教区管理者 APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR
March 22, 2015 ; 5th Sunday of Lent, in Ordinary Time
|In front of Saint Peter’s grave in the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica|
FIRST READING : Jeremiah 31:31-34
SECOND READING : Hebrews : 5:7-9
GOSPEL : John 12:20-33
Japanese bishops, gathered here in Rome for Ad limina, we visited the grave of Saint Peter and will celebrate the Mass together this morning. Let us pray with the intercession of Saint Peter that we can work well for evangelization in Japan. Today is the 5th Sunday of Lent and Holy week will start in one week. We are planning on coming back to Japan in time for Palm Sunday and fulfilling the ministration during Holy week in each Diocese. Let us pray that we can deeply believe in the mystery of the Lord’s Passover, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and taste and practice it.
The theme of today’s Gospel is “A grain of wheat”. Jesus said : “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
The Church in Japan is the Church of martyrs. Many people kept their faith, offered their lives and became martyrs, following Jesus’ teaching of a grain of wheat. Many were beautified including Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. The last Ad limina was held in 2007. In November, 2008, Petro Kibe and 187 Martyrs were beautified in Nagasaki. This year is the 400th anniversary of Justo Ukon Takayama’s martyrdom. So we have higher expectations for his early beautification. I asked the Pope’s approval of Ukon Takayama’s beautification on this occasion of Ad limina.
On the 17th of March, we, bishops in Japan gathered and participated in the Mass and ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Hidden Christians at Nagasaki. In fact, for over 250 years with no priests under the Persecution of Christians, Crypto-Christians had kept their faith and had expressed their faith to the next generation. This is a praiseworthy and miraculous fact. This year, the Synod centering on the theme of family, will be held for the second time, following the one held last year. Every family should be the first church that nurtures and expresses the faith. However it has become difficult for families to fulfill this role everywhere in the world. In this respect, families in Japan are in the same situation. Nowadays in Japan, there are many priests, unlike the period during Persecution of Christians. However, it has become difficult for us to express our faith to the next generation. We were once a Church that expressed our faith honorably even under the circumstance of having no priests. I think we have to take a look at this issue seriously.
Seven years have passed since the last Ad limina. The big incident that happened during this period is the Great East Japan Earthquake. Many lives were lost and many people were missing because of Tsunami. At the same time, the nuclear accident happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Many people became victims of radioactivity and were forced to evacuate away from their hometown. The Catholic Church in Japan formed a support system and pronounced the message, ‘Abolish Nuclear Plants Immediately’ in 2011. Nuclear power is nothing else but an outrage that human beings get conceited and try to control nature against the rule of God, because of the pursuit of more convenient and comfortable life. We firmly request to abolish nuclear plants immediately.
This year, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. We, bishops of Japan issued a message on February 25th advocating that peace must not depend upon weapons. The movement to effectively invalidate the provision of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has grown stronger as seen in the cabinet decision that admitted to exercise the right to collective defense. Anti-foreign movement like hate speech has become noticeable. Also there is a remarkable tendency toward nationalism. In Okinawa the move to trample on the hope of local people is accelerating. We feel fear that peace is threatened in this kind of situation. Peace cannot be achieved by the use of force. We shared this hope for peace with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin at the Department of State in Vatican yesterday.
This Ad limina that we had an audience with the Pope, was held in a different way from the usual. We exchanged our opinions about issues and concerns in common with the Pope in a warm and open atmosphere. We could tell the Pope directly what we want very frankly. It was a good meeting opportunity and everyone seemed to be satisfied.
The first reading today is taken from Chapter 31 in Jeremiah. It’s the passage that Jeremiah prophesied the realization of the new covenant. This prophesy was fulfilled by the death of Jesus on the cross and His blood. Every time we celebrate Mass, we commemorate the new covenant was concluded by Jesus’s blood.
We are people of the new covenant through Jesus Christ. We are people of the Church that are proud of having many martyrs and believers who had expressed their faith without any priests throughout 250 years. How do we carry out our duty as God’s people that live and express the Gospel of the mystery of Christ’s Passover under the present-day circumstances? The most important thing is that we pray, share the words of Bible and work as the Apostles of peace in the society. For that let us sincerely pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
[All the Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition (NRSVCE), copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]