After the extraordinary experience of the Jubilee, the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era opens a new chapter in the action of grace in history. The challenges are great and complex. There are no set paths, no «magic formulas” for our mission as Christians in the new millennium. But we have a promise: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
It would be naive to ignore the obstacles that oppose the proclaiming of Christ in today’s world. As the Pope pointed out, it is precisely some of the traditionally Christian countries that present dramatic symptoms of “a religious disinterest resulting from the consumer and secularist mentality.” At the same time, nevertheless, a person with faith cannot help but notice powerful reasons for optimism.
Last December 21st, when addressing the Roman curia on the results of the Jubilee Year, the Pope chose to dedicate special attention to the Jubilee for Youth, “not only for its intrinsic dimensions, but above all for the dedication that it demonstrated.” It is not only a question of numbers, but of the spirit the young people showed, the sincerity of their personal witness, their search for Christ. John Paul II saw in today’s youth, who are going to be the first actors on the stage of the third millennium, “young people, whatever their possible ambiguities, [who] have a profound longing for those genuine values which find their fullness in Christ.” Therefore, during World Youth Day, he addressed these challenging words to them: “It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
John Paul II also wrote, at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year, that “the symbol of the Holy Door now closes behind us, but only in order to leave more fully open the living door which is Christ.” If we Christians are optimistic about the future it is because we trust, above all, in the God and Lord of History, the only guarantee of the future. Only in Christ, “considered in his historical features and in his mystery, Christ known through his manifold presence in the Church and in the world, and confessed as the meaning of history and the light of life’s journey,” can one find the key to read this new millennium which humanity has just entered.
The Jubilee, lived by Christians “not only as a remembrance of the past, but also as a prophecy of the future,” closed as the millennium began. A moment of grace and conversion, it formed a hopeful prologue to the new millennium. The Pope now asks us to keep our fervor enkindled, so that “the fruits of this Year will not be lost and that the seeds of grace will grow to the full measure of the holiness to which we are all called.” Therefore, in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, he invited the bishops and all the faithful, closely united to one another, to heed Christ’s words, duc in altum!, put out into the deep, and to strive, without delay and with complete trust in God, to employ the means needed to obtain the fruit that He desires. The program that the Roman Pontiff is proposing to the Church for welcoming the new millennium is thus the simple yet demanding program of sanctity: in particular the sanctification of ordinary life to which the lay faithful are called by their incorporation into Christ in baptism.
From our first steps in the third millennium, our eyes are directed towards Mary and, through her, towards Jesus. “O Mother, you know the sufferings and hopes of the Church and the world: come to the aid of your children in the daily trials which life brings to each one, and grant that, thanks to the efforts of all, the darkness will not prevail over the light. To you, Dawn of Salvation, we commit our journey through the new Millennium, so that with you as guide all people may know Christ, the light of the world and its only Saviour, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.”