3. There is another answer we can draw from the first biblical reading taken from the Book of Exodus. It presents the symbolic image of Moses in prayer with his hands held up to heaven, while from a hilltop he follows the battle his people are fighting against the Amalekites. Whenever Moses raised his hands Israel prevailed, and since Moses felt his arms growing weary, a stone was found for him to sit on while Aaron and Hur, one on each side, held up his hands. And he continued to pray until sunset when Joshua defeated Amalek (cf. Exodus 17:11-13).
This image has extraordinary expressive power: the image of the pastor at prayer. It would be hard to find a more eloquent reference for all the situations in which the new Israel, the Church, must combat various “Amalekites”. In a certain sense, everything depends on Moses raising up his hands.
The shepherd’s prayer supports the flock. This is certain. However, it is also true that the people’s prayer supports whoever has the task of leading them. So it has been since the beginning. When Peter was imprisoned in Jerusalem to be condemned to death, like James, after the festival, the whole Church prayed for him (cf. Acts 12:1-5). The Acts of the Apostles recount that he was miraculously released from prison (cf. Acts 12:6-11).
So it has happened countless times down the ages. I myself can attest to this, since I have experienced it personally. The prayer of the Church is very powerful!
4. Here I would like to thank all who have expressed their solidarity to me in recent days. Thank you for your many messages of congratulations; thank you especially for constantly remembering me in prayer. I am thinking in a special way of the sick and suffering, who are close to me with the offering of their pain. I am thinking of the cloistered monasteries and the many men and women religious, of the young people and families who never cease praying with one voice to the Lord for me and my universal ministry. During these days I have felt the Church’s heart beating close beside me!
I thank all of you present in St Peter’s Square, who have joined today in my prayer of praise to God for 20 years of service to the Church and to the world as Bishop of Rome. I extend a special word of gratitude to the President of Italy and to all who have accompanied him here this morning to honour me with their presence.
With fraternal affection I also thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini who, at the beginning of the celebration, expressed the fidelity you all feel to Christ and to the Successor of Peter. I am deeply moved by the presence of so many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, and especially by the priests of the Diocese of Rome and the Curia who are taking part in this solemn Eucharistic concelebration. At this moment, dear friends, I would like to tell you how much I have appreciated your support during these years of service to the Church in the Chair of Peter. I would like publicly to express my gratitude to the city of Rome and to Italy for the warm welcome they have given me since the very first days of my Petrine ministry. I ask the Lord to reward you generously for all you have done and are doing to assist me in the task I have been given.
Dear brothers and sisters of Rome, Italy and the world! This is the meaning of our prayerful assembly in St Peter’s Square: to give thanks to God for his provident care in constantly guiding and sustaining his People on their journey through history; to renew, on my part, the “yes” I gave 20 years ago, trusting in divine grace; to offer, on your part, a commitment to pray always for this Pope, so that he may fulfill his mission.
With all my heart I once again entrust my life and ministry to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Church. To her I repeat with filial abandonment: Totus tuus!
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Sunday 21 October 2001
1. "And when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18,8).
The question with which Jesus ends the parable on the need "always to pray and not lose heart" frightens our soul. It is a question that is not immediately followed by an answer: indeed, it is intended as a challenge to each person, each ecclesial community, each human generation. Each one of us must give an answer. Christ wants to remind us that human life is directed to the final meeting with God; but in this perspective he asks himself whether, on his return, he will find souls ready, waiting for him, to enter the Father's house with him. This is why he says to everyone "Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matthew 25,13).
But your parents also handed on the burning lamp to their friends, acquaintances, colleagues.... And now, from heaven, they are giving it to the whole Church.
Together with the relatives and friends of the new Blesseds, I greet the religious authorities participating in this celebration, starting with Cardinal Camillo Ruini and the other Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops present. I also greet the civil authorities, and, in a special way, the President of Italy and the Queen of Belgium.
This couple lived married love and service to life in the light of the Gospel and with great human intensity. With full responsibility they assumed the task of collaborating with God in procreation, dedicating themselves generously to their children, to teach them, guide them and direct them to discovering his plan of love. From this fertile spiritual terrain sprang vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, which shows how, with their common roots in the spousal love of the Lord, marriage and virginity may be closely connected and reciprocally enlightening.
Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the centre of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the Rosary, and consultation with wise spiritual directors. In this way they could accompany their children in vocational discernment, training them to appreciate everything "from the roof up", as they often, charmingly, liked to say.
3. The riches of faith and love of the husband and wife Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, are a living proof of what the Second Vatican Council said about the call of all the faithful to holiness, indicating that spouses should pursue this goal, "propriam viam sequentes", "following their own way" (Lumen gentium, n. 41). Today the aspiration of the Council is fulfilled with the first beatification of a married couple: their fidelity to the Gospel and their heroic virtues were verified in their life as spouses and parents.
In their life, as in the lives of many other married couples who day after day earnestly fulfil their mission as parents, one can contemplate the sacramental revelation of Christ's love for the Church. Indeed, "fulfilling their conjugal and family role by virtue of this sacrament, spouses are penetrated with the spirit of Christ and their whole life is permeated by faith, hope, and charity; thus they increasingly further their own perfection and their mutual sanctification, and together they render glory to God" (Gaudium et spes, n. 48).
Dear families, today we have distinctive confirmation that the path of holiness lived together as a couple is possible, beautiful, extraordinarily fruitful, and fundamental for the good of the family, the Church and society.
This prompts us to pray the Lord that there be many more married couples who can reveal in the holiness of their lives, the "great mystery" of spousal love, which originates in creation and is fulfilled in the union of Christ with his Church (cf. Ephesians 5,22-33).
May you be able to find in God's word the answer to the questions which arise in everyday life. St Paul, in the Second Reading, reminded us that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness" (II Timothy 3,16). Sustained by the force of these words and acting together, you will be able to insist with your children "in season and out of season", convincing, rebuking, and exhorting them, "unfailing in patience and in teaching" (II Timothy 4,2).
Married and family life can also experience moments of bewilderment. We know how many families in these cases are tempted to discouragement. I am particularly referring to those who are going through the sad event of separation; I am thinking of those who must face illness and those who are suffering the premature death of their spouse or of a child. In these situations, one can bear a great witness to fidelity in love, which is purified by having to pass through the crucible of suffering.
5. I entrust struggling families to the providence of God and to the loving care of Mary, the outstanding model of wife and mother who knew the suffering and the exhaustion of following Christ to the foot of the Cross. Dear married couples, do not be overcome by hardship: the grace of the Sacrament supports you and helps you constantly to raise your arms to heaven, like Moses, mentioned in the First Reading (cf. Exodus 17,11-12). The Church is close to you and helps you with her prayer, above all, in hard times.
At the same time, I ask all families to hold up the arms of the Church, so that she may never fail in her mission of interceding, consoling, guiding and encouraging. I thank you, dear families, for the support that you give to me in my service to the Church and to humanity. Every day I beg the Lord to help all the families suffering from poverty and injustice, and to advance the civilization of love.
I am certain that you will be equal to the task that awaits you in every place and on every occasion. Dear husbands and wives, I encourage you to embrace your role and your responsibilities.
Renew your missionary zeal, making your homes privileged places for announcing and accepting the Gospel in an atmosphere of prayer and in the concrete exercise of Christian solidarity.
May the Holy Spirit, who filled Mary's heart so that, in the fullness of time, she might conceive the Word of life and welcome him, together with her husband Joseph, support you and confirm you. May he fill your hearts with joy and peace so that every day you may know how to praise the heavenly Father, from whom come every grace and blessing.
27 October 2013