Eucharist on the Mount of Beatitudes with young people 3/24/2000
S. John Paul II
Korazín, March 24, 2000
John Paul II celebrated – on the morning of Friday, March 24 – the Holy Mass for young people on the Mount of Beatitudes. At the beginning of the meeting the Archbishop of Akka of the Greek-Melchites. Msgr. Boutros Mouallem and a young man addressed a few words of welcome to the Pope. This is the homily of John Paul II in an English translation. “Look, brothers, at your vocation!” (1 Cor 1:26).
1. Today these words of Saint Paul are addressed to all of us who have come here, to the Mount of Beatitudes. We are sitting on this hill like the first disciples, and we listen to Jesus. In silence we listen to his kind and pressing voice, as kind as this earth and as pressing as an invitation 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 throughout 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 driven by the strength of his personality and the pressing truth of his message! It is wonderful that you are here!
Thank you, Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, for your kind welcome. Please convey my cordial greetings to the entire Greek-Melkite community that you preside over. I extend my fraternal greeting to the many Cardinals, to Patriarch Sabbah, as well as to the bishops and priests present here. I greet the members of the Latin communities, including the Hebrew, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian, Chaldean faithful and all our brothers and sisters from the other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities. In particular, I thank our Muslim friends, members of the Jewish faith, as well as the Druze community. This great gathering is like a general rehearsal for World Youth Day to be held in Rome in August! The young man who has spoken has promised that you will have another mountain, Mount Sinai. Young people from Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Cyprus, young people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Europe, America and Oceania. I greet each one of you with affection and love.
2. The first to hear the Beatitudes of Jesus kept in their hearts the memory of another mountain, Mount Sinai. Just a month ago, I had the grace to go there, where God spoke to Moses and gave him the Law, “written by the finger of God” (Ex 31, 18) on stone tablets. These two mountains, Sinai and of the Beatitudes, offer us the map of our Christian life and a synthesis of our responsibilities before God and our neighbor. The Law and the Beatitudes together mark the path of following Christ and the royal path to maturity and spiritual freedom. The ten commandments of Sinai may seem negative: «There shall be no other gods for you before me;… You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness … »(Ex 20, 3. 13-16). But, nevertheless, they are extremely 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 shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. . . You shall love your neighbor 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 came before. On the contrary, it leads what came 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 very important truth on this hill here in Galilee.
3. “Blessed are you” -he says- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the pure in heart, those who strive after peace and the persecuted! Blessed are you! ”. 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!”. These words, spoken by him, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), pose a challenge that requires a deep and constant metanoia of the spirit, a great transformation of the heart.
You young people 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, irreligious, 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 dishonest seem to succeed. “Yes”, says the voice of evil, “they are the ones who win. Blessed 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 seductions of evil, no matter how attractive they may seem. Furthermore, Jesus not only proclaims the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He embodies the Beatitudes. Looking at him, you will see what it means to be poor in spirit, meek and merciful, to mourn, to be hungry and thirsty for justice, clean in heart, work for peace and 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 got 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 handmaid 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 arduous. 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!
At the end of the Holy Mass, celebrated on the Mount of Beatitudes, the Holy Father wanted to address a few words of greeting to different groups of pilgrims who have come to him for the celebration. After having greeted the young people from Italy, the Pope addressed those of French, German, Spanish, English, Polish, Hebrew, and Arabic language. This is our translation of the Pope’s words:
«At the end of this joyful Eucharistic Celebration, I want to thank all of you, dear young people, who have come in great numbers from near and far, as disciples of Jesus, to hear his word. Starting from this Mount of Beatitudes, each one of you must be a messenger of the Gospel of the Beatitudes. I especially greet the young Neocatechumenals with Kiko and Carmen who have come here in great numbers from all over the world. I tell you all, may Christ accompany you on the ways of the world.
May Mary also accompany you – as I will remember tomorrow in Nazareth – with her fiat cooperated in the great mystery of the Incarnation, of which the Jubilee Year celebrates two thousand years. God bless you! I cordially greet the French-speaking young people present at this wonderful gathering in the course of which, on this mountain, we have been able to listen in a renewed way to the Good News of the Beatitudes. I wait for you in Rome for the World Youth Day.
I extend a cordial greeting to the German-speaking youth. The mountain of the Beatitudes reminds us of the demand of our being Christians: the program of the Sermon on the Mount. May your personal testimony become a living sermon of all that Jesus has announced in this place! I greet with great joy all the young people present of the Spanish language. Here in Galilee, Jesus Himself has shown us the way of the Beatitudes. May the strength and beauty of this teaching guide our lives! Jesus invites us all to be “fishers of men”. He says to each one of us: “Come and follow me!” Do not be afraid to answer this call, because He is your strength. In August I am waiting for you in Rome for the World Youth Day.
To the youth from the English areas of the world and all of you I say: Be worthy followers of Christ! In the Spirit of the Beatitudes be the light of the world!
Dear young people from Poland: Your presence here makes me very happy. It is a sign of hope for our homeland. So many of you have sat today at the feet of Jesus. He who is the hope of the human family. From his mouth you have heard what truly blessed means, what it means keeping the commandments and living according to the spirit of the Beatitudes. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to Jesus and follow him like his disciples. Then your hearts will be filled with joy and you will become a Blessing for Poland and for the world. I wish you with all my heart.
To the Hebrew-speaking youth I say: Strive after peace! God be with you! ».