AS THE THIRD MILLENNIUM DRAWS NEAR
The Pope's Plan by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
The preparation needed for the Great Jubilee, Jerusalem 2000. We are called to pray and commit ourselves.
In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic letter Tertio MiIlenio Adveniente (As the Third Millennium Draws Near), which outlines a six-year program of preparation. This is a summary or precise of that letter's year-by-year program of preparation, and an inventory or catalog of the main themes and actions for each stage of the way.
Pope John Paul II asks that each of us "do as much as possible to ensure that the great challenge of the year 2000 is not overlooked." He begins by reflecting on the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians, "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman" (Gal 4:4). Thus he situates the event in Bethlehem 2000 years ago and highlights its "cosmic" significance (n. 3). Christ has made clear our calling and destiny (n. 4). And the Holy Father points to the Incarnate Word as the fulfillment of the yearning present in all the religions of the world (n. 6).
In Christianity~ time is a fundamental and important concept. The world was created in time. The history of salvation unfolds in time and finds its culmination in "the fullness of time." In the words of the Easter Vigil liturgy, "Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, all time belongs to him and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age forever" (n. 10).
In the context of time and the celebrations of anniversaries the Holy Father explains the idea and tradition of jubilees (nn. 11-16).
II- Preparing for the Great Jubilee
In our own century we look with eyes of faith to seek events and signs that witness to God's intervention in human affairs. We see the Second Vatican Council inaugurating a new era. The best preparation for the third millennium, then, is renewed commitment to the teachings and spirit of Vatican II (n. 20). Other events that have helped in preparation for Jubilee 2000 are:
- Synods with the underlying theme of the new evangelization (nn. 21, 25)
- New awareness of the Church's salvific mission expressed in post-synodal instructions (n. 21) - Defense of basic human values of justice and peace explained in papal encyclicals (n. 22)
- Increased sensitivity to the working of the Spirit in different communities, cultures, societies (n. 23) - Papal visits to every continent witnessing to the missionary character of the Church and the concern for ecumenism (nn. 24, 25)
- Holy Years of Jubilee, especially the Marian Year in 1987-1988, and the Year of the Family in 1994 (nn. 26-28) The immediate preparation for Jubilee 2000 has two phases, stretching from 1994-1996 and 1997-1999.
A- Phase I, 1994-1996
Phase I continues to build on the prior accomplishments of this century and heightens the meaning and value of Jubilee 2000 (n. 31).
- A jubilee is always an occasion of special grace (n. 32).
- A jubilee is a time of thanksgiving and joy; thanksgiving for the gift of the Church, and joy based on the forgiveness of sins (n. 32).
- As the second millennium draws to a close, Christians recall the "times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel" (n. 33), and are encouraged to repent "of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency, and slowness to act" (n. 33).
- Christians are called to examine their consciences, repent of divisions in the Church occurring in the past millennium, and renew commitment to ecumenical efforts toward church unity (n. 34).
- Church members need to express regret for their acquiescence to intolerance and the use of violence in service of the truth, and draw lessons for the future (n. 35).
- Christians need to examine themselves on their responsibility for the evils of our day, such as, religious indifference, disregard for the "transcendence of human life" and the fundamental values of the family (n. 36).
- Catholics have the obligation to evaluate themselves on their commitment to the teachings of Vatican II, especially the renewal of the liturgy and revitalizing preaching (n. 36).
- The lists of the martyrs and saints need to be updated to include heroic men and women of our time who have witnessed to the faith and to ecumenism (n. 37).
- Synods are being planned throughout!the world, including a Synod for the Americas, on the new evangelization, issues of justice, and the international economy (n. 38).
B- Phase II, 1997-l999
The three years of "the strictly preparatory phase" centers on Christological and Trinitarian themes of Jubilee 2000 (n. 39).
1) Year l - 1997 Jesus Christ
a. The distinctly Christological theme for this year is "Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the world, yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8) including:
- renewed appreciation of Christ, Savior and Proclaimer of the Gospel
- deeper understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation
- necessity of faith in Christ for salvation (n. 40)
- a return to the Bible in order to grasp better who Christ is and the meaning of his message of salvation(n. 40)
- reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in presenting the doctrine of Christology (n. 42)
b. Renew an appreciation of Baptism
- to make the mystery of salvation sacramentally present
- as the basis of Christian living that witnesses to the communion of all Christians (n. 41)
c. Strengthen the faith and witness of Christians to inspire in them
- a true longing for holiness - a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal
- prayer and solidarity with one's neighbor, especially the most needy (n.42)
d. The centrality of Christ cannot be separated from the role of Mary, who is
- Mother of God - model of faith (n. 43)
2) Year 2 - l998 The Holy Spirit
l. The Trinitarian theme focuses on the Holy Spirit,consubstantial with the Father and Son, who
- is the eternal source of every gift that comes from God in the order of creation - is the direct principle of God's self-communication in the order of grace
- makes present in the Church and in each individual the unique revelation of Christ
2. Renew appreciation of the sacraments especially Confirmation, and the variety of charism and ministries by which the Holy Spirit
- inspires the unity of the Church
- is the principal agent of the new evangelization
- prepares for the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God at the end of time (n. 45)
3) Year 3 - l999 The Father
l. Broaden horizons to enable believers to see all in the perspective of Christ's revelation of "the Father who is in heaven" so that we discover
- his unconditional love for everyone, in particular "the prodigal son"
- that the pilgrimage to the Father begins in each person's heart, extends to the believing community, and reaches to the whole of humanity (n. 49)
2. Christians, realizing that Christ revealed not only the Father but also what it means to be human, will
- face the challenge of secularism and the crisis of civilization impoverished by its lack of religious commitment and common values (n. 52)
- seize the opportunity of the new millennium to engage in inter religious dialogue, especially with Jews and Muslims (n. 53)
3. The sense of being on a "journey to the Father" requires an authentic conversion and a greater appreciation of the sacrament of penance that celebrates
- liberation from sin
- renewal of commitment to ethical values in natural law, confirmed and deepened in the Gospel (n. 50)
4. Special emphasis on-charity
- to recall its twofold aspect, love of God and love of neighbor, as the summary of the moral life (n.50)
- to remember that Jesus came to preach the Good News to the poor and to stress the Church's preferential option for the poor and the outcast
- to reflect on other challenges, such as women's rights, and the promotion of the family and marriage
5. Mary, highly favored daughter of the Father, is for believers perfect model of love of God and of neighbor one who responded to God's call with complete openness one inviting all to return to their Father's house
III. Celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000
- Jubilee 2000 will be celebrated simultaneously in the Holy Land, Rome, and local Churches throughout the world.
- The special purpose of the Jubilee is too give glory to the Holy Trinity "from whom everything in the world and in history comes and to whom everything returns."
- An International Eucharistic Congress in Rome will honor Christ who continues to offer himself as source of divine life.
- Plans call for a meeting of all Christians, carefully prepared to avoid misunderstandings.
- Everyone is asked to do all possible to ensure that the challenge and special grace of Jubilee 2000 is not overlooked or missed (n. 55).