It seems like just yesterday His Holiness Pope John Paul II was kneeling before the great, majestic Holy Door in St. Peter's on Christmas Eve before opening wide the Doors to Christ and crossing over the threshhold to officially usher in this magnificent Jubilee Year that has been like no other in the long and illustrious history of Holy Mother Church. And in less than a week on January 6, 2001 - the Feast of the Epiphany the 264th in the line of Peter will bring down the curtain on a very special year, a year like no other in the history of the Church.
Vatican City is the crown jewel of Rome. This special gem has been hewn over the centuries, cut, damaged, scratched, stolen, suppressed and in the 20th and now 21st century - polished. As Jesus intended, it is His diamond in the rough shining brightly from a mighty city within a city that over the millenniums has seen its share of invasions, persecutions, sackings and occupation. She has also had great prosperity and plagues, emperors and encyclicals, antipopes and the Axis powers, sinners and saints. After this past year, with the record swell of nearly 30 million pilgrims visiting Vatican City this Jubilee Year, the Church has glistened.
The memories and impact are forever embossed in our hearts and minds. On Christmas Eve 1999 the Square was lit with lights and anticipation like never before. On New Year's Eve fireworks burst joyfully over the Holy See. Who can forget the solemn Reconciliation ceremonies inside St. Peter's on the First Sunday of Lent or the joyous canonization of the millennium's first saint Saint Faustina Kowalska on Divine Mercy Sunday? Each week St. Peter's Square overflowed with special Jubilee events that celebrated different walks of life the world over. Who can forget the World Youth Days wave of young from all over the globe who listened intently to the Popes forgiving words of love under the unforgiving Italian summer sun? There are so many memories etched in history from this past year and one thing is certain: Rome will never be the same!
As Catholics we have taken great interest in following the activities of the Holy See each week as vocations from all walks of life have been honored and elevated with special Jubilee recognition throughout this past year in which nearly 30 million visited St. Peter's.
Who can forget the moving scenes of the Holy Father standing where Moses did on Mt. Sinai? Or the Pope being re-energized by the wave of hundreds of thousands of youthful and exhuberant faithful on the shores of Galilee where Christ gathered similar crowds two thousand years ago? Or the massive throngs that ringed the streets of Bethlehem as the Holy Father entered and left the Church of the Nativity? What a different scene nine months later on the 2000th anniversary of this wondrous solemnity. The memories are forever etched in Jerusalem's Holocaust Memorial Yad Veshem of this man from Poland shuffling across the bleak stone cold floor etched with the names of victims of the Nazi horrors, to humbly receive select surviving victims, some of whom John Paul II personally saved from certain death; that same day the Holy Father celebrated the Eucharist in the upper room where Our Lord instituted the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday. Later he prayed near the rock where Jesus wept tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and, we suspect, His Holiness wept silent tears in his heart for this modern age and so few who comprehend the treasures of God's Love and His Holy Church. The next day the Vicar of Christ walked a short ways on Via Dolorosa - the Way of the Cross, then meditated at great length and returned the next day again to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
With the warm receptions afforded the Pope by Arab and Jew, hopes were so high that lasting peace would descend on the Holy Land after so many years of uneasy strife. But, one man can't do it all. This was brought home vividly August when the Holy Father performed an exorcism on a young woman at the Vatican during one of the Pope's appearances. Satan made a point to gloat afterwards that even the Pope could not drive him out. While satan meant to imply the futility of the Church's efforts on earth, he knows very well how much John Paul the Great has kept the Barque of Peter from washing up onto the devastating reefs of irrationalism, immorality and relativism where the binding barnacles of the world, the flesh and the devil wait to suffocate the battered hull. For that reason the evil one is furious at this Sovereign Pontiff and wages all out war on him and Christ's Mystical Body.
This most powerful fallen spirit has pridefully continued his onslaughts in every corner of this globe, from the jungles of Indonesia and Africa to the dry dunes of Iraq and the rocky soil of Palestine, from the liberal chanceries of Canada, Australia and America to the political arenas of the British Isles, Russia, the Philippines, and once-solid Catholic countries now members of the new European Economic Commission to the United States and its Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, satan has assured all (at least those who believe in the devil and the fact there is a hell) that he will not go quietly or easily. But then, for somebody who is brash enough to tempt even Our Lord Himself, what do you expect?
Only Jesus has the power to rid us of lucifer and that is why it is so important souls return to Him for only in Him, as the Pope has preached tirelessly, will we be able to overcome the wiles of the devil. And so, as we end this glorious Jubilee Year 2000, hopefully we have learned. Hopefully we now realize how much work we have ahead of us. Hopefully we will all recommit ever stronger in 2001 to humbly carry out the mission God has for His little ones. Hopefully we have crossed the threshhold of Hope and are now propelled by Faith and Love. Hopefully we will realize the fulness of Christ's words in Matthew 20: 16 and 22: 14, "For many are called, but few are chosen."
If we keep in mind Our Savior's words in John 15: 12-27 and all the Holy Father has encouraged, then we can truly look back on a Jubilee of Jubilation to remember! That will be for loyal Catholics a true epiphany of enlightenment!