Families, God calls you to holiness!
October 5, 1997
Holy Father celebrates Mass for Second World Meeting with
The Holy Father's fourth Pastoral Visit to Brazil culminated in a solemn Mass
celebrated with the families of the world on Sunday, 5 October, at Rio de
Janeiro's Flamengo Embankment (Aterro do Flamengo). The liturgy was the
concluding celebration of the Second World Meeting of the Holy Father with
Families, whose theme, "The Family: Gift and Commitment, Hope for Humanity", ran
through all the events during the Pope's visit, which began on 2 October. After
the reading of the Gospel (Mk 10:2-16) the Holy Father gave the following homily
in Portuguese. Here is a translation.
Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!
1. "May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives" (responsorial
I give thanks to God for having permitted me to meet you again, families from
all over the world, to reaffirm solemnly that you are "the hope of humanity"!
The First World Meeting with Families took place in Rome in 1994. The second
ends today in Rio de Janeiro. I cordially thank Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales
for inviting me and I also thank all the Bishops and the Brazilian authorities
who have contributed to the success of this great event. And I cordially thank
Cardinal López Trujillo and all his assistants at the Pontifical Council for the
Family. We are gathered here from various countries and Churches, not only from
Brazil and Latin America but from all the continents, to raise this prayer to
God together: "May the Lord bless us, all the days of our lives"!
In fact, the family is the particular and, at the same time, fundamental
community of love and life on which all other communities and societies are
based. Therefore, in invoking the blessings of the Most High upon families, let
us pray together for all the great societies that we represent here. Let us pray
for the future of the nations and States, and for the future of the Church and
What God has joined together, let not man put asunder
In fact, through the family all human life is oriented to the future. In the
family man comes into the world, grows and matures. In it he becomes an
increasingly mature citizen of his country, and an increasingly aware member of
the Church. The family is also the first, fundamental environment where every
person identifies and fulfils his own human and Christian vocation. Lastly, the
family is a community that cannot be replaced by any other. This is what we can
glimpse in today's liturgical readings.
2. The representatives of Jewish orthodoxy, the Pharisees, approached the
Messiah to ask him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Christ
then asks them what Moses had commanded. They answered that Moses had allowed a
man to write a certificate of divorce and to put her away. But Christ said to
them: "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the
beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female'. 'For this reason a man
shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall
become one'. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined
together, let not man put asunder" (Mk 10:5-9).
Christ referred to the beginning. This beginning is contained in the Book of
Genesis, where we find the description of the creation of man. As we read in the
first chapter of this book, God created man in his image and likeness; male and
female he created them (cf. Gn 1:27), and he said: "Be fruitful and multiply,
and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gn 1:28). In the second description of
creation, which is the first reading of today's liturgy, we read that woman was
created from man. This is what Scripture says: "So the Lord caused a deep sleep
to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its
place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made
into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is
bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she
was taken out of man'. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and
cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:21-24).
3. The language uses the anthropological categories of the ancient world, but
it has extraordinary depth: it expresses the essential truths in a truly
spectacular way. All that was later discovered by human reflection and
scientific knowledge has done no more than confirm what already existed from the
The Book of Genesis reveals first and foremost the cosmic dimension of
creation. Man's appearance occurred within the immense horizon of the creation
of the whole cosmos: it is not accidental that this takes place on the last day
of the world's creation. Man entered the Creator's work at the moment when all
the conditions necessary for human life were in place. Man is one of the visible
creatures; at the same time, however, in Sacred Scripture it is said that he
alone was made "in the image and likeness of God". This wonderful union of body
and spirit was a decisive innovation in the process of creation. With the human
being, all the greatness of the visible creation gains a spiritual dimension.
The intellect and will, knowledge and love, all this enters into the visible
cosmos at the very moment of man's creation. It enters it showing, from the
beginning, the compenetration of the life of the body with the life of the soul.
Thus man leaves his father and mother, and is joined to his wife, to become one
flesh; however this conjugal union is rooted at the same time in knowledge and
love, that is, in the spiritual dimension.
The family was created in the eternal Word of God
The Book of Genesis speaks of all this in a language of its own which is, at
the same time, marvelously simple and complete. Man and woman, called to live in
the process of cosmic creation, appear on the threshold of their own vocation,
bringing with them the ability to procreate in collaboration with God, who
directly creates the soul of each new human being. Through mutual knowledge and
love, and at the same time through physical union, they will call to life beings
resembling themselves and, like them, created "in the image and likeness of
God". They will give life to their own children, just as they received it from
their parents. This is the truth, both simple and great, about the family, as it
is presented in the pages of the Book of Genesis and of the Gospel: in God's
plan, marriage, indissoluble marriage, is the basis of a healthy and responsible
4. In a brief incisive way, Christ describes in the Gospel the original plan
of God the Creator. This plan is also found in the Letter to the Hebrews
proclaimed in the second reading: "For it was fitting that he, for whom and by
whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer
of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those
who are sanctified have all one origin" (Heb 2:10-11). The creation of man has
its basis in this eternal Word of God. God called everything to life through the
action of this Word, the eternal Son, through whom everything was created. Man
too was created through the Word and was created male and female. The marriage
covenant originates in the eternal Word of God. In him the family was
created. In him the family is eternally conceived, imagined and realized by
God. Through Christ it acquires its sacramental character, its sanctification.
The text of the Letter to the Hebrews recalls that the sanctification of
marriage, like that of any other human reality, was accomplished by Christ at
the price of his Passion and Cross. He reveals himself here as the new Adam.
Just as in the natural order we all descend from Adam, so in the order of grace
and sanctification, we all originate in Christ. The sanctification of the family
stems from the sacramental character of marriage.
He who sanctifies, that is, Christ, and all those who are to be sanctified,
you, fathers and mothers; you, families, appear together before God the Father
ardently to ask that he will bless what he has accomplished in you through the
sacrament of marriage. This prayer includes all married couples and families who
live on the earth. God, the one Creator of the universe, is in fact the source
of life and holiness.
Families, strengthen your Christian faith and witness
5. Parents and families of the whole world, let me say to you: God calls you
to holiness! He himself has chosen you "before the creation of the world", St
Paul tells us, to "be holy and blameless before him ... through Jesus Christ"
(Eph 1:4). He loves you passionately, he desires your happiness, but he wants
you to be always able to combine fidelity with happiness, because one cannot
exist without the other. Do not let a hedonistic mentality, ambition and
selfishness enter your homes. Be generous with God. I cannot fail to recall,
once again, that the family, "as an 'intimate community of life and love'
[is] at the service of the Church and of society" (Familiaris consortio,
n. 50). The mutual gift of self, blessed by God and imbued with faith, hope and
love, will enable both spouses to achieve perfection and sanctification. In
other words, it will serve as the sanctifying center of one's own family and of
spreading the work of evangelizing the whole Christian home.
Dear brothers and sisters, what an immense task you have before you! Be
bearers of peace and joy within the family; grace elevates and perfects love and
with it grants you the indispensable family virtues of humility, the spirit of
service and sacrifice, parental and filial affection, respect and mutual
understanding. And since the good is self-diffusive, I also hope that your
support of the family apostolate will be, as far as possible, an incentive to
spread generously the gift that is in you, first to your children then among
those couples, perhaps relatives and friends, who are far from God or who are
experiencing moments of misunderstanding or distrust. On the journey towards the
Jubilee of the Year 2000, I invite all those listening to me to strengthen
their faith and witness as Christians, so that with God's grace there may be
true conversion and personal renewal in all the world's families (cf. Tertio
millennio adveniente, n. 42). May the spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth
reign in all Christian homes!
Families of Brazil, of Latin America and of the whole world, the Pope and the
Church trust in you. Have trust: God is with us!
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