Spring 2014 Magazine - Immaculata University - page 13

expressed in such statements as: “This is no time
to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to
preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to
break out of comfortable and routine modes of
living in order to take up the challenge of mak-
ing Christ known in the modern metropolis.”
Without doubt though, his greatest preach-
ing was without words! He taught by example;
he taught by witness. Indeed, I believe that for
26 years we were blessed to “see a sermon walk-
ing”! Consequently, as journalist John Allen not-
ed, when John Paul II urged Christians to
duc in
, to set off into the deep, it resonated even
with those who sought very different shores.
Salt purifies! Here I think of John Paul II’s
lively engagement with the culture! Through
dialogue with scholars and statesmen, with a
lively appreciation of the arts and education, he
impacted cultures around the world. And surely,
as a salty “sign of contradiction” he tenaciously
asserted the truth of the inherent dignity of ev-
ery human person and challenged all to promote
a culture of life, to build a civilization of love.
A Church that is relevant to the needs of
contemporary man can’t accommodate or mimic
the culture. Authentic dialogue and engage-
ment, asserted John Paul II, must be critical.
Without hesitation he courageously upheld
the “splendor of truth”—often stating what an
audience least wanted to hear. Yet his blunt and
straightforward message always carried the seeds
of hope and compassion, especially for those
who were suffering.
Salt seasons! As he zipped around the world,
John Paul II manifested an energetic zeal, a cer-
tain sense of urgency, a concrete, tangible, spirit
of enthusiasm (which Theology students know
comes from the Greek:
en + theos
, “in God-ness,
in Love-ness”!) In his first homily as pope, he
proclaimed: “Be not afraid. Open the doors to
Christ, the doors of your personal and family
lives, the doors of your business and career, the
doors of your mind and heart. Open the doors to
Christ. And be not afraid.”
“Be not afraid.” The refrain reverberated
around the world—a marvelous prayerful chal-
lenge! Perhaps we could say that this bold and
bracing proclamation became the interpretive
key to his papacy!
Salt is emblematic of loyal, faithful friend-
ship with God and others!
Totus tuus
yours”—that is the motto Saint John Paul II
chose for his life. Thus he held up Mary as a
model of holiness for the whole Church, and
with a dash of daring updated the rosary with
five new “Mysteries of Light.” Ever exemplify-
ing humility, he never let his flock forget that
he was human. He delighted all by revealing, “I
have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is
my Polish sin.”
More seriously, it is good to recall that in
the opening lines of “Crossing the Threshold of
Hope”—the 1994 book-length interview that
became an international best-seller—he noted
his own sinfulness and the marvelous mystery
of God’s love: “Every man has learned it …
I learned it very well. Of what should we not
be afraid? We should not fear the truth about
Surely the choice of the Feast of Divine
Mercy for this canonization was intentionally
chosen. John Paul II had a deep devotion to his
fellow Pole Sister Faustina Kowalska and to
the Divine Mercy devotion identified with her.
In August 2002, in Lagiewniki, Poland where
Sister Faustina lived and died, John Paul II
entrusted the entire world to Divine Mercy. He
was aware that modern culture and its language
do not have a place for mercy. Treating it as
something strange, people try to compress it,
interpret everything in the categories of justice
and law.
But this, John Paul II continually as-
serted, does not suffice! With heartfelt passion
he stated, “The message of Divine Mercy has
always been near and dear to me … which I took
with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense
forms the image of this Pontificate.” Repeatedly
John Paul II wrote and spoke about the need for
us to turn to the mercy of God as the answer to
the specific problems of our times. “I consid-
ered this message my special task. Providence
has assigned it to me in the present situation of
man, the Church, and the world.” How fitting
to remember that God welcomed him “home”
to heaven on the Vigil of the Feast of Divine
Mercy! He more than fulfilled that “special
Let us be grateful that God gave us this
“salty” saint to guide the Church through the
many challenges of the late 20th century and
across the threshold of the third millennium.
Has he not specifically earned the title
John Paul II?
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