VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at midday today to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square to pray the Angelus. The address was in Italian.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. With today´s Sunday of Lent we enter the heart of this singular time of conversion and spiritual renewal, which will lead us to Easter.
The third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent constitute, in fact, a stimulating baptismal itinerary, which goes back to the first centuries of Christianity, when it was the norm for baptisms to be administered during the Paschal Vigil. After three years of a well-structured catechesis, in the last weeks of Lent the “catechumens” completed the final stages of their journey, receiving symbolically the Creed, the Our Father and the Gospel. This is why today also the liturgy of this Sunday is characterized by three texts of the Gospel of John, proposed according to a very ancient scheme: Jesus promises living water to the Samaritan woman, gives sight to the blind man, and resurrects his friend Lazarus from the tomb. The perspective of baptism is clear: through water, symbol of the Holy Spirit, the believer receives light and is reborn in faith to a new and eternal life.
2. In many realms of ancient Christian tradition, the genuine religious sense is unfortunately increasingly being lost. Therefore, it has become urgent for Christians to renew the awareness of their own identity. In other words, it is necessary that they rediscover their baptism, appreciating the inexhaustible spiritual vigor of sanctifying grace received in it, in order to transmit it to every realm of personal and social life.
The “source of water that springs for eternal life” (John 4:14), of which today´s Gospel page speaks, is present in every baptized person, but must constantly be cleansed of the residues of sin, so that it is not suffocated and dried up.
3. For this, our collaboration is indispensable. Let us now receive the invitation of the liturgy to drink from the sources of eternal life. May Mary, Mother of the Church, help those who are preparing to receive baptism, as well as all those who have already received it, to undertake in these weeks a journey of radical interior renewal.
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke the following words]
The news that comes from Madagascar has caused great concern and regret in my spirit. While I trust the traditional integrity and nonviolence of the people of Madagascar, I exhort those in authority to take up again with trust and courage the way of dialogue for a rapid solution to the grave crisis, solely in view of the common good. In particular, I invite the Christian community of the Great Island to raise fervent prayers to implore the Lord for the gift of peace in justice and reciprocal respect.
The latest news coming from Jerusalem has also profoundly saddened me. Violence, death and reprisals cannot but push the civilian populations, whether Israeli or Palestinian, toward despair and hatred. May an immediate cease-fire, together with a renewed sense of humanity, in respect of international laws, silence the arms and make the voice of reason be heard! I ask you to join me in my prayer for this intention.
I now greet especially the faithful of the parish of St. Gelasius I, where I should have gone to visit this morning. Beloved, I can assure you that I was spiritually present at your eucharistic celebration, and that I will continue to support you with prayer. Hoping that I will be able to be among you in the future, I give you my heartfelt blessing.
[Translation by ZENIT]