Feast Day: October 22nd | Patron of Popes, Families, Youth, Laborers, Actors, Athletes, Human Life, Poland, the Elderly, and those with Parkinson’s
This week, I recall Pope John Paul II’s famous words at his homily during the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate (by the way, isn’t it awesome that so many of the substantial moments of our Catholic life are situated within the Holy Mass! Tells us something about where the Church draws its strength and center.):
The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no eventide. Make me be a servant. Indeed, the servant of your servants. Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it.
And now an explanation JPII gave of these words in Crossing the Threshold of Hope:
When on October 22, 1978, I said the words “Be not afraid!” in St. Peter’s Square, I could not fully know how far they would take me and the entire Church. Their meaning came more from the Holy Spirit, the Consoler promised by the Lord Jesus to His disciples, than from the man who spoke them. Nevertheless, with the passing of the years, I have recalled these words on many occasions. The exhortation “Be not afraid!” should be interpreted as having a very broad meaning. In a certain sense it was an exhortation addressed to all people, an exhortation to conquer fear in the present world situation, as much in the East as in the West, as much in the North as in the South. Have no fear of that which you yourselves have created, have no fear of all that man has produced, and that every day is becoming more dangerous for him! Finally, have no fear of yourselves!
Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter’s Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (cf. Jn 3:16). This Son is always present in the history of humanity as Redeemer. The Redemption pervades all of human history, even before Christ, and prepares its eschatological future. It is the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (cf. Jn 1:5). The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.
Finally, I leave all of us with the reflection John Paul II had prepared for Divine Mercy Sunday of 2005, though he died on the eve of that feast, (with his final words being the whispered prayer: “let me go to the house of the Father”) and so this, his final message, was given after the Mass said for the repose of his soul:
Dear Brothers and Sisters! The joyful Easter Alleluia resounds also today. Today’s Gospel page of St. John underlines that the Risen One, on the night of that day, appeared to the Apostles and “showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20), that is, the signs of the painful Passion printed indelibly on his body also after his Resurrection. Those glorious wounds, which eight days later he made the incredulous Thomas touch, reveal the mercy of God “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). This mystery of love is at the heart of today’s liturgy, Sunday “in Albis,” dedicated to the worship of Divine Mercy. To humanity, which at times seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, egoism and fear, the risen Lord offers as a gift his love that forgives, reconciles and reopens the spirit to hope. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much need the world has to understand and accept Divine Mercy! Lord, who with [your] Death and Resurrection reveal the love of the Father, we believe in you and with confidence repeat to you today: Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin has found these simple words “Jesus, I trust in You” to be perhaps the most potent prayer he can say. No matter what is happening – a fear or worry, a suffering or loss, a sleepless night or lengthy marathon, in Adoration, on Amtrak, in my office … – every single one of those moments is clarified, sanctified, and filled with peace simply by surrendering it to Jesus with that phrase: “Jesus, I trust in You.”