This is the good news of the Jubilee Year that we are celebrating. Two thousand years ago, "when the fullness of time had come, God sent his son, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Gal. 4-5)
"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light" (Mt. 4-16). The jubilee is a time for rejoicing for all the wonderful things that God has done for us. As Christians we are concerned in what we do, or fail to do, in giving witness to the faith that we profess and this is as it should be. But let us keep in mind, above all, what God has done for us in baptism by making us one with his Son Jesus Christ.
By coming amongst us, as one like us in all things but sin, and by his death on the cross, Jesus Christ has brought us out of darkness and into his own wonderful light. By that death he had freed us from the slavery of sin and made us a new people, his chosen people. By his death, and not through any merit of our own, he has reconciled us to God our Father, and made us the sons and daughters of God and heirs to his Kingdom. As we have heard in our Letter to the Ephesians (3:12) "In Jesus Christ we have access to boldness and confidence, through faith in him".
It is for this wonderful gift, a free gift given from love, that we are here today to give thanks and sing the praises of such a God.
But all this has not been given to us for ourselves alone. It is not a gift to be carefully put away and cherished. We receive this free gift in love from God, through Jesus Christ, so that in turn we may be a gift to others! St. Paul describes this very well in his Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5: 18-20)
All this from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has give us the ministry of reconciliation. […] So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.
By, grace, by faith in Jesus Christ, we are accepted by God as his children and we receive the Holy Spirit who gives us a new life. The Jubilee Year is a time for living more fully this new life, for conversion, for turning away from sin and all that is not worthy of the name of Christian that we bear; a turning towards a more authentic Christian life? St. Paul describes it for the early Christians and for us in these words:
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
Heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,
Gentleness and patience,
Bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
If one has a grievance against another;
As the Lord has forgiven you,
So as you must also do.
And over all these put on love,
That is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:12-14)
As ambassadors for Christ, who dedicate your talents to the communications' media, you are frequently called upon to report divisions and violence between members of a family, of opposing groups, of nations. How often must you winder why these divided children of the one Lord and Creator, made equally in his image, cannot settle your differences so as to be reconciled and live in peace!
In reporting these events, you too have a role to play in making that possible. You can help them in this process, you who are ambassadors for Christ "who reconciled the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them". Are you in fact ambassadors of reconciliation? Do you seek in your work in the media to build bridges across the disturbing divisions you are called upon to report? Sometimes one has the impression that certain members of the media are more involved in destroying rather than building bridges.
The Jubilee Year in the Hebrew Scriptures was a time of social justice and reconciliation. Make this Jubilee Year 2000 also a time for reconciliation, by dedicating yourselves anew to being a means for reconciliation in your work and in your homes. Be truly a gift to your society and to the world.
How can you do this in practice? One of the most valuable means at your disposal is information. It is through you that events are made known to the wide world. People place great faith and trust in you. They rely on you to be informed about what they cannot know directly. This makes you a most powerful instrument for good or evil, for making known the truth or allowing lies and confusion to spread, for bringing opposed peoples together or confirming them in their divisions.
A true ambassador for Christ must choose to promote good not evil, make known truth, not lies, to reconcile and not divide. This does not limit the freedom of the press. The communicator must remain free to report accurately and truthfully, even the bad news. It is in your power to dispel ignorance which, despite the great advantages in communications remains so widespread. Ignorance not only places huge obstacles in the path of personal development, but it is often the cause of tension and violence in relations between individuals, groups, and nations. Ignorance and fanaticism are frequent companions, the latter arising out of the former. My dear friends from the media, you can do much to replace this ignorance with knowledge, by accurate and balanced reporting. Be ambassadors of reconciliation, of truth, building bridges where they are most needed and encouraging those who read and listen to your words to respect each other, be concerned for each other, share with each other, love one another.
May I address a final request to those responsible for reporting religious events. We in the churches deeply appreciate the interest shown in our activities. You help us greatly in our task of bringing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to the knowledge and attention of many who would hear of the love manifested in them by the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
My request is very simple, namely that those chosen and delegated to report of religion and religious events be especially formed for this delicate and important task. No serious editor would send a reporter to write on politics or sport without making sure the person chosen is well prepared to discuss and report on those matters. Why then do we sometimes meet reporters who come very poorly prepared to discuss with us religious questions?
It has been a special pleasure to make this pilgrimage with you here today at St. Paul's Outside the Walls. St. Paul was a great communicator. His words have instructed and inspired Christians for two thousand years. Nothing - imprisonment, countless floggings, even a stoning - could deter him from proclaiming the gospel. No difficulty - shipwreck, danger from bandits, hunger and thirst, betrayal of false brothers, anxiety - could not prevent the carrying out the mission entrusted to him (2 Cor. 11:23-27). He saw himself - as we have heard - as a servant of the gospel who dedicated his life "to bringing the news of the boundless riches of Christ to the world" (Ephesians 3:7-8). With the other apostles, he proclaimed the good news of salvation to the whole of creation (Mark 16:15). He was not one to vacillate between "yes" and "no" (cf. 2 Cor. 1:17ff.). His was a message of truth delivered in love, a message of reconciliation and peace. You too can be part of this apostolate, this exciting adventure of bringing to the world "the news of the boundless riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). May St. Paul inspire you all to serve the sacred causes of truth and love as he did, for the benefit of your audiences and all of humanity. Amen.