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Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, 1986

Pope St John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass in New Zealand
Wellington, Sunday 23rd November 1986 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Give thanks to the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light. Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the Kingdom of the Son that he loves" (Col 1, 12-13).

Today on the Solemnity of Christ the King it is my honour and privilege to proclaim the unity of the universal Church in this land in the Pacific: here at Wellington, the Capital of New Zealand. It is with great joy that I celebrate the Eucharist with you today. My heart is filled with a deep sense of gratitude to be able to join my voice with yours in praising and glorifying the Most Blessed Trinity.

I greet with fraternal affection the Archbishop of this See, Cardinal Thomas Williams, Bishop Cullinane, and my other brother bishops. Together with them, I greet most cordially all my brother priests, the men and women religious, and all the faithful, particularly those from the Archdiocese of Wellington and the Diocese of Palmerston North. To all of you I say: Let us give thanks to the Father! "He has taken us out of the power of darkness!". "He has created a place for us in the Kingdom of the Son that he loves!" Yes, the Son that he loves! This is the same Jesus of Nazareth, about whom there was heard a voice from on high saying: "This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him" (Lk 9, 35).

2. The Liturgy brings us today to the place where the words of Saint Paul are confirmed in a definitive way, the place where the truth of the redemption is most fully revealed. We are on Calvary at the moment of the Crucifixion. Together with Jesus, two criminals are also being crucified. One of these insults him, saying: "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well". But the second instead says: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." This second man believed in the Kingdom of the Crucified One. He believed in that kingdom which draws near to each human person through Christ Crucified.

In truth, it was not flesh and blood that had revealed this truth to him, but the Father - this Father who frees us from "the power of darkness and creates a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves" (Col 1, 13). The Son Jesus, in agony on the Cross, says to his crucified companion: "Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23, 43).

3. The main theme of today’s liturgy is expressed in the phrase: "Peace of heart is the heart of peace". These words on the Solemnity of Christ the King are confirmed by what St Paul proclaims in the second reading. Christ, the image of the invisible God, is at the same time "the firstborn of all creations" (Col 1, 15). Moreover, "God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the Cross" (Col 1, 19-20). Peace of heart, peace of the human conscience, is precisely the fruit of this reconciliation through the Cross.

4. The picture of Jesus in agony on the Cross, hanging between two criminals, is a striking symbol of the mystery of reconciliation. In the first place, it shows us vividly the horrifying effects of sin, the stark and terrible reality of evil, the awful consequences of disobedience and alienation from God. Who could gaze on the Cross of Christ and not acknowledge the reality of sin? And not only the reality of sin but also its destructive consequences?

Sin is a personal act which disrupts one’s relationship with God and weakens the intellect and will. Sin also has an impact on others. "There is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, that exclusively concerns the persons committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 16).

Today’s Gospel scene reminds us of an even greater reality than sin, a higher and more important truth: namely the redeeming love of Christ, a love which is stronger than evil, stronger than death. It was at this precise point in human history, when he was offering his life for us on the Cross, that "God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5, 19). As St Paul says regarding this event of loving mercy, "through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins" (Eph 1, 7).

Yes, Christ on the Cross "was reconciling the whole world to himself" (2 Cor 5, 19), the whole of humanity of every time and place, "everything in heaven and everything on earth" (Col 1, 20). This is why the Son of God came into the world: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life" (Jn 3, 16).

And yet, reconciliation is offered to each person individually. Each one must freely decide to accept or reject it. We must remember the two criminals crucified with Jesus. Each of them acting by his own free choice responded to Jesus, but in opposite ways. God respects our human freedom. He generously offers us the gift of reconciliation, but he does not force us to accept. He gives us the freedom to reject it. We must freely choose it if we are to belong to the kingdom of God.

5. And if we do desire to belong to the kingdom of God, what are the ways in which this kingdom of God begins to take root in the human heart? How do reconciliation and peace come about in our innermost self?

First of all through prayer. I am referring both to liturgical prayer, in which we join ourselves to Christ, the High Priest, in the official worship of the Church, and individual prayer in which we meet the Lord alone in the depth of our soul. Prayer opens the mind and heart to God. It deepens our longing for his kingdom. Prayer consciously links us to the communion of the saints who support us by their continual intercession.

A second way of gaining peace of heart is by accepting the Gospel message. Jesus began his public preaching with a call to conversion: "Repent, and believe in the Good News" (Mk 1, 15). The Church continues Christ’s mission by condemning sin, calling people to conversion, and inviting them to be reconciled to God. And in every age, the Church proclaims the goodness and mercy of the Lord. She invites us all to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely" and to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Eph 12, 1-2).

Dialogue is yet another way towards reconciliation and peace, that dialogue of faith which proceeds from a deep respect for others and a confidence in the ultimate victory of truth. In order that genuine dialogue may take place, "we must all apply to ourselves the word of God; we must relinquish our own subjective views and seek the truth where it is to be found, namely in the divine Word itself and in authentic interpretation, provided by the Magisterium of the Church" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 25). In this regard, I am pleased to know that in New Zealand you are striving to bring about a greater knowledge of the word of God and to deepen your love for Christ.

The ways of conversion imply penance, almsgiving, fasting and whatever truly helps us pass from sin to spiritual freedom, from selfishness to justice and love, from hatred to a desire for peace. Through all the sacraments of the Church, Christ himself establishes the kingdom of God in our hearts. In the Eucharist, we receive the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and grants us peace. In the sacrament of Penance, the Lord reconciles us to himself and sends us forth to be servants of reconciliation in the world. Each of the sacraments, in its own way, joins us with our risen Saviour and renews in us the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

6. Peace, as well as love, is born from a new heart, a heart made new by God’s gift of reconciliation. A new heart is the foundation of peace in the world. All truly human actions proceed from the heart, the innermost centre of the human person, the dwelling-place of our conscience and of our deepest convictions. This is why peace of heart is the heart of peace - peace inside families, peace within villages, towns and cities, peace between nations and in international life. Peace throughout the world is only possible if it reigns first of all in our hearts.

But this inner peace is continually threatened in our modern world. It is disturbed by human passions: by hatred, envy, lust for power, pride, prejudice and an uncontrolled desire for wealth. Violence and war come from our blindness of spirit and the disorder in our hearts. These lead to injustice, which in turn causes tension and conflict. In addition, people’s consciences are often confused today by an ideological manipulation of information.

Clearly it takes great courage to open ourselves to conversion of heart and to maintain this conversion in humility and freedom. The obstacles to peace are many. "They are grave, they present serious threats. But since they depend on the spirit, the will, the human ‘heart’, with the help of God, people can overcome them. They must refuse to give in to fatalism and discouragement. Positive signs are already piercing the darkness" (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam Calendis Ianuariis a. 1984 celebrandam, 5, die 8 dec. 1983: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VI 2 [1983] 1288). And let us never forget that the final triumph over darkness has already been won by Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.

7. Our hope for the victory of peace is rooted in our faith in God, creator of heaven and earth. From the very beginning, in the act of creation itself, God’s goodness and providence are revealed. As the Book of Genesis says: "God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good" (Gen 1, 31). The created world is not the result of mere chance. It springs from God’s love; it is sustained by God’s love, and all the events of human history are subject to loving divine Providence.

In the great event of the Incarnation - the mystery of God becoming man - we understand much more of the mystery of creation. For Christ is, as St Paul says, "the firstborn of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, everything visible and everything invisible" (Col 1, 15-16). God loved the world so much that, from the beginning, he intended through the human nature of Jesus his beloved Son to enter into union with all humanity. Being both God and Man, Jesus could restore what sin had destroyed; he could bring creation back to its original destiny. Thus, in the words of St Paul, "God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth" (Col 1, 19-20).

The mystery of creation, then, is part of our celebration today on this feast of Christ the King, for Christ is also the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who reconciled all creation to himself and "made peace by his death on the Cross". With grateful hearts, we praise the Lord with the words of the Psalm: "Know that he, the Lord, is God./ He made us, we belong to him, we are his people... / Give thanks to him and bless his name. / Indeed, how good is the Lord, eternal his merciful love. / He is faithful from age to age" (Ps 99, 3-5).

8. God created us. Not only did God create us, but he "has made it possible for us to join the Saints and with them to inherit the light . . . He has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the Kingdom of the Son that he loves . . . In him were created all things in heaven and on earth . . . all things were created through him and for him. Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity" (Col 1, 12-17).

Christ the King is the beginning. He is the firstborn from the dead. Christ the King is the head of his body which is the Church. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. In Christ the King all fullness dwells! Amen."

At the end of the celebration:
"Ringrazio l’arcivescovo di Wellington e il vescovo di Palmerston North per le parole che mi hanno rivolto. Il card. Williams ha ricordato la mia precedente visita a Wellington nel 1973. Venni in quella occasione per visitare i miei fratelli e le mie sorelle polacchi. Venni anche in missione speciale presso il Governo e la popolazione neozelandese per dare atto della solidarietà dimostrata dopo la seconda guerra mondiale allorché furono invitati spontaneamente in questo Paese numerosi orfani di soldati polacchi caduti durante la guerra. Questi orfani, oggi presenti tra noi, erano allora dei bambini. Oggi sono padri e madri, genitori di famiglie che hanno propri figli. Vorrei rivolgere loro qualche parola nella nostra lingua madre.

Cari connazionali, mi rallegro di potervi visitare nuovamente. Questa visita non è rivolta unicamente a voi, ma all’intera Chiesa. So però che ci siete, che costituite una parte viva di questo società - della Nuova Zelanda, lontana dalla Polonia - e nello stesso tempo della stessa Chiesa cattolica. Così, come in Polonia, anche qui vi riunite davanti all’immagine di Nostra Signora di Jasna Gora, con i vostri pastori e con i vescovi di qui. Desidero ripetervi tutto ciò che già vi ho detto tredici anni fa: Dio vi benedica in questa nuova terra, che è divenuta la vostra nuova patria, almeno per i vostri bambini.

Ricordatevi però che le vostre radici sono là, che di là siete nati e questo legame con la patria, il cui cammino storico non è facile, richiede una particolare solidarietà. Che Dio vi benedica, che sostenga tutte le vostre comunità, che benedica la vostra unione con la gente di qui e il legame con la vostra vecchia benemerita patria sulla Vistola, con la Polonia.

Sono molto felice di trovarmi tra voi in questa particolare ricorrenza domenicale, la solennità di Cristo Re. Stiamo celebrando il regno di Cristo. Stiamo vivendo in questo regno. L’intera umanità sta vivendo in questo regno. È questa la nostra fede. Noi celebriamo questa nostra fede ogni giorno, ma particolarmente oggi. Rendiamo grazie a Dio.

Dio vi benedica tutti, voi tutti, ogni comunità con la sua differente storia, con le sue differenti radici, sia in Nuova Zelanda che al di fuori di essa. Grazie a voi tutti, a ognuno di voi, per la vostra partecipazione. Ringrazio i miei confratelli vescovi e i miei confratelli sacerdoti, per la loro concelebrazione. E dico: sia lodato Dio! Sia lode al Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo, Re dell’universo."

Blessed John Paul II's Words at the Angelus
Wellington, Sunday 23 November 1986 - in English & Italian

"1. At the end of this Mass in honour of Christ the King, we turn our thoughts for a moment to his Blessed Mother, and we join together in the prayer of the Angelus. This beautiful prayer begins with the words: “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”.

God the Father takes the initiative and sends his messenger to invite Mary to be the Mother of his beloved Son. St Luke tells us: “The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph . . . and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1, 26-27).

2. The greatest moment in Mary’s life began at God’s initiative. Through the Angel Gabriel, God invites; and in humble willingness Mary responds. God proposes and Mary accepts. “Fiat”, she says: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1, 38). This is the moment when Mary became the Mother of God. This is the turning point of the whole history of the human race, the moment when God became man. This is the way that the Virgin Mary accepted to the mystery of the Incarnation, the way she accepted to become the Mother of God.

3. In the history of salvation and in the life of each one of us, God unceasingly continues to take the initiative, asking us to respond in faith, inviting us to give our assent. It is God who takes the initiative because it is God who directs the course of history. As the Lord says through the Prophet Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have in mind for you... plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you” (Jer 29, 11).

We pray the Angelus with a desire to become more like Mary, to have a deep trust in God’s plans for us, a great confidence in his loving providence. And we wish to say with her: “Let it be to me according to your word”. We must respond with faith and hope to the great revelation of God’s love for the world.

4. In saying this prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wish to place under her loving protection the whole Church in New Zealand. I offer to her care all the beloved faithful of this land, together with their bishops, priests and religious. I pray, Holy Mother of God, that you will help the poor and the suffering, obtain pardon for the sinners, bring joy to the afflicted and lead all your sons and daughters in New Zealand to the happiness of eternal life, with the angels and the saints, in the Kingdom of Jesus, your Son. Amen."

Pope John Paul II's Address to the Sick, Elderly and Handicapped
Wellington, 23 November 1986 - in English & Italian

The Kingdom of God is very near to you" (Lk 10, 9)

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. On the feast of Christ the King, I am pleased to be with you who in a special way share in the sufferings of our Saviour. I greet you in the name of Jesus, who is our strength and hope. And I offer cordial greetings, too, to those of you who have accompanied our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a great joy to be with all of you here in Wellington.

As I prayed and prepared for my pastoral visit to New Zealand, I looked forward particularly to being with the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and disabled. I looked forward to this occasion when we would join in prayer and celebrate this Liturgy of the Anointing of the Sick. Now that I am with you, I can assure you of the special place you have in my own heart and in the life of the Church. Your prayers and sacrifices have great power, because they contribute so much to the Church’s mission of salvation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: "The Kingdom of God is very near to you!"

The only time Jesus was asked: "Are you a king?" (Jn 18, 28)was during his Passion, at the time of his greatest suffering. Indeed, it was by his suffering and death that he won for us the gift of the redemption and definitively established his kingdom. Perhaps this helps us to understand better why Jesus gave the following instructions to his disciples when he first sent them forth: "Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The Kingdom of God is very near to you’" (Lk 10, 8-9). God wishes to draw near to every human person, but with particular tenderness to the sick.

2. Human suffering, however, tempts us to doubt the words of Jesus that the kingdom of God is near. When pain dulls the mind and weighs down body and soul, God can seem far away, life can become a heavy burden. We are tempted not to believe the Good News. "For" as the Book of Wisdom says, "a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind" (Wis 9, 15). The mystery of human suffering overwhelms the sick person and poses disturbing new questions: Why is God allowing me to suffer? What purpose does it serve? How can God who is good permit something which is so evil? There are no easy answers to these questions asked by the burdened mind and heart. Certainly, no satisfying answer can be found without the light of faith. We must cry out to God, our Father and Creator, as did the author of the Book of Wisdom: "With you is wisdom, she who knows your words... Despatch her from the holy heavens... to help me and to toil with me and teach me what is pleasing to you" (Wis 9, 9-10).

3. Our Saviour knows well the many special needs of those who suffer. From the beginning of his public ministry, together with his preaching of the good news of the kingdom, "he went about doing good and healing" (Acts 10, 38). When he sent forth his own disciples on their mission, he gave them a special power and clear instructions to follow his example.

In his preaching, Jesus makes it clear that, although illness is linked to the sinful condition of humanity, in individual cases it is certainly not a punishment from God for personal sins. When asked whose sin had caused a man to be born blind, Jesus replied: "Neither he nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (Jn 9, 3). What unexpected good news this was for his followers! This suffering is not divine retribution. On the contrary, it is intended for a good purpose: "so that the works of God might be manifested"!

And in truth, it was the suffering and death of Christ that displayed the works of God most eloquently. By his Paschal Mystery, Jesus won for us our salvation. Suffering and death, when accepted with love and offered with trust to God, become the key to eternal victory, the triumph of life over death, the triumph of life through death.

4. By means of a special Sacrament, the Church continues Jesus’ ministry of caring for the sick. Thus, the Liturgy of the Anointing of the Sick which we are celebrating today faithfully continues the example of our loving Saviour.

This Sacrament is best understood within the context of the Church’s overall concern for the sick. For it is the culminating point of the many and varied pastoral efforts made for the sick in their homes, in hospitals and in other places. It is the climax of an entire programme of loving service in which all the members of the Church are involved.

What we are doing today is faithful to the example of Jesus and to the instructions of St James, who wrote: "If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the Church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven". Today in New Zealand, the Successor of Peter continues this tradition of the anointing of the sick, which the Church teaches to be one of the Seven Sacraments of the New Testament instituted by Christ.

It is good for all of us, even the elderly and sick, to remember that good health is not something to be taken for granted but a blessing from the Lord. Nor is it something we should endanger through the misuse of alcohol or drugs or in any other way. For, as St Paul says, "Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit... That is why you should use your body for the glory of God". Doing what we can to maintain our own good health makes it possible for us to serve others and fulfil our responsibilities in the world. However, when illness does come, we have this special Sacrament to assist us in our weakness and to bring the strengthening and healing presence of Christ.

5. Those who are seriously ill feel deeply their need for the assistance of Christ and the Church. Besides the physical pain and weakness, illness brings powerful anxieties and fears. The sick are vulnerable to temptations which they may never have faced before; they may even be led to the verge of despair. The Anointing of the Sick responds to these precise needs, for it is a sacrament of faith, a sacrament for the whole person, body and soul.

Through the laying on of hands by the priest, the anointing with oil and the prayers, new grace is given: "The sacrament provides the sick person with the grace of the Holy Spirit by which the whole individual is brought to health, trust in God is encouraged, and strength is given to resist the temptations of the evil one and anxiety about death. Thus the sick person is able not only to bear his or her suffering bravely, but also to fight against it. A return to physical health may even follow the reception of this sacrament if it will be beneficial to the sick person’s salvation".

The Anointing of the Sick brings particular consolation and grace to those who are near death. It prepares them to face this final moment of earthly life with lively faith in the risen Saviour and firm hope in the resurrection. At the same time, we must remember that the Sacrament is meant not only for those about to die but for anyone who is in danger of death through sickness or old age. Its purpose is not only to prepare us for death, which will inevitably come to all of us, but also to strengthen us in our time of illness. For this reason, the Church encourages the sick and elderly not to wait until the point of death to ask for the Sacrament and to seek its grace.

6. Today’s Liturgy says that the Lord is the Good Shepherd who leads us beside restful waters to refresh our drooping spirits. The Psalmist says to God: "You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing" (Ps 22, 5).

Anointing with oil has been used to signify healing, but at the same to signify a particular mission among God’s people. In the Scriptures we often find that people whom God has chosen for a special mission receive a special anointing. So it is with you who are sick or elderly. You have an important role in the Church.

First of all, the very weakness which you feel, and particularly the love and faith with which you accept that weakness, remind the world of the higher values in life, of the things that really matter. Moreover, your sufferings take on a special value, a creative character, when you offer them in union with Christ. They become redemptive, since they share in the mystery of the Redemption. That is why St Paul could say: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affections for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1, 24). Through the pain and the disabilities that restrict your life, you can proclaim the Gospel in a very powerful way. Your joy and patience are themselves silent witnesses to God’s liberating power at work in your lives.

7. I would like to address a word of gratitude to those of you who devote yourselves to helping others. The Feast of Christ the King which we are celebrating today is a feast of service, for it is the feast of the one who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many". In his earthly life, Jesus taught us the meaning of service, the kind of love in action that brings closer the Kingdom of God. I encourage you in your generous dedication to those who suffer. Through your daily efforts, you bear witness to the value of all human life, particularly that life which is most fragile and most dependent on others. Your service to the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and the disabled is part of the Church’s proclamation of the beauty of all life, even when it is weak. Your service is in complete contrast to every effort to suppress life by evils such as euthanasia and abortion. You have aligned yourselves with all those in society who are determined to take a prophetic stand on behalf of the innocent and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.

I am particularly grateful to you because you have so faithfully listened to the command of Jesus to his disciples: "Cure those who are sick, and say ‘The Kingdom of God is very near to you’".

Yes, the Kingdom of God is near: the Kingdom of the One who came to serve, the Kingdom of the Good Shepherd, the Kingdom where the last shall be first and the first shall be last, the Kingdom of Christ our Lord. Praise be to him!

Praised be Jesus Christ our King! Amen."