Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray, watch and pray. We sang that Taize setting of Jesus’ words in the garden of Gethsemane on Good Friday. These past days we have been living them as all eyes have been focused on the Upper room where John Paul II was surrendering his life into God’s embrace.
And in the watching and waiting, we were wondering when the “hour” would be? Would it be on the first Saturday of the month, a day devoted to Mary, John Paul’s special protectress, or today on Divine Mercy Sunday, a day of special devotion for hi, or even the feast of the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow? Now we know that yesterday was John Paul’s entrance day, when doors were opened into eternal life.
Another aspect of the Kairos, the time of John Paul’s death was the
appropriateness of the Scriptures for the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Could we
find betterone’s to celebrate his life and his service to the Church
and the kingdom of God?
Listen again and remember:
From the Acts of the Apostles: All who believed were together
and held all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s needs.
This kind of evangelical “communism” reminds us not only of
the role that John Paul played in bringing and end to a communism in which
people’s individual liberties were compromised but also his constant
preaching against a kind of capitalism that neglected the needs of the poor
and developing nations and glorified the accumulation of wealth and materialism.
In the Gospel:
That evening of the first day of the week, when the doors of the room were locked for fear of the Jews. This is a line from Scripture that always makes me uncomfortable when I hear it. I fear that those who hear it will not understand the context of the Johannine Gospel in which different sects of Judaism, those who believe in Jesus as Messiah and those who don’t are in competition and even conflict. I fear that the ancient rifts between Christians and Jews will be reinforced with words like these. But today these words resound in a different way. John Paul did so much to heal the age-old wounds of these two faith traditions. John Paul’s outreach to and asking for forgiveness from the Jewish people may be one of his greatest legacies. In his favorite expression, our elder brothers in faith, he reminded us that God has not abandoned his chosen people. God’s faithfulness is eternal. God’s promise of Covenant Love cannot be withdrawn. What a poignant expression of reconciliation when he prayed at the western wall, the holiest sight for genuine fellowship with the people of the covenant.
Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them Remember the image of John Paul in the cell of the one who tried to assassinate him. John Paul modeled for all of us what it means to “love one’s enemy” and forgive the one who has sinned against you.
Jesus came into their midst and said “peace be with you”. John Paul was an apostle of peace. He spoke out not only against the war in Iraq but decried the use of force and violence throughout the world. One of the most powerful memories I have is World Youth Day in Toronto. I was privileged to be on the Papal “stage:” with the dancers from BC and our parish who danced to the incense psalm for Evening prayer. Seeing the many thousands of people who came to pray with John Paul, I was struck by the realization that very few people on the face of the earth could bring together so many people of different languages and cultures to simply be “at peace”. This “peace” was not just the absence of conflict, but a peace that came from Christ himself. John Paul’s simple mantra to the young people gathered was “love Jesus Christ as he loves you”
But it is the second reading from Peter, the apostle, the first bishop of Rome from whom John Paul would receive his mission as “servant of the servants of God” that speaks eloquently of the life and death of Karol Woytyla, John Paul II. “In this you rejoice, although for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials so that the genuineness of your faith more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” In the vigor and energy of his youth as well as in the fragility and suffering of his later years, John Paul modeled for the world what it is to be a person of faith, a disciple of Jesus Christ, a believer in the God who cherishes each human life and respects the dignity of each human person.
I began with the image of the “upper room” where John Paul was waiting and watching and praying for the Lord to take him home. I imagine that just as Jesus came into the upper room in Jerusalem to bring peace and joy to his friends, the Risen Lord Jesus was there in the Upper Room with John Paul, both bearing the wounds of a human life, both knowing the joy of eternal life.
Seeing him, you love him even more. You rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul.