CARDINAL J. FRANCIS STAFFORD,
Tuesday 15 August 2000
My dear young brothers and sisters in Christ, you are pilgrims to Rome. In ancient times, the baptized passing over the thresholds of the Apostles Peter and Paul were called Romei. Welcome, young Romei of the third millennium!
In Rome, you will encounter young pilgrims from all parts of the world. Some may become your life-long friends. You will also see things of great beauty. I pray that you will find both experiences of faith. May I suggest two further considerations?
1. You will pass over the threshold of the Holy Door in St Peter's Patriarchal Basilica. This is a unique opportunity to rediscover your Christian identity. Use it.
Your identity is unfolded in the Sacraments of Initiation. Jesus said, "I am the door. If any one enters by me, he will be saved". By the new birth through Baptism, you have been saved and become a new creation. Three times you were washed or plunged in the sacred water, signifying Christ's burial for three days. By this action, you died and you were born. For you the saving water was at once a grave and the womb of a mother. Baptismal water marked your first conversion. Your second conversion is in the tears of repentance in the Sacrament of Penance.
The inscription on the Holy Door confirms the Baptismal significance for those passing over its threshold, "Here may the abundant waters of divine grace flow; Here may they cleanse the souls of all who enter - Here may the water refresh them with cherished peace, [and] here may they provide them with Christian virtue".
The last phrase perhaps contains a reference to your Confirmation. You have been anointed in Confirmation with the muron, the perfumed Chrism. You thereby achieved perfection in the gift of the Spirit with his seven virtues: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and holy fear. You have become the fragrance of Christ.
Baptism and Confirmation placed you on the threshold of the greatest pass-over of all, the Holy Eucharist. You are carried to the thrice-holy God in, through and with Christ, your Paschal sacrifice. Having entered the House of Peter, you are invited to taste the sweetness of the Lord in the spiritual manna. For Jesus has become your heavenly bread in the wilderness.
2. The Holy Father places before you the incredible proclamation of this Jubilee Year 2000, "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us". Make that truth your own!
You may do this in four steps: read this passage, meditate upon it again and again, pray about it and contemplate its mystery in silence. For the Father's eternal Love has been made visible to the whole world in Jesus. In all that Jesus said and did the Father expressed himself. Moreover, in Jesus another dimension of the Triune God is seen. We discover that the Spirit of the Father dwelt within the inmost being of the Son. It was always in the Holy Spirit that Jesus in sovereign freedom took up the mission of the "One who sent him".
Christians take their stand in history. The leitmotif of history is guilt. But Christ's grace is greater than guilt, misery and death. There is no greater task than this: to encounter everything and everyone with love. Self-emptying and forgiving love is the water-mark of the Incarnate Word in whose name you were baptized. That is the freedom with which Christ has set you free. Christians alone know true freedom. Pilgrims pray to grow in this freedom.