SATURDAY
March 24, 2001
volume 12, no. 83

Keeping the Spirit of the Jubilee Alive

One Year Ago Today:

100,000 YOUTHS DEFY COLD AND RAIN TO SEE POPE
Largest Event Organized by Church in Israel

    JERUSALEM, MAR 24 (ZENIT.org).- Last night, thousands of youths spent the night in the rain and cold in order to be able to celebrate Mass with the Holy Father today. Those who could found shelter in buses, schools and even in kibbutzes. They came to the Mount of the Beatitudes to take part in a multitudinous meeting organized by the Church in Israel. Some estimates say there were as many as 120,000 present, and even the most conservative guesses stand at 90,000. In the past, perhaps only Yitzhak Rabin's funeral brought so many people together in this country.

    While they waited for the Pope, Kiko ArgŁello, founder of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, sang and played the guitar along with a group of youths, who also sang and played musical instruments. Groups of boys and girls danced in a circle. The commentator on Israeli television wondered why so many youths had come to see the Pope.

    Half of them, about 50,000, were members of Neo-Catechumenal communities from around the world. On these hills, the Way has established the "Domus Galileae" (House of Galilee), which is an important center for the formation of priests and seminarians. It was inaugurated today by the Pope before he celebrated the Mass. The other half came from other movements and ecclesial institutions, such as Communion and Liberation, the Focolares, Opus Dei, as well as parishes and dioceses from different parts of the world. There were 80 countries represented. Given his presence in the Holy land, the exhausting wait, and the celebration, John Paul II wanted to give the world a very strong message: peace in the Middle East needs a new generation. A great surprise was the significant participation of Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all of whom live with the local Christian communities.

    The setting could not have been better. On this Mount (rather than a Mount it is a 15-meter high mountain), Jesus proclaimed the most illogical Law: "Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the meek," "Blessed are those who are persecuted ..." This Law can only be understood by love. John Paul II repeated this message, which has given life to Christians for 2000 years, and the youth responded with that generosity which has always characterized their meetings with the Pontiff.

    John Paul II celebrated Mass in a gigantic red balcony, with an enormous black curtain, that was a reminder of the Exodus and the passage of the people of Israel through the desert. 12 Cardinals, 100 Bishops and 1,200 priests concelebrated.

    The presence of so many youths seem to take years off the Pope who, during the homily, described the meeting as a trial run for the World Youth Day, which will be held in Rome in August.

    The Holy Father vividly described the spiritual combat that engages every youth. On one hand, he spoke about the message of Jesus' Beatitudes, which exalts the poor in spirit, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who are persecuted .... On the other, he referred to that voice that every person hears in his interior: "'Blessed are the proud and violent, those who prosper at any cost, who are unscrupulous, pitiless, devious, who make war not peace, and persecute those who stand in their way.' And this voice seems to make sense in a world where the violent often triumph and the devious seem to succeed. 'Yes,' says the voice of evil, 'they are the ones who win.' "

    Today, as he did 2000 years ago, Christ calls. "He calls you now. Which voice will the young people of the 21st century choose to follow? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem," the Holy Father encouraged.

    "To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in today's world. But Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge. He is always with you to transform your weakness into strength," John Paul II continued.

    The Pope today placed the same mission in the hands of youth that Jesus himself entrusted to his disciples. "Now, at the dawn of the Third Millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Young people of the Holy Land, young people of the world: answer the Lord with a heart that is willing and open!"

    The youths responded "yes," to the Pope's invitation, and released 12 doves, a symbol of the 12 Apostles who, 2000 years ago, went out from here to the whole world with the Gospel message.

    In the afternoon, John Paul II met Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the house of the Shrine of the Mount of the Beatitudes in Korazim. He then went to Tabgha, which is on the northeastern shore of Lake Tiberias, where he visited the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves. According to tradition, the rock on which Jesus placed the loaves was made into the altar of a church. The ruins of that church, built in 350 A.D., are to the right of the present altar, entrusted to the Benedictines.

    The Holy Father then visited the Church of Peter's Primacy, reconstructed in 1933 by the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land. From this Church he went to Capernaum, located on Lake Tiberias, where he saw the Shrine of St. Peter's House, which was inaugurated on June 29, 1990 by Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy and is also entrusted to the Custodians of the Holy Land.

    Following these visits, which were of a private character, John Paul II returned by helicopter to the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem to dine and spend the night. ZE00032411

PAPAL HOMILY TO YOUTH ON MOUNT OF BEATITUDES March 24, 2000

    "Consider your calling, brothers and sisters" (1 Corinthians 1:26).

1. Today these words of Saint Paul are addressed to all of us who have come here to the Mount of the Beatitudes. We sit on this hill like the first disciples, and we listen to Jesus. In the stillness, we hear his gentle and urgent voice, as gentle as this land itself and as urgent as a call to choose between life and death.

    How many generations before us have been deeply moved by the Sermon on the Mount! How many young people down the centuries have gathered around Jesus to learn the words of eternal life, as you are gathered here today! How many young hearts have been inspired by the power of his personality and the compelling truth of his message! It is wonderful that you are here!

    Thank you, Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, for your kind welcome. Please take my prayerful greeting to the whole Greek-Melkite community over which you preside. I extend my fraternal good wishes to the many Cardinals, to Patriarch Sabbah, and to many Bishops present and all the priests. I greet the members of the Latin community, including the Hebrew-speaking faithful, the Maronite community, the Syrian community, the Armenian community, the Chaldean community, and all our brothers and sisters of the other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I extend a special word of thanks to our Muslim friends, to the members of the Jewish faith and to the Druse community.

    This great gathering is like a rehearsal for the World Youth Day to be held in August in Rome! The young man who spoke promised that you will come. Young people of Israel, of the Palestinian Territories, of Jordan and Cyprus; young people of the Middle East, of Africa and Asia, of Europe, America and Oceania! With love and affection I greet each one of you!

2. The first to hear the Beatitudes of Jesus bore in their hearts the memory of another mountain ≠ Mount Sinai. Just a month ago, I had the grace of going there, where God spoke to Moses and gave the Law, "written with the finger of God" (Ex 31:18) on the tablets of stone. These two mountains ≠ Sinai and the Mount of the Beatitudes ≠ offer us the roadmap of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities to God and neighbour. The Law and the Beatitudes together mark the path of the following of Christ and the royal road to spiritual maturity and freedom.

    The Ten Commandments of Sinai may seem negative: "You will have no false gods before Me; . . . do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness..." (Ex 20:3, 13-16). But in fact they are supremely positive. Moving beyond the evil they name, they point the way to the law of love which is the first and greatest of the commandments: "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. . . You will love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37, 39). Jesus Himself says that He came not to abolish but to fulfil the Law (cf. Mt 5:17). His message is new but it does not destroy what went before; it leads what went before to its fullest potential. Jesus teaches that the way of love brings the Law to fulfilment (cf. Gal 5:14). And He taught this enormously important truth on this hill here in Galilee.

3. "'Blessed are you!', He says, 'all you who are poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, you who mourn, who care for what is right, who are pure in heart, who make peace, you who are persecuted! Blessed are you!'" But the words of Jesus may seem strange. It is strange that Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He says to them, "Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the true winners: the kingdom of Heaven is yours!" Spoken by Him Who is "gentle and humble in heart" (Mt 11:29), these words present a challenge which demands a deep and abiding metanoia of the spirit, a great change of heart.

    You young people will understand why this change of heart is necessary! Because you are aware of another voice within you and all around you, a contradictory voice. It is a voice which says, "Blessed are the proud and violent, those who prosper at any cost, who are unscrupulous, pitiless, devious, who make war not peace, and persecute those who stand in their way". And this voice seems to make sense in a world where the violent often triumph and the devious seem to succeed. "Yes", says the voice of evil, "they are the ones who win. Happy are they!"

4. Jesus offers a very different message. Not far from this very place Jesus called His first disciples, as he calls you now. His call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts even now on this hill, the choice between good and evil, between life and death. Which voice will the young people of the twenty-first century choose to follow? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what He says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

    In the end, Jesus does not merely speak the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He is the Beatitudes. Looking at Him you will see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say, "Come, follow Me!" He does not say simply, "Do what I say". He says, "Come, follow Me!"

    You hear His voice on this hill, and you believe what He says. But like the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee, you must leave your boats and nets behind, and that is never easy ≠ especially when you face an uncertain future and are tempted to lose faith in your Christian heritage. To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in today's world. But Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge. He is always with you to transform your weakness into strength. Trust Him when He says: "My grace is enough for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9)!

5. The disciples spent time with the Lord. They came to know and love Him deeply. They discovered the meaning of what the Apostle Peter once said to Jesus: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68). They discovered that the words of eternal life are the words of Sinai and the words of the Beatitudes. And this is the message which they spread everywhere.

    At the moment of His Ascension Jesus gave His disciples a mission and this reassurance: "All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . and behold I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:18-20). For two thousand years Christ's followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the Third Millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, He speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for the people of the twenty-first century no less than those of the first century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into Christ's Kingdom. Now it is your turn to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom!

    Young people of the Holy Land, Young people of the world: answer the Lord with a heart that is willing and open! Willing and open, like the heart of the greatest daughter of Galilee, Mary, the Mother of Jesus. How did she respond? She said: "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

    O Lord Jesus Christ, in this place that You knew and loved so well, listen to these generous young hearts! Continue to teach these young people the truth of the Commandments and the Beatitudes! Make them joyful witnesses to Your truth and convinced apostles of Your Kingdom! Be with them always, especially when following You and the Gospel becomes difficult and demanding! You will be their strength; You will be their victory!

    O Lord Jesus, You have made these young people Your friends: keep them for ever close to You! Amen. ZE00032420

PAPAL MASS AT MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES

    JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes on March 24, with an estimated 100,000 young people in attendance.

    The outdoor location for the Mass, on the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, was soaked by rain on the previous day. Nevertheless, thousands of young people gathered there, beginning on the night before the celebration, bringing plastic sheets and cardboard boxes to protect themselves from the mud. The Fides news service observed that the enormous crowd-- possibly the largest in Israel's history-- was "a sort of dress rehearsal for the next World Youth Day in August in Rome."

    Most of the congregation came from Israel and the Palestinian territories, although thousands also came from nearby countries such as Lebanon and Syria. There were also groups arriving on pilgrimages from Europe (an estimated 17,000 from Italy, 9,000 from Spain) and even American (10,000) and Asian (1,000) countries.

    Dozens of lay groups were in evidence, among them Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, and Fololare. But the largest single presence was that of the Neo-Catechumenate Way, which is building a large new seminary and study center nearby in the hills of Galilee. As he arrived at the Mount of the Beatitudes, approaching from the nearby town of Korazim where his helicopter had landed, Pope John Paul stopped briefly to see the construction site of the study center, which is known as Domus Galilaeae. Kiko Arguello, the founder of the Neo-Catechumenate Way, led in the singing for the young people, playing his guitar, and joined by a variety of other performers on different instruments. "It is marvelous to see you here today," the Pope told the young crowd before the Mass. He too compared the occasion to the coming World Youth Day.

    In his homily, the Pontiff said that the Sermon on the Mount constitutes a challenge from Christ, prodding the believer toward "a great conversion of the heart." He continued, speaking with emphasis: "You young people, you know why this change of heart is necessary." He observed that the young people would understand how the voice of conscience conflicts with the message of a materialistic society.

    Unlike those who suggest that happiness can be gained by self-gratification, the Pope explained, "Jesus offers a very different message" in the Sermon on the Mount. "And moreover, He was not content to proclaim the beatitudes. He lived them."

    "Which voice will the young people of the 21st century follow?" the Pope asked. It is not easy to follow the example of Christ, he conceded, but he urged his young listeners: "It is up to you, today, to be courageous apostles of the kingdom."

    After celebrating Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes on March 24, Pope John Paul II made a short interruption of his pilgrimage through the Holy Land to issue a statement of support for peace talks involving Ethiopia and Eritrea.

    During his visit to Galilee, the Pontiff said, "my thoughts turn hopefully toward the initiatives taken by the Organization for African Unity to reestablish peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea." The Pope indicated that these peace talks are now at a "very delicate stage," and he asked for prayers "that a just solution can be found in that part of the world."

POPE VISITS CAPHARNAUM, HOME OF ST. PETER

    JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- During the afternoon of March 24, Pope John Paul II continued his pilgrimage through the Holy Land by visiting three sites linked to the New Testament, and particularly to St. Peter.

    First the Pontiff spent some time at prayer in a 20th-century church on the site of the multiplication of the loaves. The new church, built over the ruins of an early Christian sanctuary, is now served by Benedictine monks. Built in the Byzantine style, the church is decorated with unusually fine mosaics, including one 6th-century piece that depicts the Gospel story of how Jesus fed the crowd. One of the Benedictine monks showed the Pontiff an ancient key, dating back to the end of the 1st century, which was found in the ruins of what is believed to be St. Peter's home. Father Bargil Pixner, a renowned archeologist, remarked: "This is the key to the first Vatican!" Next the Pope visited another church, entrusted to the Franciscans of the Holy Land, built on the spot where, after the Resurrection, Christ told Peter to "feed my sheep." This church-- on the shore of the Sea of Galilee-- is dedicated to the primacy of Peter. For that reason, the Pope was particularly insistent on including it in his pilgrimage.

    Finally, John Paul visited Capharnaum, where St. Peter lived as a fisherman before leaving that work behind to follow Christ. There he saw the ruins of another home where Peter once lived, and of the synagogue where Jesus once preached.

    After these three visits, as night began to fall over Galilee, the Pope took another helicopter ride back to Jerusalem where he would spend the night.



March 24, 2001
volume 12, no. 83
JUBILEE MOMENTS TO REMEMBER
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