Homily for the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of John Paul II, Basilica of Sant'Eugenio, Rome, May 3, 2011
1. Dear Brothers and Sisters, a great joy brings the Church together today: the joy of the beatification of the beloved Pope John Paul II, whom all of us have listened to, venerated and followed in the long, fruitful years of his ministry as the Supreme Pastor of the Church. The reputation for holiness that he already enjoyed while alive, which helped the Church so much on the occasion of his passing, now takes on a new vigor. The recognition of his heroic virtues and a miraculous cure attributed to his intercession have opened the way for his inscription in the list of the blessed, which Pope Benedict XVI carried out yesterday. It is right that we make our own the words of the Psalm: "Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the earth Proclaim His glory to the nations, his marvels to all peoples".
Every declaration of holiness proclaims the glory of the Trinity. But some, like the beatification of John Paul II, influence millions of people. We saw this when the Lord called him to Himself, six years ago, and I am convinced that the same thing will happen in these days. If we invoke with faith the intercession of the new Blessed in all our needs, great and small, personal and collective, a shower of graces will rain down from Heaven for all mankind. Let us ask God that, through his intercession, He may assist the Church and civil society in their journeys with divine mercy. Let us also pray, full of hope and affection, for Pope Benedict XVI and all the bishops, priests and laity and consecrated religious, and for those who are still seeking the God whom they do not yet know. Let us pray for one another, so that each of us may encounter and love Jesus, the Son of God made man who has died and risen for our salvation.
2. Considering the repercussions that the life and death of John Paul II had on many people, I am reminded of a thought from The Way, in which St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer stresses the importance of responding faithfully to God when He calls. The Founder of Opus Dei wrote: "Many great things depend — don't forget it — on whether you and I live our lives as God wants."
This is what has happened in the case of John Paul II. From his youth, he always responded with a firm yes to the repeated calls of the Lord: to be a priest, then to be a bishop, and finally to accept the weight of serving the Church as the successor of Peter. In each case, as the then-Cardinal Ratzinger noted in his funeral Mass homily for the late pontiff, he had to renounce legitimate plans that he had already made. I would like to call attention to the first of those renunciations, without which none of what came later would have occurred.
As a young student, Karol Wojtyla had a great talent and passion for the theater, literature and poetry. When the Lord entered into his life, calling him in a new way, he left everything to follow his vocation to the priesthood. Who could have imagined, at the time, the transcendent importance of that renunciation, which seemed quite small. And yet, that first yes, pronounced with decision, making a complete gift of self to the Lord, has produced enormous fruit for countless people around the world.
The words of the Gospel of the Mass seem especially relevant. The Lord addressed a question to Peter three times: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" And three times Peter responded with sincerity and, at the same time, with sorrow for his three denials: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." The petition of Jesus, to entrust Peter with the task of shepherding his sheep and lambs, was this: "Follow me!" Peter followed the Lord, even imitating His death on the cross, here in the city of Rome.
John Paul II always maintained this total dedication. the first years of his pontificate — said Cardinal Ratzinger in the homily referred to earlier — young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterward, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: 'someone else will dress you.' And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (cf. John 13:1).
3. The events of these days have left a deep mark on our souls. When you have returned to your daily lives, I recommend that you meditate on these events in your personal prayer, trying to see what God is asking of you: above all, more dedication in your life of prayer and in the sanctification of your work, a greater attention to your family, more apostolic zeal in your dealings with friends and acquaintances.
The month of May, dedicated in a special way to Mary, has just begun. From her, our believed John Paul II learned to love Jesus even unto the madness of the Cross. While being close to the Cross, he understood that the words of Jesus — Behold your mother — were addressed to him. And like John, he welcomed the Virgen into his house and into the very depths of his soul.
I would like to add that I have always been impressed by the coincidences of love for God that can be seen in the lives of Blessed John Paul II and Saint Josemaría. Both of them dedicated themselves completely to the Lord through the intercession of the Blessed Virgen; both of them, conscious of their creaturely smallness, were devotees of the Divine Mercy: they recited with great piety those words invoking God as a Merciful Father that are so characteristic of this devotion. I would suggest that you take refuge in the Lord, abandoning your lives and actions into the hands of our heavenly Father.
Let us entrust these resolutions to Holy Mary as well. And since we are weak, we can bring her this month the offering of our aspirations, our work well done, our small mortifications. As Saint Josemaría said in Mexico, before Our Lady of Guadalupe, these things are "little roses, those of ordinary life; common roses but full of the fragrance of sacrifice and of love." In this way, we will become, as John Paul II often said, totus tuus — all yours.