Vigil of Great Jubilee of 2000 May 25, 1996
S. John Paul II
St. Peter’s square, may 25, 1996
In the Vigil, during which John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist on the steps of the Vatican Basilica, participated the complete diocesan ecclesial community, religious men and women, parishes, associations, movements and new communities. More than sixty thousand faithful have been counted , while the concelebrating priests (including the Cardinals and the bishops present in the diocese) numbered around 1400. We collect the text of the homily of John Paul II.
“1. Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you …Receive the Holy Spirit! ” (Jn 20, 21-22). In this Pentecost Vigil the Church that is in Rome is reunited like the apostles in the Cenacle after the events of the paschal triduum. They knew that the Lord had risen and appeared to Simon. But Jesus in person came among them and offered the greeting of peace. Then he showed his pierced hands and side, with the visible signs of passion. Yes! It is He. It is the same Jesus, before crucified and now risen. “The disciples were glad to see the Lord” (Jn 20:20). From the afternoon of Easter, Jesus anticipated the Pentecost event: “As the Father sent me, I also send you … Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Dearest Brothers and Sisters of the Diocese of Rome! Through a prayer vigil, reminding of the Easter Vigil, we have gathered here to participate in the solemnity of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, which we have recently heard, recalls what happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost: the sudden rushing wind, the appearance of tongues of fire, the apostles, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to announce the Gospel in languages unknown to them. The Church is born. People belonging to various nations, who use different languages, hear the apostles, who were Galileans, speak in their own language (cf. He 1:11): “We hear them proclaim in our language the wonders of God” (He 2:11 ). It is the solemn beginning of the mission of the apostles, mission received from the Risen One fifty days before, that he had ordered them: “I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit ”(Jn 20, 21.22).
3. “Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur”: “Send your Spirit and they will be created” (cf. Ps 103, 30). Saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit”, Christ reveals the creative power of the Spirit of God that, poured out on every man (cf. Jl 3, 1), restores the unity of mankind broken by sin, in the tower of Babel. Babel is the symbol of disintegration and despair (cf. Gen 11, 1-9). Pentecost instead constitutes the full fulfillment of unity which, by the power of the Spirit of truth, is reconstructed from the multiplicity of human existence and experiences. Christ is placed as the head of the people of the New Covenant: He is the awaited great Prophet. Around him “the sons and daughters” of the new Israel are to gather (cf. Lumen Gentium n. 9), who, encouraged by the life-giving Spirit (cf. Ez 37, 14), personally take part in the salvific mission of Christ, Priest, Prophet and King, following in his footsteps, throughout the centuries and millennia.
4. The second Christian millennium is already at an end. Conscious of the “Tertio Millennium Adveniente”, of the third millennium that is approaching, we are gathered in this particular Cenacle of the Church, constituted tonight next to the tomb of Saint Peter. The almost two millennia that have elapsed look at us, witnessed in a singular way by this place marked by the tombs of martyrs and confessors of the faith. Here we are next to the relics of the apostles, columns of the Church that is in Rome. And it is repeated in our midst, now, what happened on Easter night. Christ, through the Eucharist, goes beyond space and time and becomes present among us, as he did then with those gathered in the Upper Room. He addresses the same words to us: “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, so I also send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. “
5. Receive the Holy Spirit! We are gathered together to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit for the entire ecclesial community of Rome, called to carry out a committed City mission. With this apostolic initiative, the Church that is in Rome intends to open its arms to every person and family in the city and penetrate like leaven into all social spheres of work, suffering, art and culture, announcing and witnessing to those close by and to the distant ones the risen Lord. Dearest brothers and sisters: life in this metropolis, which unfortunately is not free from the temptations of secularism, is subtly threatened by fatigue, indifference, spiritual drowsiness and relativism in which everything is watered and confused. This is why the great City mission that we solemnly inaugurate in this Vigil is directed primarily to believers. Above all, it is an appeal to the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith, renew our fervor and ignite our charity. Do not let our hearts be troubled by fear and bewilderment. On the contrary, relying not on human strength but on the grace that comes from God, let us carry, as witnesses to the truth and love of Christ, the Gospel of hope to all the inhabitants of Rome. In this way we can also influence culture, the way of life, the expectations and projects of the entire city community.
6. Church that are in Rome, the Lord has loved you with unconditional love. For this reason you are rich in spiritual and missionary energies and many more will be aroused in you by the Spirit through mission. I turn first of all to you, dear brothers in the priesthood, consecrated to be the first witnesses of the Gospel and the apostles of truth and unity: be the first tireless agents of the mission, be holy in order to be docile instruments by which God performs the sanctification of his people. This mission must start from the parishes, and you from the parish communities are the responsible and qualified animators. And you, dear men and women religious, called to be the prophetic sign of the presence of God, give yourselves with strenght, through prayer and apostolic activities, to this Church on mission. You will find in this the flavor of your vocation. I think of you, dear brothers and sisters, who patiently work in parishes and form the solid fabric of daily pastoral activity, catechesis and the service of charity. Through the mission you will be able to find a renewed spiritual vigor to transmit the Gospel of Christ in your families and in the environments where you work. You, dear members of the many ecclesial movements, organizations and associations, assure to the City mission your full and faithful collaboration in close understanding with the pastors, the parishes and all the diocesan reality.
You, dear young people, put your fresh energies at the service of this great spiritual undertaking, overcoming all possible fear or human respect. Declare frankly and courageously your faith in Christ among your peers and friends. Also from you, dear sick and suffering people, and from you who feel marginalized, the civic mission expects a contribution that is in a certain way decisive for its success. By accepting your condition and offering it to the heavenly Father together with Christ, you can be a mysterious and providential way of salvation for Rome. The mission belongs to you, dear members of the Roman Curia and my collaborators at the service of the universal Church, called to give your qualified contribution to the life of the Christian community that is in Rome, and to the preparation of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Yours Contribution will be very important for the success of this vast evangelizing action.
The mission is also made for you, dear brothers and sisters who have come to Rome from the most diverse parts of the world. You are now an integral part of our diocesan community. Thank you for being here with us tonight to pray. May the city mission, after the diocesan Synod, mark a further step forward on the path of spiritual growth and communion among all Christians who live in our city.
7.Our gaze, tonight, cannot fail to broaden to the expectations of the universal Church, on the way towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The Church tries to take a more vivid awareness of the presence of the Spirit who acts in her, for the sake of her communion and mission, through sacramental, hierarchical and charismatic gifts.One of the gifts of the Spirit in our time is certainly the flowering of ecclesial movements, which since the beginning of my Pontificate I have continued to indicate as a reason for hope for the Church and for men. They “are a sign of the freedom of forms, in which the only Church is realized, and represent a sure novelty, which still awaits to be adequately understood in all its positive efficacy for the Kingdom of God at work in today’s history “(Insegnamenti, VII 2 , p. 696). In the context of the celebrations of the Great Jubilee, especially those of the year 1998, dedicated in a special way to the Holy Spirit and his sanctifying presence within the Community of the disciples of Christ (cf. Tertio millennium adveniente, n. 44), I count on the shared testimony and collaboration of the movements. I trust that they, in communion with the Pastors and in connection with diocesan initiatives, will want to bring their spiritual, educational and missionary richness to the heart of the Church, as a precious experience and proposal of Christian life.
8. “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you… Receive the Holy Spirit ”. Christ, in the sign of the evangeliary that tonight I give to the Cardinal Vicar to be solemnly exhibited in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, is present and sustains the path of the great civic mission that will lead the ecclesial community of Rome to the doorstep of the third millennium. “I also send you …” Lord, as it happened at the beginning of the mission of the Church, at the dawn of the first millennium, today you send us for a new evangelizing mission. You entrust us with the task of bringing the Good News to the streets and squares of this City; You want your Church to be a pilgrim of hope and peace on the roads of the world. Sustain our journey with the force of your Spirit; make us courageous apostles of the Gospel and builders of a new humanity. Mary, Salus Populi Romani, who will accompany with your venerated icon the pilgrimage tonight, guide our steps; obtain for us the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur” ¡Amén!».