This month marks 20 years since the visit to New Zealand of Pope John Paul II.
The central theme of his visit to Aotearoa New Zealand was ‘Peace of heart is the heart of peace’. Many of us will have memories of that windy November day in 1986 at Athletic Park; some may have been privileged to be present in other parts of the country and will have other memories of those remarkable days.
Whatever our memories of those days, I wonder if we ever fully reflected on the Holy Father’s words to us. I found it very difficult to concentrate of his homily at Athletic Park – there were too many other distractions – the wind, the crowd, the first time I had seen or heard a pope in person. Now, with the advantage of the Internet, we have the opportunity to go back to those words and once again pray with them and reflect on them; we can read them at our leisure and know that his words are as relevant today as they were back then.
Perhaps it is even more necessary today as we long for peace throughout our world, a world that seems to have become smaller and is threatened with terrorism, perhaps it is even more necessary to know that ‘Peace of heart is the heart of peace’.
Why not visit the Vatican website [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/1986/] and read again those words addressed to the people of New Zealand. Take time to pray and reflect on them and ask yourself what do Pope John Paul’s words mean for me today in 2006? What do they mean for the way I live out my discipleship?
The Holy Father said in his homily in Wellington on the Solemnity of Christ the King.
How do reconciliation and peace come about in our innermost self?
The first way, of course, is prayer. This means liturgical prayer in which we join ourselves with Christ the High Priest in the official worship of the Church, and individual prayer, when we meet the Lord alone in our soul. Prayer opens the mind and heart to God. It deepens our longing for his Kingdom. Prayer consciously links us to the Communion of the Saints who support us by their continual intercession.
A second way of gaining peace of heart is by accepting the Gospel message. Jesus began his public preaching with a call to conversion: “Repent, and believe in the Good News”. The Church continues Christ’s mission by condemning sin, calling people to conversion, and inviting them to be reconciled to God.
Dialogue is yet another way towards reconciliation and peace, that dialogue of faith which proceeds from a deep respect for others and a confidence in the ultimate victory of truth. In order that genuine dialogue may take place, “we must all apply to ourselves the word of God; we must relinquish our own subjective views and seek the truth where it is to be found, namely in the divine word itself and in the authentic interpretation of that word provided by the Magisterium of the Church”.
• Surely those words are worth reflecting on again.
• What is my prayer like?
• Do I enter fully into the liturgical prayer life of the church?
• Do I allow my mind and heart to be open to God?
• Is my heart ready to receive the gospel message over and over again?
• In these days of a greater awareness of other faiths are we ready to dialogue with others and work towards reconciliation and peace?
I believe that we have a wonderful opportunity to take to heart once again words which were spoken to us 20 years ago.
To young people
This period in your life, the time of youth, is a period of special importance. The decisions you make now, the friendships you form, the values you choose to live by, the goals you set for yourselves – these will shape your personal future and have an impact on the future of society. I am always happy to be with young people because I enjoy your enthusiasm and hope. As you face the challenges of youth, I am eager to assure you of the love of Christ and to remind you of the Gospel he preached, the Good News of truth, freedom and salvation.
To the sick, the elderly and the handicapped
The mystery of human suffering overwhelms the sick person and poses disturbing new questions: Why is God allowing me to suffer? What purpose does it serve? How can God who is good permit something which is so evil? There are no easy answers to these questions asked by the burdened mind and heart. Certainly, no satisfying answer can be found without the light of faith. We must cry out to God, our Father and Creator, as did the author of the Book of Wisdom: “With you is wisdom, she who knows your words… Despatch her from the holy heavens… to help me and to toil with me and teach me what is pleasing to you”.
All of you are invited to share this land in peace and in mutual respect. You do this by recognizing the common bond of being members of one human family, created in the image of God and called to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way, each culture is given the chance to contribute its talents and resources for the good of all. When you build a just society upon the foundation of mutual respect and fraternal love, then, justice is shown to be the path to peace.
There are too many words which were left with us in 1986 to print them all here. They continue to be important to reflect on and pray with. Pope John Paul had powerful, prayerful messages for us.
A wonderful and fruitful way to bring back memories of 1986 would be to go back to those words, study them and pray with them. Please do so.
Peace, as well as love, is born from a new heart, a heart made new by God’s gift of reconciliation. A new heart is the foundation of peace in the world. All truly human actions proceed from the heart, the innermost centre of the human person, the dwelling-place of our conscience and of our deepest convictions. This is why peace of heart is the heart of peace – peace inside families, peace within villages, towns and cities, peace between nations and in international life. Peace anywhere in the world is possible only if there is first of all peace of heart.
May we always be people who have hearts of peace.