St John Paul II

Pope Francis

18.05.20 Altar of St John Paul II , Vatican Basilica

Holy Mass in Memory of the Centenary of the Birth of St John Paul II

Psalm 149: 1-6a, 9b

"The Lord loves his people" (Psalm 149: 4 ) we sang this refrain in the chorus and also a truth that the people of Israel repeated, they liked to repeat: "The Lord loves his people" and in difficult times, "the Lord loves" you have to wait to see how this love will manifest itself. When the Lord sent out of this love a prophet, or a man of God, the reaction of the people was: "The Lord has visited his people"(Luke 7: 16 cf 1.68 Ex 4.31), because he loves them, he has visited them. And so did the crowd that followed Jesus, seeing the things Jesus did: "The Lord has visited his people." And today we can say here: a hundred years ago the Lord visited his people, sent a man, prepared him to be a bishop and lead the Church. By remembering St. John Paul II we repeat this: "The Lord loves his people," the Lord visited his people, sent a pastor.

And what are, let's say, "the traits" of a good shepherd that we can find in St. John Paul II? Many! But let's just talk about three. As they say that the Jesuits always say things in three, we say three: prayer, closeness to the people, and love for justice. St. John Paul II was a man of God because he prayed and prayed so much. But how is it that a man who has so much work to do, so much work to lead the Church... how can he have a lot of prayer time? He knew well that the first task of a bishop is to pray and this was not said by Vatican II, St Peter said it, when he made the Deacons with the Twelve, they said: "And to us bishops, prayer and the proclamation of the Word" (Acts 6: 4). A bishop's first task is to pray. And he knew it, and he did it. A model bishop praying, the first task. And he taught us that when a bishop examines his conscience in the evening, he has to ask himself: how many hours today have I prayed? A man of prayer.

The second trait, a man of closeness. He was not a man detached from the people, indeed he went to visit the people and travelled the whole world, finding his people, searching for his people, making himself close. And closeness is one of God's traits with his people. Let us remember that the Lord said to the people of Israel, "Look, what other people have their gods as close as I am with you?" (cf. Dt 4: 7). A closeness of God with the people who then get close to Jesus, is made strong in Jesus. A shepherd is close to the people, on the contrary, if he is not, he is not a shepherd, he is a manager, he is an administrator, perhaps good but he is not a shepherd. Closeness to the people. And St. John Paul II gave us the example of this closeness: close to the great and the small, the neighbours and the distant, always close, he was close.

The third trait, a love for justice. But complete justice! A man who wanted justice, social justice, the justice for the people, justice to drive out war. But complete justice! For this reason St. John Paul II was a man of mercy because justice and mercy go together, they cannot be distinguished, they are together: justice is justice, mercy is mercy, but one without the other is not found. And speaking of a man of justice and mercy, let us think about what St. John Paul II did for people to understand God's mercy. Let us think about how he promoted the devotion to Saint Faustina whose liturgical memory from today will be for the whole Church. He had felt that God's justice had this face of mercy, this attitude of mercy. And this is a gift that he has left us: justice in mercy and merciful justice.

Let us pray to him today, that he will grant to all of us, especially the pastors of the Church but to all, the grace of prayer, the grace of closeness and the grace of justice in mercy, merciful justice.