Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

He is a Saint (part II)

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One John Paul II Priest Recalls the Influence of John Paul the Great

Allow me to quickly describe to you my personal experience with the newly beatified pope, whom I was allowed to meet at a general audience when I was 18 years old. As he walked through the middle aisle of the audience hall he offered me his hand. He radiated warmth and a fatherly love which is difficult to describe. In hindsight this moment was a decisive moment of my life. I know that John Paul II influenced my priesthood profoundly, just as he profoundly influenced the priesthood of many and awakened many vocations.
Blessed John Paul II

Word

God reveals Himself in the Word. His Word in Holy Scripture is testimony of His Love. Even more, God Himself, the Word, Who became flesh. The Second Divine Person, the Son of God, became man - out of love for us, for every single one of us. How deep must God's Love for us be? The angels couldn't conceive it! And God becomes man as the lowliest - in poverty and loneliness. We have not received Him, we have banished him. What else could God have done to show us His love but to become man Himself?

John Paul II was a man of the Word. He wanted to proclaim the love and mercy of God as preacher and missionary - proof for this are more than 100 trips all over the world during his pontificate. He did not let himself be influenced by media nor public opinion.

Cross
John Paul II recognized God's Love also in the cross. Not only does God become man, not only does He take on human flesh and life, but He gives it up freely - out of love for us and in order to redeem us. In the cross we see God's Love for us revealed. Jesus suffered freely for every single one of us, as if you or I was the only person in the entire world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a very telling comment (478):
"Jesus knew and loved us each and all during His life, His agony, and His Passion, and gave Himself up for each one of us: "The Son of God ..... loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20) He has loved us all with a human heart.

During His passion Jesus "knew and loved every single one of us" - and "He offered Himself for every single one of us." We forget too often that Our Lord took on this unspeakable suffering FOR ME, He said YES to the suffering FOR ME, He loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal 2,20). Every one of us can say: He died FOR ME, and contemplate it in his heart. Jesus loved me with a human heart, and in the middle of His passion on the Mount of Olives it was His free decision to suffer FOR ME in order to redeem ME from death of sin, from eternal death, from eternal damnation.

The cross also reveals the love that John Paul II had for God and for the people. He suffered his illness, and his suffering in humility, and total surrender, and became a strengthening example for many sick people. He did not refuse the cross. "Jesus did not come down from the cross - nor will I come down from the cross." That was one of his best known and telling statements.

Holy Eucharist
Jesus introduces the Holy Eucharist - He wants to remain with us "all the days until the end of time". He wants to give Himself to us in Holy Communion. How great God's Love is for us.

Blessed Mother Teresa, with whom John Paul II was deeply connected, used to say: "If you want to know how much God loved you - look to the cross. If you want to know who much God loves you - look to the Holy Eucharist."

And yet, there is more! God longs for us, He thirsts for us. In her spiritual testament, several months before passing away, Blessed Mother Teresa writes: "Jesus ardently longs for you. He does not just love you, He ardently longs for you. He misses you if you do not come closer to Him. He is thirsting for you..... My children, you don't have to be different from who you are for Jesus to love you. Simply believe that you are precious to Him."

The Holy Father knew this. And he lived it. He was a deeply Eucharist-centered pope. His last important writings deal with the Holy Eucharist (MnD, EdE). Six months before his death, in October 2004, he announced the Year of the Eucharist. During this year God called His loyal servant into Eternity.

The love for the Lord Who became flesh, Who was nailed to the cross and Who gives Himself to us in the Eucharistic Bread is Blessed John Paul's legacy. Let us believe in this Love of God, which was revealed to us in the manger, the cross and on the altar. And let us imitate the newly beatified pope in giving to God the answer of our love.

MARY
Mary will help us. It was she who showed the love of her Son to the pope, who taught him to answer Jesus unconditionally and uncompromisingly out of love just as she did herself. Blessed John Paul II consecrated his life, his pontificate, and the whole world to her. Totus Tuus! This should also be our response to the Blessed Mother.

Let us look to Mary. She gave to God the perfect answer of love. She gave her unconditional YES (Fiat Mihi) to God although she did not fully comprehend all that was good or painful which ended up being part of this YES. But she trusted God, she believed and she loved - beginning with the incarnation all the way to the crucifixion.

Let us ask Mary to teach us to love Jesus. Let us ask her by the following prayer composed by Pope Benedict, who continues his predecessor's work in his special way:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, handmaid of the LORD,
You gave the world the true light,
Jesus, your Son - God's Son.
You surrendered totally to God's call,
and in doing so you became the source of goodness, which flows from Him.
Show Jesus to us, lead us to Him.
Teach us to know HIM and to love Him
so that we too may become truly filled with love
and a source of living water in the midst of a thirsty world.

-----

Fr. Bernhard Speringer is a priest of the Order of Holy Canons Regular of the Holy Cross in Austria.

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