HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
AT THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION ON THE OCCASION OF
THE WORLD MEETING WITH FAMILIES
(Sunday, 9 October 1994)
1. “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator . ..”
Dear Brothers and Sisters! Pilgrim Families! The Bishop of Rome greets you today in Saint Peter's Square, at this solemn Eucharist. This is the Eucharist of the Year of the Family. We are spiritually united with all those who have welcomed the invitation of this Year, and who are here present with us in spirit. Together with them we profess our faith in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
In the First Reading, taken from the Book of Genesis, the Liturgy of this Sunday directs us to the truth about creation. In particular it recalls the truth about the creation of man "in the image and likeness of God" (cf. 1:27). Male and female, man was created in the image and likeness of God himself: "male and female he created them" (ibid.). The man - the male, "leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). In that oneness they give life to new human beings: they become parents. They share in the creative power of God himself.
Today, all those who share in the mystery of creation through their motherhood or fatherhood proclaim “God - the Father almighty, Creator. . .”
They profess that God is Father, because their human motherhood and fatherhood comes from him. And, in professing their faith, they entrust themselves to God, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Eph 3:15), for the great task which involves them personally as parents: the work of bringing up their children. “To be a father - to be a mother” means "being involved in bringing up”. And to bring up also means to give life: to give life in the spiritual sense.
2. “I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God . . . by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man”.
We believe in Christ who is the Eternal Word: "God from God, Light from Light". He, because he is of one being with the Father, is the One through whom all things were made. He became man for us and for our salvation. As the Son of man he sanctified the Family of Nazareth, which had received him at night in Bethlehem and had saved him from the cruelty of Herod. This Family - in which Joseph, spouse of the most pure Virgin Mary, took the place, for the Son, of the Heavenly Father - became the gift of God to every family: the Holy Family.
We believe in Jesus Christ, who sanctified family life through thirty years of living in the home at Nazareth. He sanctified human work, helping Joseph in the toil of maintaining the Holy Family.
We believe in Jesus Christ, who confirmed and renewed the original sacrament of marriage and of family life, as the Gospel reading which we have listened to reminds us (cf. Mk 10:2-16). In it we have listened to Christ who, in his conversation with the Pharisees, refers to the "beginning", when God "created man - male and female he created them", so that by becoming "one flesh" (cf. Mk 10:6-8) they might transmit life to new human beings. Christ says: "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mk 10:8-9). Christ, the Witness to the Father and to his Love, builds the human family on a marriage which is indissoluble.
3. I believe - we believe - in Jesus Christ who was crucified - condemned to death on the cross by Pontius Pilate. By freely accepting his passion and death on the Cross he redeemed the world. Rising on the third day, he confirmed his divine Power and proclaimed the victory of life over death.
In this way Christ entered the history of all families, for their calling is to serve life. The history of the life and death of every human being is an integral part of the vocation of the human family, which gives life but also shares in a very special way in the experience of death. Present in this experience is Christ who says: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me . . . shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26).
We believe in Jesus Christ who, as the Redeemer, is the Church's Spouse, as Saint Paul teaches us in the Letter to the Ephesians. On this spousal love is based the sacrament of marriage and of the family in the New Covenant. "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her . . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies" (Eph 5:25.28). In the same spirit, Saint John exhorts everyone (and in particular married couples and families) to mutual love: "If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 Jn 4:12).
Dear Brothers and Sisters! Today we give thanks in a special way for that love which Christ has taught us: the love that "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom 5:5), the love which has been given to you in the sacrament of marriage and which since then has never ceased to nourish your union, leading you to the gift of self to each other. With the passing of the years that love has also embraced your children, who owe to you the gift of life. What joy is awakened in us by the love which Jesus showed to children: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God' (Mk 10:14).
Today we ask Christ that all parents and teachers in the world may have their share in that love with which he embraces children and young people. He looks into their hearts with the love and care of a father and, at the same time, of a mother.
4. "1 believe in the Holy Spirit". We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the One who gives life, who is "Lord and Giver of Life" ("Dominum et Vivificantem"). Is he not the One who planted in your hearts that love which enables you to be together as husbands and wives, as fathers and mothers, for the good of that basic community which is the family? On the day of your wedding,
when you swore to remain faithful and to love and honour each other all the days of your lives, the Church called upon the Holy Spirit in this moving prayer: "Bestow upon them the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that your love, which has been poured forth into their hearts, will enable them to remain faithful in the covenant of marriage" (Rituale Romanum, Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium, No.74).
Truly these are moving words! Human hearts, filled with spousal love, cry out that their love may always gain "power from on high" (cf. Acts 1:8). Thanks solely to that power which flows from the unity of the Blessed Trinity can they become one - one until death. Thanks solely to the Holy Spirit will their love be able to accept the responsibilities both of husband and wife and of parents. This is the love which the Holy Spirit "pours forth" into human hearts. It is a noble and pure love. It is a fruitful love. It is a love which gives life. A "most fair" love. All that Saint Paul included in his "hymn to love" (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-3) constitutes the deepest foundation of family life.
For this reason we renew today, in the presence of so many families from throughout the world, our faith in the Holy Spirit, and we pray that all his gifts may ever remain in families: the gift of wisdom and understanding, the gift of counsel and knowledge, the gift of fortitude and piety. And the gift of the fear of God, which is the "beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111:10).
5. Dear Brothers and Sisters! All Families gathered here! All Christian Families throughout the world! Build your lives upon the foundation of the Sacrament which the Apostle calls "great" (cf. Eph 5:32)! Do you not see how much you are part of the mystery of the Living God - that God in whom we profess our faith in the Apostles' Creed?
"I believe in the Holy Spirit (. . .) I believe in the Holy Church" ("unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam"). You are the 'domestic Church' (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11), as the Fathers and writers of the first centuries taught. The Church built on the foundation of the Apostles begins with you: "Ecclesiola - domestic Church". The Church is thus the Family of families. Faith in the Church rekindles our faith in the family. The mystery of the Church - this fascinating mystery, so profoundly presented in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council - is reflected precisely in families.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! Live in this light! May the Church throughout the world continue to grow as the living unity of the particular Churches: communio Ecclesiarum - including those "domestic churches" which are your families!
And when you recite the words of the Creed which speak of the Church, realize that they are speaking of you!
6. We profess our faith in the Church and this faith remains closely linked to the beginning of the "new life" to which God has called us in Christ. We profess our belief in this Life. And in professing it, we recall the many baptismal fonts in the world in which we were born to this life. And then later to these baptismal fonts you have brought your own sons and daughters. We profess our belief that Baptism is a Sacrament of rebirth “of water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5). In this Sacrament we receive forgiveness of original sin and all other sins, and we become adopted children of God in the likeness of Christ, who alone is the "Only-Begotten" and "Eternal" Son of the Father.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! Dear Families! How great is the mystery of which you have become sharers! Dear fathers and mothers, how profoundly your fatherhood and motherhood is linked, through the Church, with the eternal fatherhood of God himself!
7. We believe in the Holy Church! We believe in the Communion of Saints. We believe in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the dead and in the life of the world to come.
On the very eve of the Third Millennium, do we not need to commit ourselves to living this particular Year, the Year of the Family, in this context of salvation? From the mystery of man's creation as "communio personarum", we have thus passed to the mystery of the "communio sanctorum". Human life, which takes its beginning from God himself, has in him its goal, its fulfilment. The Church lives in constant communion with all the saints and beati who live in God. In God there is also the eternal “communion” of all who, here on earth, have been fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. None of them is separated from us. They are united in the common history of salvation, which through victory over sin and death leads to life eternal, where God "will wipe every tear from our eyes" (cf. Rev 21:4). There we will find him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He in turn will find us. He will dwell in us, for then it will be made clear that He - He alone, who is "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last" (Rev 22:13) - will be "everything to everyone" (1 Cor 15:28).
8. Dear Families gathered here! Families of all the world! It is my hope that through today's Eucharist, through our common prayer, you will always be able to recognize your vocation - your vocation in the Church and in the world. You have received this vocation from Christ who "sanctifies us" and "who is not ashamed to call us brethren", as we read in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews (cf. Heb 2:11). Today this Christ says to all of you: "Go therefore to all the world and teach all families" (cf. Mt 28:19). Proclaim to them the Gospel of eternal salvation, which is the "Gospel of the family". The Gospel - the Good News - is Christ. "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).