THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS INTRODUCTION|
Today we bring you, in preparation for Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday this week, the first of a two part installment containing the Holy Father's Papal Lenten Message for the universal Church for this Jubilee Year 2000. It was first released on January 27th this year and we saved it until the beginning of this week in which the Pope emphasizes the theme of reconciliation as part of the conversion process which will have its emphasis next Sunday on "Mea Culpa" Sunday during the First Sunday of Lent. This is the same message the Blessed Virgin Mary has been imparting at Medjugorje and elsewhere in doing penance, sacrifice, fasting and prayer in order to convert our hearts and forgive so that we may be forgiven as God asks of all of His children. Following is the first of a two part installment that will be completed tomorrow. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency.
"I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28: 20).
1. This year, the celebration of Lent, a time of conversion and reconciliation, takes on a particular character, occurring as it does during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The time of Lent is in fact the culminating point of the journey of conversion and reconciliation which the Jubilee, the year of the Lord's favour, offers to all the faithful, so that they can renew their fidelity to Christ and proclaim his mystery of salvation with renewed ardour in the new millennium. Lent helps Christians to enter more deeply into this "mystery hidden for ages" (Ephesians 3:9): it leads them to come face to face with the word of the living God and urges them to give up their own selfishness in order to receive the saving activity of the Holy Spirit.
2. We were dead through sin (cf. Ephesians 2:5): this is how Saint Paul describes the situation of man without Christ. This is why the Son of God wished to unite himself to human nature, ransoming it from the slavery of sin and death. This is a slavery which man experiences every day, as he perceives its deep roots in his own heart (cf. Matthew 7:11). Sometimes it shows itself in dramatic and unusual ways, as happened in the course of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, which deeply marked the lives of countless communities and individuals, the victims of cruel violence. Forced deportations, the systematic elimination of peoples, contempt for the fundamental rights of the person: these are the tragedies which even today humiliate humanity. In daily life too we see all sorts of forms of fraud, hatred, the destruction of others, and lies of which man is both the victim and source. Humanity is marked by sin. Its tragic condition reminds us of the cry of alarm uttered by the Apostle to the nations: "None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10; cf. Ps 14:3).
3. In the face of the darkness of sin and man's incapacity to free himself on his own, there appears in all its splendour the saving work of Christ: "God appointed Him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding of His blood, and so showed His justness" (Romans 3:25). Christ is the Lamb Who has taken upon Himself the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29). He shared in human life "unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8), to ransom mankind from the slavery of evil and restore humanity to its original dignity as children of God. This is the paschal mystery in which we are reborn. Here, as the Easter Sequence says, "Death with life contended, combat strangely ended". The Fathers of the Church affirm that in Christ Jesus, the devil attacks the whole of humanity and ensnares it in death, from which however it is freed through the victorious power of the Resurrection. In the Risen Lord death's power is broken and mankind is enabled, through faith, to enter into communion with God. To those who believe, God's very life is given, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the "first gift to those who believe" (Eucharistic Prayer IV). Thus the redemption accomplished on the Cross renews the universe and brings about the reconciliation of God and man, and of people with one another.
4. The Jubilee is the time of grace in which we are invited to open ourselves in a particular way to the mercy of the Father, Who in the Son has stooped down to man, and to reconciliation, the great gift of Christ. This year therefore should become, not only for Christians but also for all people of good will, a precious moment for experiencing the renewing power of God's forgiving and reconciling love. God offers His mercy to whoever is willing to accept it, even to the distant and doubtful. The people of our time, tired of mediocrity and false hopes, are thus given an opportunity to set out on the path that leads to fullness of life. In this context, Lent of the Holy Year 2000 is par excellence "the acceptable time . . . the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2), the particularly favourable opportunity "to be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
During the Holy Year the Church offers various opportunities for personal and community reconciliation. Each Diocese has designated special places where the faithful can go in order to experience a particular presence of God, by recognizing in His light their own sinfulness, and though the Sacrament of Reconciliation to set out on a new path of life. Particular significance attaches to pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to Rome, which are special places of encounter with God, because of their unique role in the history of salvation. How could we fail to set out, at least spiritually, to the Land which two thousand years ago witnessed the passage of the Lord? There "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14) and "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52); there He "went about all the cities and villages . . . preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity" (Matthew 9:35); there He accomplished the mission entrusted to Him by the Father (cf. Jn 19:30) and poured out the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church (cf. John 20:22). I too hope, precisely during Lent of the year 2000, to be a pilgrim in the Holy Land, to the places where our faith began, in order to celebrate the two-thousandth Jubilee of the Incarnation. I invite all Christians to accompany me with their prayers, while I myself, on the various stages of the pilgrimage, shall ask for forgiveness and reconciliation for the sons and daughters of the Church and for all humanity.
Tomorrow: part two of the Holy Father's Lenten Message
March 6, 2000 |
volume 10, no. 46
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
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