VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily given by Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, at today’s Mass of thanksgiving for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.
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“Simon, son of John, do you love me? (…) Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you” (John 21:17).
The dialogue between the Risen One and Peter is the dialogue that precedes the mandate: “Feed my sheep,” but it is a dialogue that first scrutinizes the whole life of man. Were not these, perhaps, the question and answer that marked the whole life and mission of Blessed John Paul II? He himself expressed this in Krakow in 1999, affirming: “Today I feel called in a particular way to gives thanks for this thousand-year-old community of Christ’s pastors, clerics and lay people, because their witness to holiness and the environment of faith which they formed and continue to form in Kraków have made it possible, at the end of this millennium, for Christ’s exhortation: ‘Peter, feed my lambs’ (Jn 21:15) to descend upon the banks of the Vistula, at the foot of the Wawel Cathedral. It became possible for one man’s weakness to find support in the power of the perennial faith, hope and charity of this land, and to give the response: ‘In the obedience of faith before Christ my Lord, entrusting myself to the Mother of Christ and of the Church, conscious of the great difficulty, I accept.'”
Yes, it was this dialogue of love between Christ and man that marked the whole life of Karol Wojtyła and led him not only to faithful service to the Church, but also to his personal, total dedication to God and to men that characterized his way of holiness.
We all remember how the day of his funeral at a certain moment the wind gently closed the pages of the Gospel placed on his coffin. It was as if the wind of the Spirit wished to mark the end of the human and spiritual adventure of Karol Wojtyła, entirely illumined by the Gospel of Christ. From this Book he discovered the designs of God for humanity, for himself, but above all he learned Christ, his face, his love, which for Karol was always a call to responsibility. He read the history of humanity and the events of every man and every woman that the Lord placed on his way in the light of the Gospel. His faith arose from here, from his encounter with Christ in the Gospel.
He was a man of faith, a man of God, who lived from God. His life was a continuous, constant prayer, a prayer that embraced with love every single inhabitant of the earthly planet created in the image and likeness of God and thus worthy of all respect, redeemed with the death and resurrection of Christ, and because of this become truly living glory of God (Gloria Dei vivens homo — St. Irenaeus). Thanks to the faith which expressed itself above all in prayer, John Paul II was an authentic defender of the dignity of every human being and not a mere combatant for socio-political ideologies. For him, every woman, every man was a daughter, a son of God, regardless of race, color, skin, geographic and cultural provenance and even of religious creed. His relationship with every person is synthesized in that wonderful phrase he wrote: “The other one belongs to me.”
But his prayer was also a constant intercession for the whole human family, for the Church, for every community of believers, in the whole earth — perhaps that much more effective the more marked it was by the suffering that marked several phases of his existence. Was it not perhaps from here — from prayer, from prayer linked to so many painful events of his own and of others — that sprang his concern for peace in the world, for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations? We heard in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings” (Isaiah 52:7).
Today we thank the Lord for having given us a pastor like him. A pastor who was able to read the signs of the presence of God in human history, and who then proclaimed the great works in the whole world and in all languages. A pastor who rooted in himself the sense of mission, of commitment to evangelize, to proclaim the Word of God everywhere, to cry out from the rooftops … “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings (…) announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King.'”
Today we thank the Lord for having given us a witness like him, so credible, so transparent, who taught us how we must live the faith and defend Christian values, beginning with life, without complexes, without fear; how the faith must be witnessed with courage and coherence, translating the Beatitudes into daily experience. The life, suffering, death and holiness of John Paul II are a tangible and sure testimony and confirmation.
We thank the Lord for having given us a Pope who was able to give the Catholic Church not only a universal projection and a moral authority at the world level, but also, especially with the celebration of the Great Jubilee of 2000, a more spiritual, a more biblical vision more centered on the Word of God. A Church that was able to renew herself, to get a “new evangelization” under way, to intensify ecumenical and interreligious relations, and to rediscover the paths of a fruitful dialogue with new generations.
And finally we thank the Lord for having given us a saint like him. We all had a way — some up close and others from afar — to discern how his humanity, his word and his life were consistent. He was a true man because he was inseparably bound to him who is Truth. Following Him who is the Way, he was a man always on the way, always moving toward the greatest good for every person, for the Church and for the world and toward the goal that for every believer is the glory of the Father. He was a man who was alive, because of the Life that is Christ, always open to his grace and to all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
To what extent the words we heard in today’s Gospel were verified in his life: “Truly, truly I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18). We all saw how everything was taken from him that humanly could impress: physical strength, the expression of the body, the possibility to move, even the word. And then, more than ever, he entrusted his life and his mission to Christ, because only Christ can save the world. He knew that his bodily weakness made it seen more clearly that it is Christ who operates in history. And offering his sufferings to Him and to his Church, he gave all of us a last great lesson of humanity and of abandonment in the arms of God.
“Sing a new song to the Lord,
Sing to the Lord, men of the whole earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name.”
Let us sing to the Lord a song of glory, for the gift of this great Pope: man of faith and of prayer, pastor and witness, guide in the passage between two millennia. May this song illumine our life, so that not only we venerate the new Blessed but, with the help of the grace of God, we follow his teaching and his example.
While I address a grateful thought to Pope Benedict XVI, who wished to raise his great predecessor to the glory of the altar, I am pleased to conclude with the words that he pronounced on the first anniversary of the death of the new Blessed: “Dear brothers and sisters, (… ) our thoughts turn with emotion to the moment of the beloved Pontiff’s death, but at the same time our hearts are, as it were, impelled to look ahead. We feel reverberating within them his repeated invitations to advance without fear on the path of fidelity to the Gospel, to be heralds and witnesses of Christ in the third millennium.
“We cannot but recall his ceaseless exhortations to cooperate generously in creating a more just humanity with greater solidarity, to be peacemakers and builder
s of hope.
“May our gaze always remain fixed on Christ, ‘the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13: 8), who firmly guides his Church. We believed in his love and it is the encounter with him that ‘gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’ (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 1).
“May the power of Jesus’ Spirit be for you all a source of peace and joy, dear brothers and sisters, as it was for Pope John Paul II. And may the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help us to be in all circumstances, as he was, tireless apostles of his divine Son and prophets of his merciful love.” Amen![Translation by ZENIT]