PREPARING FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
For the April 1995 edition of THE ACADIANA CATHOLIC
By Rev. Herbert C. de Launay
In several of his letters, Pope John Paul II has spoken of the
approach of the year 2000. He has called upon us to prepare
spiritually for this 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
He has spoken of the special significance of this anniversary as we
end the second millennium, the second thousand years of the Church's
history, and prepare to begin the third millennium.
Our Holy Father is calling upon the Church to repent. We see this in
his recent letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente" or "On the Coming of
the Third Millennium." This letter was released November 10, 1994. It
is available from the U.S. Catholic Conference and the Daughters of
St. Paul. Copies may be ordered from area Catholic Bookstores.
The Pope is asking us to repent in preparation for this anniversary
of our Lord's coming. Actually, this is a most appropriate form of
preparation. It is very Biblical as well. John the Baptist told the
people to repent in preparation for our Lord's appearance in their
midst. We see this in Matthew 3, Mark 1, and Luke 3.
Jesus Himself began His preaching on this theme as we read in Matthew
4:17. "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, `Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
This theme of repentance is central to the whole life and mission of
Jesus. The name Jesus means "God is Salvation." The angel in Matthew
1:21 explained that Jesus would receive this name because He would
save His people from their sins.
On another occasion, some of the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus
for a sign. Jesus answered that the only sign for an evil generation
would be the sign of Jonah. Jesus then went on to explain in Matthew
12:38-42 and Luke 11:29-32 that the sign of Jonah is repentance. In
the midst of the wickedness of modern times, perhaps repentance will
be the sign of God's grace for us as well.
Not only do the gospels begin with this theme of repentance. They end
with it as well. In Luke 24:47, the risen Christ tells the disciples
"that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His
name to all nations."
One way we Catholics express repentance is through the Sacrament of
Penance or Confession. Regular use of the Sacrament of Penance can be
a sign that we are following the gospel's call to repent. This season
of Lent is a time for repentance. Paragraph 1434 of the Catechism
notes that fasting, prayer, and almsgiving express conversion in
relation to oneself, to God, and to others.
The first Sacrament of conversion is Baptism. In our Baptismal
promises we first renounce sin and Satan. Then we profess our faith
in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each year at the Easter
Masses we renew these promises of our Baptism.
I see the Pope's letter as calling for a renewal of Baptism for the
whole Church. He is calling for repentance and renewal of our faith
in the Holy Trinity. We are invited to use these final years as a big
Lent or Holy Week, leading to the Jubilee celebration in the year
Specifically, the Pope calls upon us to use the first period as a
time of repentance. This is the period from 1994 through 1996. Among
other things, our Holy Father calls for repentance for the sins of
disunity. In this and others of his letters, Pope John Paul II has
called for a renewal of ecumenical efforts between all Christian
The final three years are then to be a time to focus on the three
persons of the Blessed Trinity. 1997 will be devoted to reflection on
Jesus Christ. 1998 will be dedicated to the Holy Spirit and His
sanctifying presence among us. In 1999 we will focus on our Father in
Our Holy Father is quite active as he approaches his 75th birthday in
May. He is also releasing at this time his newest encyclical,
"Evangelium Vitae," or "The Gospel of Life." This should be available
at area bookstores soon. This encyclical focuses on abortion,
euthanasia and embryonic experiments as growing threats to human
life. It also speaks about contraception and "in vitro"
fertilization, practices which are morally wrong.