Jubilee 2000 Search


The choice of a phrase from the Letter to the Hebrews: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever" as the motto for the Great Jubilee was certainly a prophetic intuition. Never before, as in these years of preparation, have these words assumed such timeliness or been so challenging to the faith. In the mind of the author of the Letter, the phrase describes two characteristics of our faith: stability and dynamism. The first describes the foundation of faith which is Christ himself, who never changes and is always "the same", as on the very day on which we came to believe; the second looks to the fulfilment of faith when at last we will see Him face to face.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God made Man, who has entered history. This is why the message he brings is definitive and will last forever; nevertheless the message is placed within time which by its nature tends towards fulfilment. Hence we are before a message which cannot fail to grow, to reach out to everyone, everywhere and to touch people deeply, so that the Word of God may speak to each and every human heart.

This was affirmed by the Pope during the celebration of the First Vespers of Advent with which he officially opened the immediate stage of preparation for the Jubilee when he affirmed: "By becoming man, the Son of God, the Word consubstantial with the Father, took possession of our time in all its dimensions and opened it to eternity. Eternity in fact is God's own dimension. By becoming man, the Son of God embraced human time with his humanity, to guide man through all the measures of this time towards eternity and to lead man to participation in the divine life, the true inheritance of the Father. the Son and the Holy Spirit."

This entrance into time and history had already taken place, to quote again the Letter to the Hebrews, "At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors ... ". However, this he did through the mediation of the prophets. In his Son, made Man, the relationship between God and humanity is radically changed. To use a good phrase of the Conciliar document Gaudium et Spes, "For by his incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. (GS 22) " This is the mystery which faith celebrates, proclaims and desires to grasp ever more profoundly.

Already in the New Testament texts the Church made her profession of faith attributing to Jesus certain "titles" to express characteristics of his mystery. Hence Jesus is called "Christ", which in the beginning meant solely the "anointed one of God", the fulfilment of his promises, and which, with time, became Jesus' actual name. Along the same lines we find "Lord", "Son of God" "Master" "Son of Man", "Wisdom" ... One ancient tradition dating to the 7th century discovered as many as 187 titles applied to Jesus. Each one of them describes something of his mystery, although even summed together they could never totally reveal it. These titles bear witness to faith, anxious to penetrate the mystery and yet also preserve it, and not constrict it with human measures.

With joy and satisfaction in number 40 of Tertio Millennio adveniente we find a new title applied to Jesus : "Proclaimer of the Gospel". The Holy Father writes: "Among the Christological themes suggested in the Consistory the following stand out: a renewed appreciation of Christ, Saviour and Proclaimer of the Gospel, with special reference to the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, where the theme of Christ's mission of preaching the Good News and the Jubilee are interwoven". This title of Proclaimer of the Gospel was heard from many of the Bishops during the 1974 Synod on Evangelization. In his Apostolic Exhortation written precisely at the end of the 1975 Holy Year, Pope Paul VI wrote: " During the Synod, the Bishops very frequently referred to this truth: Jesus himself, the Good News of God, was the very first and the greatest evangelizer; he was so through and through: to perfection and to the point of the sacrifice of his earthly life". (EN 7)

We observe a new impetus, a re-discovery of this title as we are confronted with the celebration and the significance of this new Jubilee. When he enters the Synagogue in Nazareth it is Jesus himself who explains, without any additional comment, his own understanding of his identity and his mission: The Father has sent him to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. Jesus explicitly affirms that Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in his person and his preaching. "For this I am sent", Jesus says, as if to underline the purpose of his mission and to remove all doubts as to what he intends to do. From then on he will go from village to village, from town to town, seeking out those who are lonely and abandoned, he will share the plight of the poor in order to make visible through his life, his words, his gestures, the Father's loving mercy.

This is evangelization. He who is the Gospel becomes at the same time Proclaimer of the Gospel. In fact, in Jesus, for the first and only time, the Father's revelation and the one who reveals it, coincide. The true evangelizer brings first of all the proclamation of the Kingdom of God which is brought about in his person: "If it is through the Spirit of God that I cast out devils then know that the Kingdom of God has overtaken you." This is the primary and authentic message of liberation, because Jesus proclaims true salvation, which does not stop at the poverty of the exterior person, but touches each of us at the very root of all our poverty, egoism and individualism.

For Christ, to evangelize was a compulsion to which he gladly succumbed, even to the point of accepting the final result of his preaching: suffering and death. Such is the consistency of the true evangelizer: to prove that the truth of his message is worth dying for, since it is the fruit of a mission given by God. Jesus has joined his Church indissolubly with this work, to which he dedicated untiringly the three years of his public life. From the beginning, again the narrator is Saint Luke, he sent his disciples "two by two, ahead of him" to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, and to the Twelve he gave the same command he had received from the Father: "Go and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel!". Jesus did not give us advice, he gave us a command. To be part of Christ means to assume what is proper to him. Christ the evangelizer renders every believer an evangelizer. He sends every Christian into the great city of this world to take a message which many have no time for, or consider outdated. When our evangelizing spirit is weak, our activity is sluggish and our work is barren.

Catechesis on Jesus Christ during the first year of preparation for the Jubilee must awaken a new missionary awareness able to make our faith ever stronger. For this purpose the Theological-Historical Commission prepared a most readable publication which will guide reflection on Jesus Word of the Father. The book is first of all a valuable sign of unity. It is made available to all National Committees as a common instrument for catechesis, easily adaptable to the different ecclesial situations. Furthermore, it is the fruit of study which sought to narrate the mystery of Christ in the light of an understanding faith, with the help of different ecclesial and ecumenical traditions. It also intends to serve as a support for personal reading for those anxious to travel the path towards the Jubilee more quickly.

Still today, Jesus the evangelizer continues to call disciples to walk with him to proclaim him and the love of God. This is the challenge of the Third Millennium; a challenge which faith has always had to face and which has always found generous proclaimers.

Rino Fisichella