Homily of Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz on the Ocasion of 30th Anniversary of The John Paul II Foundation
1. How piercingly sounds today’s Gospel readings in the Basilica bearing the name of Peter, the Apostle. Here, in the Basilica’s grottos, lies a man, on whom Christ built his church. We still remember the scene from the Caesarea Philippi. For the Master’s question “Who do you say I am?”, Simon Peter answered: “You are, the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16, 15-16). Upon these words, Jesus named the Apostle “Blessed are you” and He added: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in Heaven.” (Mt 16, 18-19) Peter’s faith became the foundation for the community of the disciples of the crucified and resurrected Lord.
Jesus knew the heart and living faith of the simple fisherman from Galilee, as He knew what is hidden inside the man. Thus, He entrusted the fate of the community of His disciples to Him. Before His ascension, before His return to His Heavenly Father’s Home, He had with Peter the final conversation. Three times, in the formal style, He asked the same question, as He could remember that question forever. The question related to the most crucial issue, as it was related to love. “Simon son of John, do you love me more than others?” Honest and humble answer did not create any doubts: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. Such answer fulfils the most important condition to undertake the pastoral tasks: “Take care of my sheep” (com. J 21, 15-17).
Peter kept his word, and His love to the Lord transformed and became a service to the Church which finally led Him to the capital of the Rome’s empire where he gave the highest proof of His loyalty. Read the tomb of the Apostle’s Prince it is not only the documentation of the historic scene from the Sea of Galilee. Today, we are also participating in this dialogue as the words of the God are directed to us. Also, we are asked the same question about love.
2. There is one more reason, thus today’s Gospel is important for us. Today we are reading these verses near the tomb of a man, who we named as the Peter of our time and indeed, He was him for more than twenty-six years. He by himself was searching in the Simon Peter’s experience for a reference point to understand the unique mission which He undertook thirty three years ago. The next day, after the Inauguration ceremony of his Pontificate, John Paul II wrote in the letter to the Cracow’s Archdiocese: “Believe me, coming to Rome for the conclave I had no other desire than to come back among you, to my beloved archdiocese and my homeland. But Christ’s will was different; therefore, I remain and start the new mission He has entrusted to me. Such as high mission, but also such a difficult responsibility! If we think and reason with our mind, it exceeds human strength. Was not St. Peter the first to be afraid of this mission, when he said to Christ: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, o Lord”? (Lk 5:8) And even after the resurrection when, indicating the apostle John, he asked: “Lord, what about this man?” But Christ had confirmed to him: “What is that to you? Follow me.” (Jn 21:21-22)
We witnessed that through His entire pontificate, John Paul II was answering the Christ’s call: “Follow me.” He was answering this call earlier on, undertaking the service as the priest, and later on as the shepherd of the Cracow’s church. But on October 16, 1978, He faced the new and the most difficult call. He undertook that in the spirit of obedience to Christ, entrusting everything to His Blessed Mother. The continuous dialogue with Christ prepared Him to make that decision. His heart was ready to make that decision, however, in a humanly way it could tremble under the pressure of the awaiting tasks.
3. Today we are looking at the John Paul II pontificate as on the fulfilled task. We know the sequence of each stage and achievements. We know the extent of the Papal teachings that is included in the treasures of the pastoral wisdom, which provide answers to problems of the contemporary Church and world. We know the style of the Papal service that went beyond the borders of Rome reaching to the farthest corners of the world. We know numerous pastoral initiatives of the Pope. We also know that His service was sealed with the bloodshed during His assassination and at the end of His life with sacrifice. We know that John Paul II left the testimony of His personal holiness, acknowledged by the Church’s verdict merely six years after His departure to the Father’s House.
By the decision of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Guide falls at the anniversary of the John Paul II inauguration of His pontificate. At the time John Paul II depicted the program of his pastoral service with the words that hit our hearts: “Do not be afraid!” and “Open wide the door to Christ.” “So often – was saying then the new Pope – today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.” (October 22, 1978, n. 5) John Paul II was pointing out to Jesus Christ as the only and final answer for the most important questions that a man may have, for the most important issues of the world. Therefore, He was untiringly proclaiming Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
In the light of the gigantic work of the Pope, who was traveling through countries and continents, making speeches to the modern world, we can read the words from the book of the Prophet Isaiah: “O, how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God Reigns!” (Is 52, 7) John Paul II was doing everything to bring the Good News of the Lord to the contemporary person, so – as the Prophet was saying – “all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Is 52, 10)
4. Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends we have received a great gift in the person of John Paul II, in His teachings and His holiness. We should live by this gift and also we should be inspired by Him when we are undertaking new tasks, which we may face. It is our privilege and responsibility to consolidate heritage of the Blessed Pope, so we could hand it down to the next generations.
The John Paul II Foundation, established thirty years ago is directed by this noble intention. It was a providential decision, which brought forth abundant fruit and it still does. The Foundation propagates teachings of its Patron, promotes His heritage, hence it provides a great contribution to our culture, theological meditation, to the style of the Church’s life, to the deepness of the Evangelistic creed. The Foundation, from the beginning, supports poor, but talented students from countries where our Faith was discriminated against. By undertaking this long-distance investment we are investing in the young person, in his intellectual and spiritual formation.
We are giving thanks to God for all the Foundation’s achievements in the past thirty years. We are expressing our gratitude to all employees, members and friends, sponsors and benefactors who supported and are supporting this goal. I’m confident that John Paul II is blessing us from above the sky and encourages us to continuous this work.
5.Today, we would like to give thanks to the Holy Father, Benedict XVI for the John Paul II beatification. We celebrated the beatification as a major feast of Faith and the Church’s vivacity, as an incentive to personal renewal of life, to holiness. Thanks to the Papal decision, the Church obtained a gift of so close and wise guide on the paths of faith, hope, and love. We are thankful to the Holy Father for His words full of love which He said about His Blessed Predecessor during the beatification ceremony. “My own service – said Benedict XVI - 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. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a “rock”, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined.”
John Paul II continues to inspire us on the road of new evangelization, so much desired by him and actively pursued by his successor. By getting involved in this goal we are fulfilling the wish and fervent desire of our Blessed Pope John Paul II. He led the Universal Church to the third millennium of Christianity and urge us to follow his teachings so that our Lord Jesus Christ may ever stronger be proclaimed to contemporary man.
To conclude I wish to repeat the words of Holy Father what He Said on May 1 on the Saint Peter Square: Bless are you our beloved Pope John Paul II because you believed . We ask that you from heaven strengthen the God’s people in their Faith.