Only from God does true revolution come, the
definitive way to change the world
On Saturday evening, 20 August , the Holy Father travelled
to Marienfield Esplanade where he presided at a Prayer Vigil. A
temporary "cathedral" had been mounted there for World Youth Day, with
27 lighted columns representing the 27 German Dioceses. The youth had
lit more than 12,000 candles for the procession and to decorate the hill
and the altar, and had carried to the dais the Icon of Mary and the
World Youth Day Cross.
The celebration of Light followed the singing of the
Magnificat: a young man from the Holy Land and a young German woman
presented to the Pope the "light of Bethlehem", brought from the Grotto
of Bethlehem to Germany in Advent 2004. The "flame" is taken to more
than 25 European countries in this 20-year-old tradition.
The following is a translation of the Holy Father's Vigil Homily,
given in various languages.
Dear young friends,
In our pilgrimage with the mysterious Magi from the East, we have
arrived at the moment which Saint Matthew describes in his Gospel with
these words: "Going into the house (over which the star had halted),
they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and
worshipped him" (Mt 2:11). Outwardly, their journey was now over. They
had reached their goal.
But at this point a new journey began for them,
an inner pilgrimage which changed their whole lives. Their mental
picture of the infant King they were expecting to find must have been
very different. They had stopped at Jerusalem specifically in order to
ask the King who lived there for news of the promised King who had been
born. They knew that the world was in disorder, and for that reason
their hearts were troubled.
They were sure that God existed and that he
was a just and gentle God. And perhaps they also knew of the great
prophecies of Israel foretelling a King who would be intimately united
with God, a King who would restore order to the world, acting for God
and in his Name.
It was in order to seek this King that they had set off
on their journey: deep within themselves they felt prompted to go in
search of the true justice that can only come from God, and they wanted
to serve this King, to fall prostrate at his feet and so play their part
in the renewal of the world. They were among those "who hunger and
thirst for justice" (Mt 5:6). This hunger and thirst had spurred them on
in their pilgrimage Ė they had become pilgrims in search of the justice
that they expected from God, intending to devote themselves to its
God's ways, not our ways
Even if those who had stayed at home may have considered them Utopian
dreamers, they were actually people with their feet on the ground, and
they knew that in order to change the world it is necessary to have
power. Hence they were hardly likely to seek the promised child anywhere
but in the Kingís palace. Yet now they were bowing down before the child
of poor people, and they soon came to realize that Herod, the King they
had consulted, intended to use his power to lay a trap for him, forcing
the family to flee into exile.
The new King, to whom they now paid
homage, was quite unlike what they were expecting. In this way they had
to learn that God is not as we usually imagine him to be. This was where
their inner journey began. It started at the very moment when they knelt
down before this child and recognized him as the promised King. But they
still had to assimilate these joyful gestures internally.
They had to change their ideas about power, about God and about man,
and in so doing, they also had to change themselves. Now they were able
to see that Godís power is not like that of the powerful of this world.
Godís ways are not as we imagine them or as we might wish to them to be.
God does not enter into competition with earthly powers in this world.
He does not marshal his divisions alongside other divisions. God did not
send twelve legions of angels to assist Jesus in the Garden of Olives
(cf. Mt 26:53). He contrasts the noisy and ostentatious power of this
world with the defenceless power of love, which succumbs to death on the
Cross, and dies ever anew throughout history; yet it is this same love
which constitutes the new divine intervention that opposes injustice and
ushers in the Kingdom of God.
God is different
ó this is what they now
come to realize. And it means that they themselves must now become
different, they must learn Godís ways.
They had come to place themselves at the service of this King, to
model their own kingship on his. That was the meaning of their act of
homage, their adoration. Included in this were their gifts
frankincense and myrrh
ó gifts offered to a King held to be divine.
Adoration has a content and it involves giving. Through this act of
adoration, these men from the East wished to recognize the child as
their King and to place their own power and potential at his disposal,
and in this they were certainly on the right path.
By serving and
following him, they wanted, together with him, to serve the cause of
good and the cause of justice in the world. In this they were right.
Now, though, they have to learn that this cannot be achieved simply
through issuing commands from a throne on high. Now they have to learn
to give themselves
ó no lesser gift would be sufficient for this King.
Now they have to learn that their lives must be conformed to this divine
way of exercising power, to Godís own way of being.
They must become men
of truth, of justice, of goodness, of forgiveness, of mercy. They will
no longer ask: how can this serve me? Instead they will have to ask: How
can I serve Godís presence in the world? They must learn to lose their
life and in this way to find it. Having left Jerusalem behind, they must
not deviate from the path marked out by the true King, as they follow
Following the star
Dear friends, what does all this mean for us?
What we have just been
saying about the nature of God being different, and about the way our
lives must be shaped accordingly, sounds very fine, but remains rather
vague and unfocussed. That is why God has given us examples. The Magi
from the East are just the first in a long procession of men and women
who have constantly tried to gaze upon Godís star in their lives, going
in search of the God who has drawn close to us and shows us the way.
is the great multitude of the saints
ó both known and unknown
ó in whose
lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the
pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today.
In their lives, as if in a great picture-book, the riches of the Gospel
are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced
throughout history and is still tracing today.
My venerable predecessor
Pope John Paul II beatified and canonized a great many people from both
the distant and the recent past. Through these individuals he wanted to
show us how to be Christian; how to live life as it should be lived
according to Godís way. The saints and the blesseds did not doggedly
seek their own happiness, but simply wanted to give themselves, because
the light of Christ had shone upon them.
They show us the way to attain
happiness, they show us how to be truly human. Through all the ups and
downs of history, they were the true reformers who constantly rescued it
from plunging into the valley of darkness; it was they who constantly
shed upon it the light that was needed to make sense
ó even in the midst
ó of Godís words spoken at the end of the work of creation:
"It is very good".
One need only think of such figures as Saint
Benedict, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius
of Loyola, Saint Charles Borromeo, the founders of nineteenth-century
religious orders who inspired and guided the social movement, or the
saints of our own day
ó Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa,
Padre Pio. In contemplating these figures we learn what it means "to
adore" and what it means to live according to the measure of the child
of Bethlehem, by the measure of Jesus Christ and of God himself.
Saints: true reformers
The saints, as we said, are the true reformers. Now I want to express
this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God
does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.
the last century we experienced revolutions with a common programme
expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for
the cause of the world in order to change it. And this, as we saw, meant
that a human and partial point of view was always taken as an absolute
guiding principle. Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is
called totalitarianism. It does not liberate man, but takes away his
dignity and enslaves him.
It is not ideologies that save the world, but
only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our
freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true. True revolution
consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right
and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save
us apart from love?
Dear friends! Allow me to add just two brief thoughts.
There are many
who speak of God; some even preach hatred and perpetrate violence in
Godís name. So it is important to discover the true face of God. The
Magi from the East found it, when they knelt down before the child of
Bethlehem. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father", said Jesus to
Philip (Jn 14:9). In Jesus Christ, who allowed his heart to be pierced
for us, the true face of God is seen. We will follow him together with
the great multitude of those who went before us. Then we will be
travelling along the right path.
This means that we are not constructing a private God, a private
Jesus, but that we believe and worship the Jesus who is manifested to us
by the Sacred Scriptures and who reveals himself to be alive in the
great procession of the faithful called the Church, always alongside us
and always before us.
There is much that could be criticized in the
Church. We know this and the Lord himself told us so: it is a net with
good fish and bad fish, a field with wheat and darnel.
Hope despite our defects
Pope John Paul
II, as well as revealing the true face of the Church in the many saints
that he canonized, also asked pardon for the wrong that was done in the
course of history through the words and deeds of members of the Church.
In this way he showed us our own true image and urged us to take our
place, with all our faults and weaknesses, in the procession of the
saints that began with the Magi from the East.
It is actually consoling
to realize that there is darnel in the Church. In this way, despite all
our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of
Jesus, who came to call sinners.
The Church is like a human family, but
at the same time it is also the great family of God, through which he
establishes an overarching communion and unity that embraces every
continent, culture and nation. So we are glad to belong to this great
family; we are glad to have brothers and friends all over the world.
Here in Cologne we discover the joy of belonging to a family as vast as
the world, including heaven and earth, the past, the present, the future
and every part of the earth. In this great band of pilgrims we walk side
by side with Christ, we walk with the star that enlightens our history.
"Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and
they fell down and worshipped him" (Mt 2:11). Dear friends, this is not
a distant story that took place long ago. It is with us now. Here in the
sacred Host he is present before us and in our midst. As at that time,
so now he is mysteriously veiled in a sacred silence; as at that time,
it is here that the true face of God is revealed. For us he became a
grain of wheat that falls on the ground and dies and bears fruit until
the end of the world (cf. Jn 12:24).
He is present now as he was then in
Bethlehem. He invites us to that inner pilgrimage which is called
adoration. Let us set off on this pilgrimage of the spirit and let us
ask him to be our guide. Amen.