John Paul II's Homily on 25th Anniversary of Pontificate "Do Not Be Afraid to Welcome Christ" VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org) - Here is a translation of John Paul II's homily from the Mass in St. Peter's Square last Thursday, the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. The homily was in Italian. * * * 1. "Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo -- I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, for ever" (see Psalm 88:1). Twenty-five years ago I experienced the divine mercy in a particular way. In the conclave, through the College of Cardinals, Christ said also to me, as he once did to Peter on the Lake of Gennesaret: "Tend my sheep" (John 21:16). I felt in my soul the echo of the question then addressed to Peter: "Do you love me more than these?" (see John 21:15-16). Humanly speaking, how could I not tremble? How could such a great responsibility not weigh on me? It was necessary to have recourse to divine mercy so that to the question: "Do you accept?" I could respond with confidence: "In the obedience of the faith, before Christ my Lord, commending myself to the Mother of Christ and of the Church, conscious of the great difficulties, I accept." Today, dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to share with you an experience that has been prolonged for a quarter of a century. Every day in my innermost heart the same dialogue takes place between Jesus and Peter. In the spirit, I fix my eyes on the benevolent look of the risen Christ. He, despite knowing my human frailty, encourages me to respond with trust like Peter: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you" (John 21:17). And then he invites me to assume the responsibility that he himself has entrusted to me. 2. "The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (John 10:11). While Jesus pronounced these words, the apostles did not understand that he was talking about himself. Not even John, the favorite apostle, knew it. He understood it on Calvary, at the foot of the cross, seeing him offering his life silently for "his sheep." When the time came for him and for the other apostles to live this same mission, they then recalled his words. They realized that, only because he had assured them that it would be he himself who would work through them, they were able to fulfill the mission. Particularly well aware of this was Peter, "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (1 Peter 5:1), who admonished the elders of the Church: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge" (1 Peter 5:2). In the course of the centuries the successors of the apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, have continued to gather the flock of Christ and lead it toward the Kingdom of Heaven, aware that they could assume such a great responsibility only "through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ." I had this very same awareness when the Lord called me to carry out the mission of Peter in this beloved city of Rome and at the service of the whole world. >From the beginning of the pontificate, my thoughts, prayers and actions were animated by only one desire: to witness that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is present and works in his Church. He is in constant search of each lost sheep, leads it back to the sheepfold, bandages their wounds; looks after the weak and sick sheep and protects the strong. This is why, from the first day, I have never ceased to exhort: "Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power!" I repeat forcefully today: "Open, better still, open wide the doors to Christ!" Let yourselves be led by him. Be confident of his love! 3. At the beginning of my pontificate I appealed: "Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and, with the power of Christ, serve man and the whole of humanity!" While I give thanks with you to God for these 25 years, entirely marked by his mercy, I feel a particular need to express my gratitude also to you, brothers and sisters of Rome and of the whole world, who have responded and continue to respond in various ways to my appeal for help. God only knows how many sacrifices, prayers and sufferings have been offered to sustain me in my service to the Church. How much good will and concern, how many signs of communion have surrounded me every day. May the good God recompense all abundantly! I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, not to interrupt this great work of love for the Successor of Peter. I ask you once again: Help the Pope, and all those who want to serve Christ, to serve man and the whole of humanity! 4. To You, Lord Jesus Christ, only Shepherd of the Church, I offer the fruits of these 25 years of ministry at the service of the people that you have entrusted to me. Forgive the wrong done and multiply the good: All is your work and to you alone is due the glory. With full confidence in your mercy, I present again to you, again today, those that years ago you entrusted to my pastoral care. Keep them in love, gather them in your sheepfold, carry the weak on your shoulders, bandage the wounded, take care of the strong. You be their shepherd, so they will not scatter. Protect the beloved Church that is in Rome and the Churches of the whole world. Penetrate with the light and power of your Spirit all those you have placed at the head of your flock: that they hasten to carry out their mission as leaders, teachers and sanctifiers, while awaiting your glorious return. I renew to you, through the hands of Mary, beloved Mother, the gift of myself, in the present and the future: May all be accomplished according to your will. Supreme Shepherd, stay in our midst, so that we can proceed in safety with You, toward the house of the Father. Amen!