Homily at Mass for Pope John Paul II

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2010 (Zenit.org) “His Was a Suffering Lived to the End for Love and With Love” Here are EXCERPTS from a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at a Mass in the Vatican to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death. The Pontiff died April 2, 2005.

In the first biblical reading that was proclaimed, the prophet Isaiah presents the figure of a “servant of God,” who is at the same time his chosen one, in whom he is well pleased. The servant will act with unbreakable firmness, with an energy that does not fail until he has realized the task that was assigned to him. However, he will not have at his disposition those human means that seem indispensable to act on such a grandiose plane. He will present himself with the force of conviction, and it will be the Spirit that God has put in him that will give him the capacity to act with meekness and strength, assuring him of final success.That which the inspired prophet says of the servant, we can apply to our beloved John Paul II: the Lord called him to his service and, in entrusting to him tasks of ever greater responsibility, also accompanied him with his grace and his continual assistance. During his long Pontificate, he spent himself in proclaiming the law with firmness, without weakness or hesitation, above all when he had to face resistance, hostility and rejection. He knew he was taken by the hand of the Lord, and this enabled him to exercise a very fecund ministry, for which, once again, we give fervid thanks to God.The Gospel just proclaimed takes us to Bethany, where, as the evangelist notes, Lazarus, Martha and Mary offered a supper to the Master (John 12:1). This banquet in the home of three friends of Jesus is characterized by presentiments of imminent death: the six days before Passover, the suggestion of the traitor Judas, Jesus’ reply that recalls one of the pious acts of burial anticipated by Mary, the hint that they will not always have him with them, the intention to eliminate Lazarus, in which is reflected the will to kill Jesus.In this evangelical account, there is a gesture to which I wish to draw your attention: Mary of Bethany “took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” (12:3). Mary’s gesture is the expression of great faith and love toward the Lord: for her it was not enough to wash the feet of the Master with water, but she spreads them with a great quantity of precious perfume that — as Judas will argue — could have been sold for three hundred denari; she does not, thus, anoint the head, as was the custom, but the feet: Mary offers Jesus all that she has that is most precious and with a gesture of profound devotion. Love does not calculate, does not measure, is not concerned about expenses, puts no barriers, but is able to give with joy, seeks only the other’s good, overcomes stinginess, miserliness, resentment, the narrow-mindedness that man bears at times in his heart. . . .
Jesus understands that Mary intuited the love of God and indicates that now his “hour” is drawing close, the “hour” in which Love will find its supreme expression on the wood of the cross: the Son of God gives himself, so that man can have life, he descends into the abyss of death to take man to the heights of God, he is not afraid to humble himself “and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). . . .
Dear brothers and sisters! The whole life of the Venerable John Paul II unfolded in the sign of this charity, of this capacity to give himself in a generous way, without reservations, without measure, without calculation. What moved him was love for Christ, to whom he had consecrated his life, a superabundant and unconditional love. It is precisely because he drew ever closer to God in love, that he was able to make himself a fellow wayfarer with the man of today, spreading in the world the perfume of the love of God. Whoever had the joy of knowing and frequenting him, was able to touch with the hand how alive was in him the certainty “of contemplating the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” as we heard in the Responsorial Psalm (26/27:13); a certainty that accompanied him in the course of his existence and that, in a particular way, was manifested during the last period of his pilgrimage on this earth: the progressive physical weakness, in fact, never affected his rock-like faith, his luminous hope, his fervent charity. He let himself be consumed by Christ, for the Church, for the whole world: his was a suffering lived to the end for love and with love.In the homily for the 25th anniversary of his Pontificate, he confided having felt strongly in his heart, at the moment of the election, Jesus’ question to Peter: “Do you love me? Do you love me more than these …? ” (John 21:15-16); and he adds: “Every day within my heart the same dialogue takes place between Jesus and Peter. In spirit, I fix my gaze on the benevolent look of the Risen Christ. He, however, aware of my human frailty, encourages me to respond with trust as Peter: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (John 21:17). And then he invites me to assume the responsibility that He himself has entrusted to me” (Oct. 16, 2003). They are words charged with faith and love, love of God, who conquers all.”[Translation by ZENIT].

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