4. In this regard, today's Gospel passage invites us to make a careful examination of conscience. St Luke speaks of "ways to be made straight", of "valleys to be filled", of "mountains" and "hills to be brought low" so that all flesh may see the salvation of God (cf. Luke 3: 4-6). These "valleys to be filled" make us think of the gap that can be seen in some people between the faith they profess and the daily life they lead: The Council counted this dichotomy as "one of the gravest errors of our time" (Gaudium et spes, n. 43).


The "paths to be straightened" also recall the situation of some believers who extract from the complete and unchangeable patrimony of the faith certain subjectively selected elements, actually in the light of the dominant mentality, and abandon the straight path of Gospel spirituality to follow vague values inspired by a conventional and irenic moralism. In fact, although the Christian lives in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, he cannot fail to sense the urgency of the missionary mandate which prompted St Paul to exclaim: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9: 16).


The Gospel of Christ, the message of happiness for every person, whatever his age, class, culture or nation, should be courageously presented in every circumstance, in every context, favourable or not.


5. Aware of this, the Church has devoted even greater effort in recent decades to the renewal of catechesis, in accordance with the teachings and spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Here we need only mention a few important ecclesial initiatives such as the Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, particularly the one in 1974 dedicated to evangelization, as well as the various documents of the Holy See and the Episcopates published in these decades. A special place is naturally held by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992 and followed three years later by a new edition of the General Directory for Catechesis. This abundance of events and documents witnesses to the concern of the Church which, at the beginning of the third millennium, feels spurred by the Lord to commit herself with renewed zeal to proclaiming the Gospel message.


6. The Church's catechetical mission faces important goals. The Episcopates are preparing the national catechisms which, in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will present an organic synthesis of the faith adapted to the "differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity and ecclesial condition" (CCC, n. 24). A hope rises from my heart and becomes a prayer: may the complete, universal Christian message pervade every area and level of culture and social responsibility! Above all, in accordance with a glorious tradition, may it be translated into the language of art and social communications, in order to reach the most varied human milieus!


At this solemn moment, with deep affection I encourage you who are engaged in various catechetical activities: from parish catechesis, which in a certain sense is the leaven of all the other forms, to catechesis in Catholic schools, associations, movements and new ecclesial communities. Experience teaches that the quality of catechetical activity largely depends on the caring and affectionate pastoral presence of priests. Dear priests, especially you, dear parish priests, do not let the courses of Christian initiation or the training of catechists lack your diligent efforts. Be close to them and accompany them. This is an important service which the Church is asking of you.

7. "I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership in the Gospel" (Philippians 1: 4-5). Dear brothers and sisters, I willingly make my own the words of the Apostle Paul offered to us again by today's liturgy, and I say to you: catechists of every age and state, you are always present in my prayers, and the thought of you, committed to spreading the Gospel in every part of the world and in every social situation, is a comfort and hope for me. Today I would like to pay tribute with you to your many colleagues who paid with every kind of suffering and often even with their lives for their fidelity to the Gospel and to the communities to which they were sent. May their example be an inspiration and encouragement to each of you.


"All flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3: 6), so said John the Baptist in the desert, foretelling the fullness of time. Let us make our own this cry of hope, as we celebrate the 2,000th Jubilee of the Incarnation. May all flesh see in Christ the salvation of God! This is why every person must meet him, know him and follow him. Dear friends, this is the Church's mission; this is your mission! The Pope tells you: Go! Like the Baptist, prepare the way for the Lord who comes.


May Mary Most Holy, Virgin of Advent and Star of the new evangelization, guide and help you. Be docile as she was to the divine Word and may her Magnificat spur you to praise and to prophetic courage. Thus the words of the Gospel will also be fulfilled through you: all flesh will see the salvation of God! Praised be Jesus Christ!


Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.


14 December 2012


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20 December 2012


Extracted from the prophet Zephaniah 3:14-18


Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud!


Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!


The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.


The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.


When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem:


Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp.


The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.


He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love;


he will dance with shouts of joy for you  as on a day of festival.


Canticle extracted from the prophet Isaiah 12: The rejoicing of a redeemed people


Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.


Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear.

For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my saviour.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.


Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name! 

Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!

Declare the greatness of his name.


Sing a psalm to the Lord for he has done glorious deeds; make them known to all the earth!

People of Zion, sing and shout for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

20 December 2012