Homily of Msgr. Slawomir Oder
Postulator of the Cause for Canonization of St. John Paul II
St. John Paul II Relic Veneration
132nd Supreme Convention
We can find it difficult to talk about God. He is so transcendent! Only because Jesus, His Son revealed to us His love, the Father's love, can we talk about God, using human categories, without fear. I think that Saints are the most beautiful thing the Lord wants to tell us about Himself. Saints are, in fact, the revelation of the grace of God and of His love.
During the canonization process of St. John Paul II, I was in North Canada. In the middle of the village I was visiting, there was a particular construction, made with stones. It was similar to a human person. I asked about the meaning of this monument and was told that it is called “Inuk shuk”, which means in the local language: “man was here”. It indicates, in the white desert of the Arctic, the place where man has passed, finding something to eat and refuge against the wind, snow and cold.
Saints are the sure sign of the presence of God in history! Saints are the most beautiful thing The Lord wants to say to us about Himself!
We can find in the book of the life of St. John Paul II the sure road which leads, through faith, humility, prayer, and love of neighbor, to full communion with God.
Meeting with a saint, any saint, confronts us with an alternative end to the well-known episode in the Gospel of Mark, in which a young man asked Jesus “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, looking at him with love, told him: “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Then come, follow me.” The young man went away sad. He was scared of this radical guidance from Christ. A saint is the one who believed the Master, because before he heard the demands of Jesus, he felt his love, His eyes full of love. He met the love and entrusted himself to the Master!
In his homily at the canonization of John Paul II, Pope Francis recalled that on one occasion, Saint Pope Wojty?a had said, “If the world will remember me, I would like to be remembered as the Pope of the Family and of Life.” He himself was able to enjoy his own family very briefly: when he was nine years old his mother died; as a 14 year old boy he lost his brother, and at the age of 21 years he lost his beloved father. But how rich and deep must have been his experience of love in his family! Years later John Paul II talked about his family home as his first seminary, and about his father as the one who first formed his priestly identity.
From his father, Karol learned to pray. From his father, he took a deep devotion to the Holy Spirit, to which he remained faithful to the end of his life. It is this deep love and entrustment to the power of the Holy Spirit that made John Paul II a witness to hope in the contemporary world.
It was his father who instilled in young Karol an ardent love for the Mother of God, when in his strong soldier’s hand he held Karol’s childlike hand, prayed the Rosary and took Karol on pilgrimages to Marian Shrines in Wadowice, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Czestochowa, sites close to the heart of every Pole. It was during these pilgrimages, that his father entrusted small Karol to the Blessed Mother. This entrustment bore fruit years later when, in a mature and personal way, it became the theme of the priestly, episcopal and later the papal ministry of Wojty?a, who completely entrusted himself to Mary, “Totus Tuus”.
In his family, John Paul II learned to respect life and its heroic defense. Three years before the birth of Karol, his little sister died, but the memory of the gift of her life was preserved in the family and passed onto Karol. When he was 13 years old, he witnessed the heroic attitude of his older brother, who as a doctor, during an epidemic of scarlet fever, while caring for the sick, became infected and died. For Karol Wojty?a, the family is the place where he experienced the true love of God and neighbor. When Jesus looked at him and told him, “Follow me”, Karol knew His love and entrusted himself to this love... and followed the Master.
At the beginning of his pontificate, he looked at the path that led him to the Chair of Peter. Seeing the enormity of the love he had experienced in his life, Pope John Paul II wrote “Debitor factus sum”, “I am a debtor”. He lived his life and papal ministry to repay this debt of love, making his life a gift for others, the gift of love.
Among the many titles by which the faithful from all over the world addressed Saint John Paul II in letters that I received during the canonization process the dominant title related to a family member: they addressed him as “Father”. For many, he was and remains the embodiment of fatherhood. Not only because he was the pope, who should be addressed as “Holy Father,” but because he was simply “father” who loved, admonished and corrected, challenged and taught love of God and of all people. His life invites us to make the everyday reality lived in the community of family and the experience of brotherhood, a way for everyday growth in holiness.
I recall the witness of a Burmese nun who during a meeting with John Paul II asked him what she should do to become a saint? The Pope did not say a word, but looking at her with love, he embraced her in his arms and hugged her to his heart. That was the answer: embrace your neighbor in your arms, look at him with love and hug him to your heart, where the love of Christ is present!
Saint John Paul II reminds us that without love man cannot live, cannot fully experience the encounter with Christ. The first school of this love is the family. It is the place where God allows us to experience his fatherly embrace of love and teaches us to embrace others with the same love.
In this experience of love, which man generates within his family, the meaning of gift and gratitude is born. The roots of the perception of being a debtor lay here, and from here, the human heart grows in its desire to repay its debts in love. From this experience, man takes his first step along the path of sainthood -- not only the sainthood that involves elevation to the glory of the altars, but the sainthood of every day life, extraordinary in its simplicity and ordinariness, a sainthood to which every man is called.
In concluding this reflection, I would like to recall the words of Saint John Paul II as he addressed the Knights of Columbus in 1979, at the beginning of his pontificate. They are still relevant today: “May the Lord reward you and through your efforts bring forth abundant fruits of evangelization in the Church. May your dedicated activity… help you realize [within] yourselves those…attitudes without which no one can truly evangelize: trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, true holiness of life, deep concern for truth, and an ever-increasing love for God’s children”.
“Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, true holiness of life, deep concern for truth, and an ever increasing love for God’s children” have been the substance of Saint John Paul's everyday existence and have led Him to the glory of the altar.
May the grace of the presence of the relic of Saint John Paul II among us be a vivid reminder of these words! May we be attracted by his example and encouraged by his words. May trust in the power of God, true holiness of life, deep concern for Truth, and generosity in charity be the “high standard” of our ordinary lives.
May the example of St. John Paul's life help us to be able to hear the voice of God in our lives and become ourselves the most beautiful word that the Lord wants to say about Himself to the people of today.
Through the intercession of Saint John Paul II, may the Lord’s blessing be upon you, upon your families and upon all the Knights of Columbus! Amen.