What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man.
When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its “helmsman”, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call “the threshold of hope”. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an “Advent” spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.
My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry.
Also from Rome, one of our American cardinals, Donald Wuerl, of Washington, D.C., reflected on the life of Blessed John Paul II:
“As Pope Benedict XVI declared John Paul II blessed, all of us, all of us can rejoice and probably remember ways in which Pope John Paul touched us, since he traveled all over the world, visiting people in every continent and bringing a message of joy, a message of hope, a message of confidence. I think of how many times he repeated, ‘Be not afraid. Step out into the deep. Open wide your hearts to Christ.’ And I think he reminds us as well today in this ceremony recognizing that he is Blessed and that we are blessed by his legacy, he reminds us of the New Evangelization. That it is our turn to reach out to people who may have drifted away from the faith, who may have drifted away from the practice of the faith, who may have even given up hope that there can be a better world. There can be a living relationship with God. This is a reminder that John Paul II was not just a holy man, he invited all of us to turn to everyone around us and share the good news that God loves us.”
That’s the message of the beatification today. Not simply that a good man lived and we’re celebrating that great gift. We certainly do that — and give thanks to God. We celebrate Karol Wojtyla, we hold him up, because he lived a holy life but also because we live and we, too, can be holy in our lives, whatever our vocations. We, in fact, must be holy if we are to fully live our lives as Christians. It is our calling! To be saints. And then we, too, can go home — with Blessed JPII — where we belong.
God gave us His Son to live among us, who provides the example of how to do it. But then He never stopped with the models of Christian living! He does not stop!
Or, as JPII put it in that first homily as pontiff: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!”