U.S. Visit 1999
ST. LOUIS, January 27, 1999:
Homily at the Trans World Dome Mass
[Official Vatican Text]
"In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only
Son into the world so that we might have life through him" (Jn 4:9).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the Incarnation, God fully reveals himself in the Son who came into the world
(cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 9). Our faith is
not simply the result of our searching for God. In Jesus Christ, it is God who comes in
person to speak to us and to show us the way to himself.
Incarnation also reveals the truth about man. In Jesus Christ, the Father has spoken the
definitive word about our true destiny and the meaning of human history (cf. ibid.,
5). In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his
Son as an expiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10). The Apostle is speaking of the
love that inspired the Son to become man and to dwell among us. Through Jesus Christ we
know how much the Father loves us. In Jesus Christ, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, each
one of us can share in the love that is the life of the Blessed Trinity.
Saint John goes on: Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God
remains in him and he in God (1 Jn 4:15). Through faith in the Son of God
made man we abide in the very heart of God: God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him (1 Jn 4:16). These words open to us the mystery
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the love and compassion of Jesus is the door through which
the eternal love of the Father is poured out on the world. In celebrating this Mass of the
Sacred Heart, let us open wide our own hearts to Gods saving mercy!
2. In the Gospel reading which we have just heard, Saint Luke uses the figure of the
Good Shepherd to speak of this divine love. The Good Shepherd is an image dear to Jesus in
the Gospels. Answering the Pharisees who complained that he welcomed sinners by eating
with them, the Lord asks them a question: Which of you, having a hundred sheep and losing
one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until
he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them:
'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep' (Lk 15:5-6).
This parable highlights the joy of Christ and of our heavenly Father at every sinner
who repents. Gods love is a love that searches us out. It is a love that saves. This
is the love that we find in the Heart of Jesus.
3. Once we know the love that is in the Heart of Christ, we know that every individual,
every family, every people on the face of the earth can place their trust in that Heart.
We have heard Moses say: You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God . . . the
Lord set his heart on you and chose you . . . because the Lord loved you (Deut
7:6-8). From Old Testament times, the core of salvation history is Gods unfailing
love and election, and our human answer to that love. Our faith is our response to
Gods love and election.
Three hundred years have passed since December 8, 1698, when the Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass was offered for the first time in what is now the City of St. Louis. It was the Feast
of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, and Father Montigny, Father Davion and
Father St. Cosme set up a stone altar on the banks of the Mississippi River and offered
Mass. These three centuries have been a history of God's love poured out in this part of
the United States, and a history of generous response to that love.
In this Archdiocese, the commandment of love has called forth an endless series of
activities for which today we give thanks to our heavenly Father. St. Louis
has been the Gateway to the West, but it has also been the gateway of great Christian
witness and evangelical service. In fidelity to Christ's command to evangelize, the first
pastor of this local Church, Bishop Joseph Rosati who came from the town of Sora,
very near Rome promoted outstanding missionary activity from the beginning. In
fact, today we can count forty-six different Dioceses in the area which Bishop Rosati
In this area, numerous Religious Congregations of men and women have labored for the
Gospel with exemplary dedication, generation after generation. Here can be found the
American roots of the evangelizing efforts of the Legion of Mary and other associations of
the lay apostolate. The work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, made
possible by the generous support of the people of this Archdiocese, is a real sharing in
the Churchs response to Christs command to evangelize. From St. Louis,
Cardinal Ritter sent the first Fidei Donum priests to Latin America in 1956, giving
practical expression to the exchange of gifts which should always be a part of the
communion between the Churches. This solidarity within the Church was the central theme of
last years Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, and it is the
central idea of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America
the Church in America which I have just signed and issued at the Shrine of
Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
4. Here, by the grace of God, charitable activities of every kind have been a vibrant
part of Catholic life. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society has had a privileged place in the
Archdiocese from the beginning. Catholic Charities have for years performed exceptional
work in the name of Jesus Christ. Outstanding Catholic health care services have shown the
human face of the loving and compassionate Christ.
Catholic schools have proven to be of priceless value to generations of children,
teaching them to know, love and serve God, and preparing them to take their place with
responsibility in the community. Parents, teachers, pastors, administrators and entire
parishes have sacrificed enormously to maintain the essential character of Catholic
education as an authentic ministry of the Church and an evangelical service to the young.
The goals of the Strategic Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese evangelization,
conversion, stewardship, Catholic education, service to those in need have a long
Today, American Catholics are seriously challenged to know and cherish this immense
heritage of holiness and service. Out of that heritage you must draw inspiration and
strength for the new evangelization so urgently needed at the approach of the Third
Christian Millennium. In the holiness and service of St. Louiss own Saint Philippine
Duchesne, and of countless faithful priests, religious and laity since the Churchs
earliest days in this area, Catholic life has appeared in all its rich and varied
splendor. Nothing less is asked of you today.
5. As the new evangelization unfolds, it must include a special emphasis on the family
and the renewal of Christian marriage. In their primary mission of communicating love to
each other, of being co-creators with God of human life, and of transmitting the love of
God to their children, parents must know that they are fully supported by the Church and
by society. The new evangelization must bring a fuller appreciation of the family as the
primary and most vital foundation of society, the first school of social virtue and
solidarity (cf. Familiaris
Consortio, 42). As the family goes, so goes the nation!
The new evangelization must also bring out the truth that the Gospel of God's
love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single
and indivisible Gospel (Evangelium
Vitae, 2). As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and
assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of Gods gift of life and love? And as
believers, how can we fail to feel the duty to surround the sick and those in distress
with the warmth of our affection and the support that will help them always to embrace
The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life:
who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of
hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken
away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of
protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 27). I
renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death
penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
As the new millennium approaches, there remains another great challenge facing this
community of St. Louis, east and west of the Mississippi, and not St. Louis alone, but the
whole country: to put an end to every form of racism, a plague which your Bishops have
called one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the nation.
6. Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Gospel of God's love, which we are celebrating today,
finds its highest expression in the Eucharist. In the Mass and in Eucharistic Adoration we
meet the merciful love of God that passes through the Heart of Jesus Christ. In the name
of Jesus, the Good Shepherd I wish to make an appeal an appeal to Catholics
throughout the United States and wherever my voice or words may reach especially to
those who for one reason or another are separated from the practice of their faith. On the
eve of the Great Jubilee of the two thousandth anniversary of the Incarnation, Christ is
seeking you out and inviting you back to the community of faith. Is this not the moment
for you to experience the joy of returning to the Fathers house? In some cases there
may still be obstacles to Eucharistic participation; in some cases there may be memories
to be healed; in all cases there is the assurance of God's love and mercy.
Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will begin with the opening of the Holy Door in Saint
Peters Basilica in Rome: this is a powerful symbol of the Church open to
everyone who feels a need for the love and mercy of the Heart of Christ. In the Gospel
Jesus says: I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come
in and go out and find pasture (cf. Jn 10:9).
Our Christian life can be seen as a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, which
passes through the door that is Jesus Christ. The key to that door is repentance and
conversion. The strength to pass through that door comes from our faith and hope and love.
For many Catholics, an important part of the journey must be to rediscover the joy of
belonging to the Church, to cherish the Church as the Lord has given her to us, as Mother
Living in the Holy Spirit, the Church looks forward to the Millennium as a time of
far-reaching spiritual renewal. The Spirit will truly bring about a new springtime of
faith if Christian hearts are filled with new attitudes of humility, generosity and
openness to his purifying grace. In parishes and communities across this land holiness and
Christian service will flourish if you come to know and believe in the love God has
for you (cf. 1 Jn 4:16).
Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach the people of St. Louis and of the United States to say
yes to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!
Mother of the Church, on the way to the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium, be the
Star which safely guides our steps to the Lord!
Virgin of Nazareth, two thousand years ago you brought into the world the Incarnate
Word: lead the men and women of the new Millennium to the One who is the true light of the