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January 1, 1990


Be promoters of life, not destroyers of it!

On Monday 1 January, Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and the Twenty-third World Day of Peace, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in St Peter's Basilica. The following is a translation of the Pope's homily during that Mass.

1. "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk 2:19).

On the first of January the Church concludes the octave of Christmas, venerating the motherhood of the Virgin Mary.

The words of the Gospel of Luke particularly emphasize the interior dimension of her Motherhood. Today such words are very important for the Church. During the octave the Church has meditated upon the mystery of the birth of the Son of God at Bethlehem. Today she remembers her who was the first to meditate upon this mystery in her heart. Because, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, "Mary preceded" the entire People of God "in her pilgrimage of faith and... in union with her Son" (cf. Lumen Gentium, 58), her progress began at Bethlehem.

It began in the Mother's Heart and continues there without respite. Every mother experiences in a special way the memory of having given birth to a baby. This birth lives in her, she keeps it in her heart. What should we think, therefore, of this birth, this unique one, in which the Son of God came to the world?

Today the Church recalls the interior dimension of that motherhood, and thus venerates together the mystery of the Incarnation and the extraordinary dignity of the Mother-Virgin.

2. The Mystery of the Incarnation is a new beginning in the history of salvation. It is also a new beginning in the history of humanity and of creation.

The Apostle Paul describes this new beginning as "the fullness of time ".

"When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, that we might receive adoption" (Gal 4:4-5).

That which remained alive in Mary's memory--and at the same time in that of the Church--is not an event which took place only once, a "closed" event. The birth of God is open to the people of all ages. In it the adoption is revealed and takes shape, that adoption which is passed on to all human beings: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.... And to those... who received him, he gave the power of becoming children of God" (Jn 1:14, 12). These words from John's Prologue, which we recalled during the octave of Christmas, bear witness to the continuing duration of the mystery which began on that night at Bethlehem

Yes! The Son of God became man one time only, was born once of the Virgin Mary, and yet this divine adoption is a continuing heritage of humanity.

3. The Apostle Paul speaks again of this heredity. It is the unceasing work of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of his action in us. "As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God" (Gal 4:6-7).

The Church keeps this heritage, she is its guardian and administrator on this earth. Therefore she constantly keeps her eyes fixed upon the Mystery of the Incarnation. She wants to see it with Mary's eyes, share in her memory. In no other creature is Christmas so deeply inscribed as in her. It is, in fact, identified with her motherhood. The human motherhood of this "woman" is, at the same time, divine motherhood. He to whom she has given birth is, in reality, the Man-God.

"Through her faith and obedience (Mary) gave birth on earth to the very Son of God.... The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first born among many brethren (Rom 8:29), that is, the faithful, in whose generation and formation she cooperates with a "Mother's love", as the Second Vatican Council says (Lumen Gentium, 63).

4. Thus this octave day is the feast of the divine inheritance in which all people share.

Divine Sonship, that gift of the Holy Spirit in the human being, penetrates the entire heritage of humanity, of human nature, or rather, the entire heritage of creation itself. In fact, man was created in the image of God, and he has been placed in the visible world in the midst of all creatures.

If the Church celebrates the World Day of Peace on the octave of Christmas, it is because there is a profound logic of faith in this fact. Indeed, peace demands of man a particular responsibility for all of creation.

The papal message for the New Year particularly emphasizes this responsibility: "Peace with God the Creator--Peace with all Creation". The message of the Gospel of peace constantly and always recalls this new commandment: "You shall not kill". You shall not kill another person, you shall not kill him from the moment of his conception in the womb of his mother--you shall not kill! You shall not limit human existence on the earth through struggle: violence, terrorism, war, means of mass extermination.

You shall not kill, because every human life is the common inheritance of all people.

Also, you shall not kill by destroying the natural environment in various ways. This environment is also part of the common heritage of all people, not only of the past and present generations, but of the future ones as well.

Be promoters of life, not its destroyers!

The first day of the New Year requires a special reference to this inheritance. The heritage of the children of God through adoption is closely joined to the imperative of peace.

5. Today is not only the first day of the New Year, 1990, but also of the new decade. This is the last decade of the years of the twentieth century, and also of the second millennium of the birth of Christ.

The Church returns to Bethlehem, to where "the shepherds went... and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger" (Lk 2:16).

Throughout the years that will follow one after another, the Church does not cease praying to the Mother of God to be particularly close, in order to recall the Mystery which she kept and meditated upon in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19).

At the threshold of the last decade of our century and of the second millennium, we want to participate in a special way in this motherly recollection of Mary upon the mystery of the Son, who was born, crucified, and is risen.

In it God's "adoption" of all people is constantly renewed. All of creation awaits it as the earthly inheritance of humanity, called to eternal glory in Christ.

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