Homily for Solemnity of the Assumption, 15 August
Good Morning. Today is a great holy day, a great
Solemnity of the Assumption of our Mother, of our Lady. She embraces all of us
in her Assumption. This is the meaning of the words of Jesus, "I came that
they may have life and have it abundantly". This means that our Lady in her
Assumption has the fullness of life for her and for all of us. We are
participating in this same life, which is her life, our Mother, our Lady, the
Virgin Mary. So in the name of Jesus and of his Mother, I say again, "Good
We hope that you will accompany us in this great
Solemnity of the Assumption through your artistic execution: through your
singing and music—through this artistic beauty. Beauty is an aspect of life,
of the fullness of life: God is the highest beauty; Jesus, his Mother are the
highest beauty. We shall participate through this artistic beauty (of music and
singing) in the supernatural, in the transcendent beauty of God, of the Most
Holy Trinity, of Jesus, of his Mother on the feast of her Solemnity of the
Assumption. God bless you, my dear brothers and sisters,
After the Gospel the Holy Father gave the
following homily in English.
"God who is mighty has done great things for
me" (Lk 1:49).
Beloved Young People and Dear Friends in Christ,
1. Today the Church finds herself, with Mary, on
the threshold of the house of Zechariah in Ain-Karim. With new life stirring
within her, the Virgin of Nazareth hastened there, immediately after the Fiat
of the Annunciation, to be of help to her cousin Elizabeth. It was Elizabeth
who first recognized the "great things" which God was doing in Mary.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth marvelled that the mother of her Lord
should come to her (cf. Lk 1:43). With deep insight into the mystery, she
declared: "Blest is she who believed that the Lord's words to her would be
fulfilled" (Lk 1:45). With her soul fall of humble gratitude to God, Mary
replied with a hymn of praise: "God who is mighty has done great things
for me and holy is his name" (Lk 1:49).
On this feast the Church celebrates the
culmination of the "great things" which God has done in Mary: her
glorious Assumption into heaven. And throughout the Church the same hymn of
thanksgiving, the Magnificat, rings out as it did for the first
time at Ain-Karim: All generations call you blessed (cf. Lk 1:48).
Gathered at the foot of the Rocky Mountains,
which remind us that Jerusalem too was surrounded by hills (cf. Ps 124:2) and
that Mary had gone up into those hills (cf. Lk 1:39), we are here to celebrate
Mary's "going up" to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the threshold of the
eternal temple of the Most Holy Trinity. Here in Denver, at the World Youth Day,
the Catholic sons and daughters of America, together with others "from
every tribe and tongue, people and nation" (Rv 5:9), join all the
generations since who have cried out: God has done great things for you, Mary—and
for all of us, members of his pilgrim people! (cf. Lk 1:49).
With my heart full of praise for the Queen of
Heaven, the sign of hope and source of comfort on our pilgrimage of faith to
"the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22), I greet all of you who are
present at this solemn Liturgy. It is a pleasure for me to see so many priests,
religious and lay faithful from Denver, from the state of Colorado, from all
parts of the United States, and from so many countries of the world, who have
joined the young people of the World Youth Day to honour the
definitive victory of grace in Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer.
So much depends on world's young people
2. The Eighth World Youth Day is a celebration
of Life. This gathering has been the occasion of a serious reflection on the
words of Jesus Christ: "I came that they may have life, and have
it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). Young people from every corner of the world,
in ardent prayer you have opened your hearts to the truth of
Christ's promise of new Life. Through the sacraments, especially Penance and the
Eucharist, and by means of the unity and friendship created among so many, you
have had a real and transforming experience of the new Life which only Christ
can give. You, young pilgrims, have also shown that you understand
that Christ's gift of Life is not for you alone. You have become more conscious
of your vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. For me, our
meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I
make my own the words of Saint Paul: "I have great confidence in
you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing
with joy" (2 Cor 7:4).
These are not words of empty praise. I am
confident that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you,
and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much
depends on you.
3. This marvellous world—so loved by the Father
that he sent his only Son for its salvation (cf. Jn 3:17)—is the theatre of a
never-ending battle being waged for our dignity and identity as free,
spiritual beings. This struggle parallels the apocalyptic combat
described in the first reading of this Mass. Death battles against Life: a
"culture of death" seeks to impose itself on our desire to live, and
live to the full. There are those who reject the light of life, preferring
"the fruitless works of darkness" (Eph 5:11). Their harvest is
injustice, discrimination, exploitation, deceit, violence. In every age, a
measure of their apparent success is the death of the Innocents. In
our own century, as at no other time in history, the "culture of
death" has assumed a social and institutional form of legality to justify
the most horrible crimes against humanity: genocide, "final
solutions", "ethnic cleansings", and the massive "taking of
lives of human beings even before they are born or before they reach the natural
point of death" (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 57).
Today's reading from the Book of Revelation
presents the Woman surrounded by hostile forces. The absolute nature of
their attack is symbolized in the object of their evil intention: the Child,
the symbol of new life. The "dragon" (Rv 12:3), the
"ruler of this world" (Jn 12:31) and the "father of lies (Jn
8:44), relentlessly tries to eradicate from human hearts the sense of
gratitude and respect for the original, extraordinary and fundamental gift of
God: human life itself. Today that struggle has become increasingly
Without objective truth human rights are
4. Dear friends, this gathering in Denver on the
theme of life should lead us to a deeper awareness of the internal
contradiction present in a part of the culture of the modern
When the Founding Fathers of this great nation
enshrined certain inalienable rights in the Constitution—and something similar
exists in many countries and in many international declarations—they did so
because they recognized the existence of a "law"—a series of rights
and duties—engraved by the Creator on each person's heart and conscience.
In much of contemporary thinking, any reference
to a "law" guaranteed by the Creator is absent. There remains only
each individual's choice of this or that objective as convenient or useful in a
given set of circumstances. No longer is anything considered intrinsically "good"
and "universally binding". Rights are affirmed but, because they are
without any reference to an objective truth, they are deprived of any solid
basis. Vast sectors of society are confused about what is right and what is
wrong, and are at the mercy of those with the power to "create"
opinion and impose it on others.
The family especially is under attack. And
the sacred character of human life denied. Naturally, the weakest members
of society are the most at risk: the unborn, children, the sick,
the handicapped, the old, the poor and unemployed, the immigrant and refugee, the
South of the world!
5. Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten
the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16:11). The
challenge is to make the Church's "yes" to Life concrete and
effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place
your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your
fortitude at the service of life!
Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life
is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with
much suffering. This certainty is what the second reading declares: "Christ
is now raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
...so in Christ all will come to life again" (I Cor 15:20-22).
The paradox of the Christian message is this: Christ—the Head—has already
conquered sin and death. Christ in his Body—the pilgrim People of God—continually
suffers the onslaught of the Evil One and all the evil which sinful humanity is
6. At this stage of history, the
liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands.
And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to
your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency
of the task: "Woe to me if I do not evangelize" (1 Cor 9:16). Woe
to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your
energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of
life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people's hearts and the
structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and
love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and
without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital
spirituality of the Gospel.
Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and
into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good
News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time
to be ashamed of the Gospel, (cf. Rom 1: 16). It is the time to preach it from
the rooftops (cf. Mt 10:27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and
routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ
known in the modem "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into
the byroads" (Mt 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which
God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of
fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to
be put on a stand so that people may see its fight and give praise to our
heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:15-16).
Share the freedom you have found in Christ
Jesus went in search of the men and women of his
time. He engaged them in an open and truthful dialogue, whatever their
condition. As the Good Samaritan of the human family, he came close to people to
heal them of their sins and of the wounds which life inflicts, and to bring them
back to the Father's house. Young people of World Youth Day, the Church asks you
to go, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who are near and those who are
far away. Share with them the freedom you have found in Christ. People thirst
for genuine inner freedom. They yearn for the Life which Christ came to give in
abundance. The world at the approach of a new millennium, for which the whole
Church is preparing, is like a field ready for the harvest. Christ needs
labourers ready to work in his vineyard. May you, the Catholic young people
of the world, not fail him. In your hands, carry the cross of Christ. On your
lips, the words of life. In your hearts, the saving grace of the Lord.
7. At her Assumption, Mary was "taken up
to Life"—body and soul. She is already a part of "the first
fruits" (I Cor 15:20) of our Saviour's redemptive death and resurrection.
The Son took his human life from her; in return he gave her the fullness of
communion in divine Life. She is the only other being in whom the mystery has
already been completely accomplished. In Mary the final victory of Life over
death is already a reality. And, as the Second Vatican Council
teaches: "In the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached the
perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle" (Lumen
gentium, n. 65). In and through the Church we too have hope of
"an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in
heaven for us" (cf. 1 Pt 1:4).
Mary helps us to increase in holiness
You are blessed, O Mary! Mother
of the Eternal Son born of your virgin womb, you are full of grace (cf.
Lk 1:28). You have received the abundance of Life (cf. Jn 10:10) as no
one else among the descendants of Adam and Eve. As the most faithful
"hearer of the Word" (cf. Lk 11:28), you not only treasured and
pondered this mystery in your heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), but you observed it in
your body and nourished it by the self-giving love with which you surrounded
Jesus throughout his earthly life. As Mother of the Church, you guide us still
from your place in heaven and intercede for us. You lead us to Christ,
"the Way, and the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6), and help us to
increase in holiness by conquering sin (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 65).
8. The Liturgy presents you, Mary, as the Woman
clothed with the sun (cf. Rv 12: 1). But you are even more splendidly
clothed with that divine Light which can become the Life of all those created in
the image and likeness of God himself: "this life was the light of the
human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not
overcome it" (Jn 1:4-5).
O woman clothed with the sun, the youth of
the world greet you with so much love; they come to you with all the
courage of their young hearts. Denver has helped them to become more
conscious of the Life which your Divine Son has brought.
We are all witnesses of this.
These young people now know that Life is more
powerful than the forces of death; they know that the Truth is more powerful
than darkness; that Love is stronger than death (cf. Song 8:6).
Your spirit rejoices, O Mary,
and our spirit rejoices with you because the Mighty One has done great things
for you and for us—for all these young people gathered here in Denver—and holy
is his name!
His mercy is from age to age.
We rejoice, Mary, we rejoice with you, Virgin
assumed into heaven.
The Lord has done great things for you! The Lord
has done great things for us! Alleluia. Amen.