||Pray God to have mercy on millennium now closing
his homily on Friday evening, 31 December 1999 in St Peter's Basilica, during
the celebration of First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and of
the Te Deum for the end of year, the Holy Father asked the faithful taking part
to "thank God for all that has happened this year, this century and this
millennium". 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).
What is "the fullness of time" of which the Apostle speaks?
Experience teaches us that time passes relentlessly. All creatures are
subject to the passage of time. Only man, however, is aware of his own passing
in time. He realizes that his personal history is tied to the flow of days.
Aware of its own "passing", humanity writes its own history: the
history of individuals, States and continents, the history of cultures and
religions. Let us ask ourselves this evening: what, above all else, has marked
the millennium now ending? How did the geography of countries, the situation of
peoples and nations appear a thousand years ago? Who knew then of the existence
of another great continent to the west of the Atlantic Ocean? The
discovery of America, which gave rise to a new era in humanity's history, is
certainly a distinctive element in evaluating the millennium now ending.
This last century has also been marked by profound and sometimes rapid
upheavals, which have influenced culture and relations between peoples. Let it
suffice to think of the two oppressive ideologies, responsible for
countless victims, which have spent themselves in this century. What sufferings,
what tragedies! But also what exalting achievements! These years, entrusted to
humanity by the Creator, are marked by man's efforts, failures and triumphs (cf.
Gaudium et spes, n. 2).
The greatest risk at this epochal turning point is perhaps that 'many of our
contemporaries are prevented by this complex situation from recognizing
permanent values and duly applying them to recent discoveries" (Gaudium
et spes, n. 4). This is a great challenge for us men and women on the point
of entering the Year 2000.
2. "When the time had fully come!'. The liturgy tells us of the "fullness
of time" and enlightens us on the meaning of this
"fullness". God chose to send his eternal Word into the history of
the great human family, having him take on our human nature. It was through
the sublime event of the Incarnation that human and cosmic time achieved true
fullness: 'When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born
of woman ... that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). Here
is the great mystery: the eternal Word of God, Verbum Patris, became
present in the events that constitute man's history on earth. With the
Incarnation of the Son of God, eternity entered time and human history was
opened to a transcendent fulfilment in the absoluteness of God.
Human beings are thus offered an inconceivable prospect: they can aspire to
be sons of the Son, heirs with him to the same glorious destiny. The earthly
pilgrimage is thus a journey that occurs in God's time. Its goal is God himself,
the fullness of time in eternity.
3. In the eyes of faith, time assumes a religious meaning and even
more so during the Jubilee Year which has just begun. Christ is the Lord of
time. Every moment of human time is under the sign of the Redemption of
the Lord, who, once and for all, entered the "fullness of time" (cf.
Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 10). In this perspective let us thank God
for all that has happened this year, this century and this millennium. In a
special way, we give thanks for the continual progress in the spiritual world.
Let us give thanks for the saints of this millennium: those raised to the
honours of the altar and, even more numerous, those unknown to us who sanctified
time by their faithful adherence to God's will. Let us also give thanks for all
of humanity's triumphs and successes in the fields of science, technology, art
Implore God's forgiveness on the millennium now ending
With regard to the Diocese of Rome, let us give thanks for the spiritual
journey made in past years and, with a view to the Great Jubilee, for having
completed the City Mission. I remember that evening of 22 May, the
Vigil of Pentecost, when we prayed together to the Holy Spirit that in the new
century this special pastoral experience would be come a form and model for the
Church's life and pastoral care in Rome and in all the other countries and
cities of the world, at the service of the new evangelization.
As we give thanks to God, we feel the need at the same time to implore him to
have mercy on the millennium which is ending. We ask forgiveness because
unfortunately, technological and scientific discoveries so important for genuine
human pro have frequently been used against man: Miserere
4. Two thousand years have passed since "the Word became flesh and
dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of
the only Son from the Father" (Jn 1:14). This is why the hymn of our
praise and gratitude is unanimously raised: Te Deum
We praise you, God of life and hope.
We praise you, Christ, King of glory, eternal Son of the Father.
Born of the Virgin Mother, you are our Redeemer, you became our brother for
man's salvation, and you will come in glory to judge the world at the end of
You, Christ, the goal of human history, are the focal point of the
expectations of every human being.
The years and the centuries belong to you. Time is yours, O Christ, who are
the same yesterday, today and for ever.