by sin, which is rebellion against God on the part of free and rational creatures. The drama goes back to the beginning when man, tempted by the Devil, wanted to attain his own fulfilment in an autonomous way. "You will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad", was the incitement whispered by the serpent (cf. Gn 3:5): that is, you will be able to decide for yourselves what is good and what is bad, independently from the source of truth and goodness, which is God himself.

This particular drama—the original drama—finds its symbolic expression in the magnificent picture presented to us by today's liturgy. Opposite the woman clothed with the sun, which is the symbol of the cosmos being transformed into the kingdom of the living God, another symbol appears, which is that of the Devil of the original drama. In Sacred Scripture he has different names. Here he is represented as a dragon who wants to devour the infant to whom the woman gives birth, the shepherd "of all nations" (cf. Rv 12:4-5).

Therefore, the last book of the New Testament confirms the first, i.e., Genesis: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers" (Gn 3:15). Human history is thus presented as a long sequence of conflicts and struggles between good and evil, between the eternal Father who loves the world to the point of giving his only begotten Son and the "father of lies", who is "a murderer from the beginning" (cf. Jn 8:44).

5. What does the "father of lies" struggle for? He struggles to deprive mankind of his adoptive sonship, to take away his inheritance which was given to him by the Father in Christ.

The struggle against the woman, who is the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer of the world, is against the one who is the sublime model of the Church (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 53).

The sign of the "woman" in the Book of Revelation points to the Mother of God and points to the Church. It points to all those who "are led by the Spirit of God", to those who together with Christ, as children of' God, exclaim: "Abba, Father!"

Therefore, that sign also points to us. By exclaiming together with Christ, "Abba, Father", as adopted children, we participate in the paschal victory of the cross and the Resurrection, in which the Mother of God was the first to participate: Mary was assumed into heaven!

6. Dear friends, you have gathered here from so many places; you speak many different languages, you bring with you the patrimony of so many cultures, of so many historical experiences. In diverse ways, you and your different societies have experienced and are experiencing that struggle which throughout all of mankind's history has developed in man and for man.

Our century has been (and continues to be) a particular battleground of this struggle. Entire generations have been involved in this struggle, and today the true protagonists are each and every one of us. Man was truly created in the image and likeness of God—and at the same time, man was tempted to transform that image and likeness into a revolt by turning against his Creator and Redeemer. Man was tempted to reject God. He was tempted to shape his own destiny, here on earth, as "if God did not exist": as if God did not exist in all his transcendent reality; as if his love for mankind did not exist, the love which moved the Father "to give" his only begotten Son in order that mankind—through him—might have eternal life in God.

In such a struggle, in the succession of these spiritual conflicts, so many ways have been used to deprive individuals of their "adoption as children of God". You, young people, have come here on a pilgrimage to confirm this adoption as children of God, to choose it again; to model your life according to it; to approach and draw others to it.

May you be blessed!

May you be blessed with Mary, who believed in the fulfilment of the words which were spoken to her by the Lord.

May you be blessed! May the sign of a woman clothed with the sun walk with you, with each and every one of you, along every road of life. May this lead you to the fulfilment in God of your adoption as children in Christ.

Truly, the Lord has accomplished great things in you!

7. Concerning these "great things", my dear young people, you must be consistent and courageous witnesses in your surroundings, among your peers, in all of life's circumstances.

Mary is beside you, the Virgin of Nazareth is docile to every inspiration of the Spirit: she who with her generous "yes" to God's plan, disclosed to the world the long-awaited prospect of salvation.

While looking at her—the humble handmaid of the Lord, today taken up into the glory of heaven—I say to you with St Paul: "Live by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16)! Let the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and fortitude, of knowledge, of piety and fear of the Lord (cf. Is 11:2) penetrate your heart and your life, and transform the face of the earth through you.

As the Bishop told you on the day of your Confirmation, I tell you again today, dear young people who have gathered here from every continent: Receive the Holy Spirit! Be renewed by the force which is sent forth by him, become builders of a new world: a different world, one which is founded on truth, justice, solidarity and love.

8. This Sixth World Day of Youth is marked by a special characteristic: it is the first time that such a great number of young people from Eastern Europe have participated.

How can one not recognize in this a great gift of the Holy Spirit? Along with you, I wish to thank the Holy Spirit today for this. After a long period of practically impassable borders, the Church in Europe can now breathe freely with both of her lungs.

Your presence, my dear young people of Eastern Europe, takes on particular significance. The universal Church needs the precious treasure of your Christian witness: a witness for which it was necessary at times to pay a very high price of suffering, in marginalization, persecution and even imprisonment.

9. Today, finally, your time has come!

The Church and the Successor of Peter have never forgotten about you during those harsh years of suffering. Here, at the Shrine of Jasna Góra, you can now offer the world a public demonstration of your belonging to Christ and your communion with the Church. Offer it in front of your peers who have come from every part of the globe and, in a special way, from the countries of Western Europe.

The old continent is counting on you, young people of Eastern and Western Europe, to build that "common house" from which a future of solidarity and peace is awaited. The Church is counting on you when she gathers at the next Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to reflect on the consequences of recent changes, and to prepare appropriate initiatives in order to develop more effective pastoral activity on this continent.

For the good of generations to come it is necessary that the new Europe should be based on those spiritual values which constitute the innermost core of its traditional culture.

10. A great joy fills my heart in seeing you together, young people from the East and West, North and South, united by the faith in Christ, who is "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb 13:8). You are the youth of the Church, which is ready to face the new millennium. You are the Church of tomorrow, the Church of hope!

Dear young people, you know through experience that the collapse of the ideology of Eastern European countries has left the feeling of a great vacuum in many of your companions, the impression of having been deceived, and a depressing anguish in the face of what is to come.

Even in Western European countries, a great many young people have lost their motivation for living. The drug phenomenon is a symptom of this profound sense of bewilderment. In the struggle for good, apathy in politics betrays in many people the sense of helplessness.

You are sent forth as messengers of the Good News of salvation for these brothers and sisters. They will discover the meaning of life by encountering Jesus Christ and in knowing their vocation to divine filiation through your joyful witness. In fact, the thirst for meaning is what they suffer from and Jesus Christ is the truth that sets us free.

You will extend an invitation to all those who have been disappointed with the earthly tasks of civilization; together with you they will be creators of the "civilization of love". The Church's social teaching—which I recently recalled and confirmed in the Encyclical Centesimus annus—constitutes the grand programme.

Working generously for the construction of a society that is marked by the search for justice, harmony, solidarity and peace is an ideal which reveals to each person the riches of self-giving and service which he carries within himself.

Everyone will discover the beauty of life by promoting brotherhood among individuals and peoples, and by generously committing oneself to helping the poorest.

Dear friends, you are responsible for bearing this Gospel message which leads to eternal life, and at the same time shows us the way to live in a more fully human way on this earth. Much of what will be tomorrow depends on the commitment of today's Christian generation. Above all, it depends on your commitment, my dear young people, for soon you will have the responsibility of making decisions on which not only your own fate depends, but also that of many others.

Therefore, you are given the mission of assuring the presence of certain values for tomorrow's world, which are: full religious liberty, the respect for the personal dimension of development, defence of the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death, the promotion of the family, appreciation for the diversities which exist between cultures in order to promote reciprocal enrichment, the safeguarding of the ecological balance which is threatened by ever greater risks.

11. These are enormous tasks which require intrepid hearts, capable of "hoping against hope" (cf. Rom 4:18). My dear young people, you are not alone in this undertaking! At your side is Christ the Lord who said: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Lk 12:49). Here is what can strengthen your heart and encourage it to take on the most difficult tasks: the fire that Jesus brought, the fire of the Holy Spirit, which will burn away every human misery, every narrowminded egoism, every mean thought.

Let this fire blaze in your heart.

It is the Virgin Mary who, here in Częstochowa, has lit it in you.

Take this fire to every part of the globe.

May it never be extinguished by anyone or anything!

Look! Jasna Góra has been the Upper Room for you. Here is a new Pentecost: once again the Church is gathered together with Mary, a young, missionary Church, conscious of her mission. Receive the Holy Spirit and be strong! Amen!

 

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