Blessed John Paul II on Reasons for Hope

Pope Benedict XVI made reference to the words at the event that we all remember so well — Blessed John Paul II  proclaimed “during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square the unforgettable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” Pope John Paul II was characterized by the virtue of hope, which some mistook for either a shallow optimism or a reactionary spirit. But his hope were founded on the faith, a only true alternative to both Marxism and liberalism. I recall my one time encounter with Karol Wojtyla when he informed me with a confident humor, the graduate student studying Marx,  that the so called Marxist Christian dialogue was nothing but a “monologue.” And some years later I realized why the papacy needed the Bishop from Krakow Poland, an inveterate foe of the Marxists. So Benedict XVI rightly points out:

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. —  Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Beatification

In his own encyclical Spes salvi, Benedict XVI said of Marx: “Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment.”

In Redeemer of Man, Pope John Paul II urges us not forget man and man’s freedom. Freedom requires the warning that freedom can easily be degraded and can appear as a sham freedom leading to self-degradation; this is the truth the liberals forget. But both Marxist and liberals need to find the true measure of human existence; its measure is truth (the truth will make you free) and Christ is the truth. Pope Benedict XVI also said in Spes salvi that progress,

becomes human only if it is capable of directing the will along the right path, and it is capable of this only if it looks beyond itself. Otherwise, man’s situation, in view of the imbalance between his material capacity and the lack of judgement in his heart, becomes a threat for him and for creation. Thus where freedom is concerned, we must remember that human freedom always requires a convergence of various freedoms. Yet this convergence cannot succeed unless it is determined by a common intrinsic criterion of measurement, which is the foundation and goal of our freedom. Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope.

Pope John Paul II was a man of hope because he affirmed the liberty of man in the presence of God. “This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man.” Or most simply stated, Christianity is “a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ.” Here we find true hope — Marxism has failed and liberal progress continues with its diversions or indifference to God, hence it lacks any basis for hope. People continue to live in a bubble, in hidden despair.

The voice of Pascal echoes through the Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI: “Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or our death, of God or of ourselves. Thus without Scripture, whose only object is Christ, we know nothing, and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself.” .

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