Today Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the tomb of Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the 100th birth of his sainted predecessor.
In a moving homily, Pope Francis, compared Saint John Paul II to the prophets of old; a man of God, whom the people saw as the Lord visiting his people.
“Today, we here, can say, “A hundred years ago, the Lord visited his people.”
And in typical Jesuit fashion, Pope Francis had ‘three little words’ to say about the late pontiff – prayer, nearness to the people, and justice.
First of all, prayer. John Paul II was a man of prayer and he prayed a lot, Pope Francis said because
“The first task of a Bishop is to pray and he knew that , and he did it.”
Second, Pope John Paul II, as a good shepherd sought to be near his flock. In fact, Pope Francis reminded us how Saint John Paul II traveled the world to be near his people,
“He made himself near to them and the nearness is one of the aspects of God that God has for his people.”
And the third message of the life of John Paul II teaches us that Jesus is the face of God’s merciful justice.
“(John Paul II was) man who wanted justice, social justice, justice for the people, a justice to drive out war. But complete justice and because of this Saint John Paul II was a man of mercy because Justice and mercy go together, you can’t distinguish them, one from the other, they’re together. Justice is justice, mercy is mercy but one without the other? It doesn’t exist.”
Saint John Paul II wanted us to understand God’s mercy and his life manifested it.
Here is the complete text of Pope Francis’ homily for the Mass celebrating the 100th birthday of Saint John Paul II as transcribed from Sr. Bernadette Reis’ ‘on the spot’ translation.
“The Lord loves his people.” We sing this refrain, and it’s the truth. And it’s a truth that the people of Israel loved to repeat. The Lord loves his people. In the difficult moments, the Lord always loves and they expected to see how he would manifest that love and when the Lord sent out of his love a prophet or a man of God, the reaction of the people was that the Lord has visited his people. Because he loved them, he visited them. and the same was what the crowd said. The crowd who followed Jesus, seeing the things that Jesus did, The Lord has visited his people. And today we here, we can say, “A hundred years ago, the Lord visited his people.”
He sent a man, he prepared him, made him a Bishop to guide the Church. Recalling the memory of Pope Saint John Paul II, we pick up this theme, ‘The Lord loves his people. The Lord has visited his people. He sent a pastor, a shepherd.
What is the outline we can find in Pope John Paul II? There are a lot of them but let’s say, we’ll talk about three only, – they always say that Jesuits always say things in threes – prayer, nearness to the people, and the love of justice.
St. John Paul II was a man of God because he prayed, and he prayed a lot, But how can a man who had so many things to do and so much work to lead the Church, how could he take so much time in prayer? He knew well that the first task of a Bishop is to pray and this isn’t what the Second Vatican Council said, it’s what Saint Peter said when he mad the first deacons he said, “And to us Bishops prayer and the proclamation of the Word.” The first task of a Bishop is to pray and he knew that , and he did it. A model Bishop who prays, it’s the first task. And he taught us that when a Bishop does an examination of conscience in the evening he needs to ask “How many hours did I pray today”? A man of prayer.
That second example a man who was near to his people, he wasn’t detached or separated from his people, in fact he sought the out! He sought the people out. He traveled the entire world going to find his people. He made himself near to them and the nearness is one of the aspects of God that God has for his people. Remember that Moses said to the people of Israel, “Look, other people has its gods as close to it as you are with me?” The nearness of God with his people that he makes very, very close in Jesus, he makes it very strong in Jesus. A shepherd who is near to his people. The opposite, the person is not a shepherd, he’s a manager, he’s in the hierarchy, but he’s not a pastor. But closeness to the people and Saint John Paul II gives us an example of this nearness. Being near to the people far away and those who are near. He made himself near.
And the third example, love of justice, but complete justice. A man who wanted justice, social justice, justice for the people, a justice to drive out war. But complete justice and because of this Saint John Paul II was a man of mercy because Justice and mercy go together, you can’t distinguish them, one from the other, they’re together. Justice is justice, mercy is mercy but one without the other? It doesn’t exist. And speaking of a man of justice and mercy we can think of how much Saint John Paul II did, so that the people might understand God’s mercy. Let’s think about how he promoted the devotion that originated with Saint Faustina. He felt that God’s justice had this face of mercy; this attitude of mercy. And this is a gift that he left to us. Justice and Mercy and merciful justice. Let us pray to him today that he might grant to all of us, especially the the shepherds of the Church but to all of us, the grace of prayer, the grace of drawing near, and the grace of justice and mercy and merciful justice.