A Pilgrim on Earth

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 30 December 1987, the Holy Father reflected on the Church as a pilgrim on earth.

Dear brothers and sisters:

1. When we are still flooded with the light of the Christmas mystery and when we still hear the message of Bethlehem — a message of salvation, peace and fraternity among all men of good will — a particular reason accompanies us in this audience and suggests some reflections, always inspired by the spiritual climate of Christmas. The reason is the end of the calendar year. We are indeed on the eve of the last day of the year 1987. Meditation on the end of these twelve months, which will end tomorrow, leads us, first of all, to give thanks to the Lord for the innumerable benefits received; but it also invites us to review our life to verify if it has truly been anchored in the essential values, for what it is worth spending our existence, and to make a final and preventive balance for the New Year. It leads us, in a word, to see our life not as an autonomous and self-sufficient entity, but placed under the mysterious and beneficent influence of divine Providence, which directs everything for the good of its creatures. In fact, the time in which we are now and act is of incalculable value: in it the eternal city is built and in it the kingdom of God is announced and begins, which will reach its fullness beyond time.

2. This consideration leads us to see the Church as a pilgrim on earth , and Christians as walkers towards the heavenly homeland . In this ecclesial reality, the Holy Virgin shines with a very clear light. She, who "advanced... on the pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully maintained her union with the Son" ( Lumen gentium , 58), teaches us to walk on this earth looking at Jesus, the fruit of her womb, as reference point. This is precisely the meaning of Christmas, of the feast of the Mother and the Son. But this is also the meaning of the Marian Year, which will continue, also with the New Year, inspiring the devotion of the faithful for much of 1988.

In this regard, I sincerely hope that the continuation of this Marian Year offers even more the opportunity to better know the Blessed Virgin in the providential plan of the Incarnation and Redemption. Our eyes, often offended and blinded by the profane images of the environment that surrounds us and that almost attack us, should be reflected in its human and spiritual beauty. If we fix our gaze on Mary, blessed among women, we will be able to recompose in ourselves the line and the structure of the new creature redeemed by the Son.

In the midst of this world marked by episodes of wars, hatred and conflicts of the most varied kind, the Blessed Virgin, if we know how to invoke her, will not stop helping us and interceding for us so that we can face so many painful situations. She will teach us to love and use mercy in reciprocal relationships. She will reveal to us the goodness and mercy that God has for all his creatures. "Such a revelation —as she wrote in the Encyclical Dives in Misericordia — is especially fruitful because it is based, on the part of the Mother of God, on the singular tact of her maternal heart, on her particular sensitivity, on her special ability to reach all those who more easily accept the merciful love from a mother. This is one of the greatest and life-giving mysteries of Christianity, so intimately linked with the mystery of the Incarnation" (n. 9).

3. Lived in this way, the Marian Year will continue to be a very important time and will decide our personal and eternal fate, as it will help us find direction in the dispersion of the modern world; to promote a great harmony around us; to regenerate our way of thinking and living, and to rebuild in us a true Christian conscience.

I am addressing young people above all, urging them to know how to internalize the message of this Marian Year, destined to prepare the spirits for the great jubilee of the Redemption, on the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus. May they, the protagonists of the third millennium, know how to listen to the canticle of the Magnificat and make it resound in all environments, but above all among the marginalized, the oppressed and the despised, so that everyone knows that God, as the Virgin proclaimed, "exalts he fills the humble / the hungry with good things" ( Lk 1, 52-53). I also address all the sick—and today, in particular, to the group of blind-deaf-mutes of the Caritas Volunteer in Avezzano— to invite them to offer the exceedingly precious contribution of their suffering to this plan of salvation and consolation. That, in the same way, the recently formed families, the newlyweds , called to build the Church in imitation of the family of Nazareth, with sincerely Christian conduct, feel involved in this general framework of renewal of society and of the life of the Church: the greater will be its specific contribution, the greater will be its imitation of the family of Nazareth, which in these days is represented on the portal of Bethlehem.

I wish you all a holy and happy New Year and I bless you from my heart.

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