HOMILY OF HOLY FATHER AT AMMAN, JORDAN
John Paul II
March 21, 2000
"A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the
Lord! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!" (Is 40:3).
Your Beatitude, Brother Bishops and Priests, Brothers and
1. The words of the Prophet Isaiah, which the Evangelist
applies to John the Baptist, remind us of the path which God has traced through
time in his desire to teach and save his people. Today, as part of my Jubilee
Pilgrimage to pray in some of the places connected with God's saving
interventions, Divine Providence has brought me to Jordan. I greet His Beatitude
Michel Sabbah and thank him for his kind words of welcome. I cordially embrace
the Greek Melkite Exarch Georges El-Murr and all the members of the Assembly of
the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, as well as the representatives of the
other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I am grateful to the civil authorities
who have wished to honour our celebration with their presence.
The Successor of Peter is a pilgrim in this land blessed by
the presence of Moses and Elijah, where Jesus himself taught and worked miracles
(cf. Mk 10:1; Jn 10:40-42), where the early Church bore witness in the lives of
many saints and martyrs. In this year of the Great Jubilee the whole Church, and
especially today the Christian community of Jordan, are spiritually united in a
pilgrimage to the origins of our faith, a pilgrimage of conversion and penance,
of reconciliation and peace. We look for a guide to show us the way. And there
comes to meet us the figure of John the Baptist, a voice that cries in the
wilderness (cf. Lk 3:4). He will set us on the road that we must take if our
eyes are to "see the salvation of God" (Lk 3:6). Guided by him, we make our
journey of faith in order to see more clearly the salvation which God has
accomplished through a history stretching back to Abraham. John the Baptist was
the last of the line of Prophets who kept alive and nurtured the hope of God's
People. In him the time of fulfilment was at hand.
2. The seed of this hope was the promise made to Abraham when
he was called to leave all that was familiar and follow a God he had not known
(cf. Gen 12:1-3). Despite his wealth, Abraham was a man living in the shadow of
death, for he had no son or land of his own (cf. Gen 15:2). The promise seemed a
vain one, for Sarah was barren and the land was in other hands. But still
Abraham put his faith in God; "he believed, hoping against hope" (Rom 4:18).
However impossible it seemed, Isaac was born to Sarah, and Abraham received a
land. And through Abraham and his descendants the promise became a blessing to
"all the families of the earth" (Gen 12:3; 18:18).
3. That promise was sealed when God spoke to Moses on Mount
Sinai. What passed between Moses and God on the holy mountain shaped the
subsequent history of salvation as a Covenant of love between God and man - a
Covenant which demands obedience but promises liberation. The Ten Commandments
etched in stone on Sinai - but written on the human heart from the beginning of
creation - are the divine pedagogy of love, indicating the only sure path to the
fulfilment of our deepest longing: the human spirit's irrepressible search for
goodness, truth and harmony. For forty years the people wandered until they
arrived in this land. Moses, "whom the Lord knew face to face" (Dt 34:10) would
die on Mount Nebo and be buried "in the valley of the land of Moab . . . though
no one knows the place of his burial to this day" (Dt 34:5-6). But the Covenant
and the Law he received from God live on for ever. From time to time the
Prophets had to defend the Law and the Covenant against those who set human
rules and regulations above God's will, and therefore imposed a new slavery upon
the people (cf. Mk 6:17-18). The city of Amman itself - Rabbah in the Old
Testament - recalls the sin of King David in causing the death of Uriah and
taking his wife Bathsheba, for it was here that Uriah fell (2 Sam 11:1-17).
"They will fight against you", God says to Jeremiah in the First Reading we have
listened to today, "but they will not prevail against you, for I am with you ...
to deliver you" (Jer 1:19). For denouncing failures to keep the Covenant, there
were Prophets, including the Baptist, who paid with their blood. But because of
the divine promise - "I am with you . . . to deliver you" - they stood firm as
"a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls" (Jer 1:18), proclaiming the
Law of life and salvation, the love which never fails.
4. In the fullness of time, at the River Jordan John the
Baptist points to Jesus, the one upon whom the Holy Spirit descends like a dove
(cf. Lk 3:22), the one who baptizes not with water but "with the Holy Spirit and
with fire" (Lk 3:16). The heavens are opened and we hear the Father's voice:
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17).
In him, the Son of God, the promise made to Abraham and the
Law given to Moses are fulfilled. Jesus is the realization of the promise. His
death on the Cross and his Resurrection lead to the definitive victory of life
over death. Through the Resurrection the gates of Paradise are thrown open, and
we may walk once again in the Garden of Life. In the Risen Christ we obtain "the
mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever" (Lk
1:54-55). Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law. The Risen Christ alone reveals the
full meaning of all that happened at the Red Sea and Mount Sinai. He reveals the
true nature of the Promised Land, where "death shall be no more" (Rev 21:4).
Because he is "the firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18), the Risen Lord is the
goal of all our journeying: "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end" (Rev 22:13).
5. During the last five years, the Church in this region has
been celebrating the Pastoral Synod of the Churches in the Holy Land. All the
Catholic Churches together have walked with Jesus and heard his call anew,
setting out the path ahead in a General Pastoral Plan. At this solemn Liturgy I
gladly receive the fruits of the Synod as a sign of your renewed faith and
generous commitment. The Synod has involved a deeply felt experience of
communion with the Lord, and also of intense ecclesial communion, like the
disciples gathered around the Apostles at the Church's birth (cf. Acts 2:42;
4:32). The Synod has made clear that your future lies in unity and solidarity. I
pray today, and I invite the whole Church to pray with me, that the Synod's work
will bring a strengthening of the bonds of fellowship and cooperation between
the local Catholic communities in all their rich variety, between all the
Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and between Christians and the
other great religions which flourish here. May the resources of the Church - the
families, parishes, schools, lay associations, youth movements - set unity and
love as their supreme goal. There is no more effective way to be involved
socially, professionally and politically, above all in the work of justice,
reconciliation and peace, which is what the Synod called for.
To the Bishops and priests, I say: Be good shepherds according
to the Heart of Christ! Guide the flock entrusted to you along the path that
leads to the green pastures of his Kingdom! Strengthen the pastoral life of your
communities through a new and more dynamic collaboration with the religious and
laity. Amid the difficulties of your ministry, put your trust in the Lord. Grow
closer to him in prayer, and he will be your light and joy. The whole Church
thanks you for your dedication and for the mission of faith you carry out in
your dioceses and parishes.
To the Religious women and men, I express the Church's immense
gratitude for your witness to the supremacy of God in all things! Continue to
shine forth as beacons of the evangelical love which overcomes all barriers!
To the laity I say: Do not be afraid to take your proper place
and responsibility in the Church! Be brave witnesses to the Gospel in your
families and in society!
On this Mother's Day in Jordan, I congratulate the mothers
present here, and invite all mothers to be builders of a new civilization of
love. Love your families. Teach them the dignity of all life; teach them the
ways of harmony and peace; teach them the value of faith and prayer and
Dear young people, the path of life is opening up before you.
Build your future on the solid foundation of God's love, and remain ever united
in Christ's Church! Help to transform the world around you, by giving the best
of yourselves in the service of others and of your country.
And to the children making their First Holy Communion, I say:
Jesus is your best friend; he knows what is in your hearts. Stay close to him,
and in your prayers remember the Church and the Pope.
6. In this year of the Great Jubilee, the whole pilgrim people
of God returns in spirit to the places connected with the history of our
salvation. After following in the footsteps of Abraham and Moses, our pilgrimage
has now reached the lands where our Saviour Jesus Christ lived and travelled
during his earthly life. "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our
fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son"
(Heb 1:1-2). In the Son all the promises were fulfilled. He is the Redemptor
Hominis, the Redeemer of man, the hope of the world! Keeping all this before
you, let the whole Christian community of Jordan be ever more steadfast in faith
and generous in works of loving service.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, guide and
protect you on the way! Amen.