Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the need for all of us to go forth and to proclaim the truth of God in all of our communities and to be inspiration for one another in faith, just as we look upon the inspirations of our many holy predecessors, those who have gone before us and whose lives have been exemplary, righteous and good, as beacons of God’s light and truth.
Today, we focus our attention on one of these faithful and courageous servants of God, namely that of Pope St. John Paul II, whom many of us surely knew very well. Many of us have known him when he was still in this world and being our Pope. His Pontificate of almost twenty-seven years was the longest in recent memory, and one of the longest overall, and therefore many of us have spent a significant period of time under his leadership as our Pope, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ.
No doubt that many of us may know quite a lot about Pope St. John Paul II, but I want us all to spend the time today to reflect on his life and actions, his life of service to God, of commitment and the courage which he had shown in opposing injustice and persecution of the Christian faith, his upholding of fundamental Christian values and teachings amidst the pressure of conflicting worldly agenda and corruption of worldly desires and sins, and in his great leadership of the entire Universal Church.
Pope St. John Paul II was born in Wadowice in Poland in the year of Our Lord 1920, just over a century ago. He was born into a loving and devout family in Poland, a country that had just then regained independence after over a century of oppression and conquest by its neighbouring countries. He was born as Karol Jozef Wojtyla, to a father who was an army officer and a mother who was a schoolteacher. He had an elder brother whom he adored and looked up to, who was a physician.
However, he had family tragedy early on in life, as he lost his family members one by one, his mother and then elder brother, before eventually his own father just right at the start of the Second World War. Nonetheless, the young Karol Wojtyla with the guidance of his friends and relatives, and his faith in the Lord, remained strong and courageous, even during those difficult years when Poland was engulfed in the midst of the great Second World War. He joined the seminary and went through formation during those difficult period, and having even suffered a close call to death.
And as the great war came to its end, the tyranny and persecution of the NAZI German reign was replaced by an equally oppressive regime installed by the Communists from the Soviet Union, a regime that would last for more than four decades and saw great sufferings for many of the Polish people. The future Pope was ordained a priest shortly after the end of the war and began his ministry in a country that has become officially atheist and hostile against the Christian Church and faith. As a young priest, Karol Wojtyla learnt to manoeuvre around the restrictions and oppressions while staying true to his faith.
Eventually, he was chosen and ordained as bishop, first as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and eventually as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, during which he was also instrumental in his role and participation during the Second Vatican Council. Then, in a public show of defiance against the Communist regime in Poland, the then Archbishop Wojtyla led the faithful in establishing the parish church in the town of Nowa Huta, which had been the proud project of the Communists as a new city in which no church would be present. He led the faithful in prayer and in putting the foundation for the church there, which after many years, was eventually completed about a decade later.
And then, by the grace of God, he was elected as the successor of St. Peter, succeeding Pope John Paul I, who had a short reign of just thirty-three days after another Pope, Pope St. Paul VI. Adopting the regnal name of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II then led the Church in an amazing period of twenty-seven years, in which not only that he led to the beginning of the downfall of Communism in many parts of the world, including in his own native Poland, where he led to a great rejuvenation of the faith and the Church, and inspired popular uprisings that eventually led to the downfall of the Communist regime.
In the matter of faith and Church teachings, Pope St. John Paul II was instrumental in the stabilisation of the situation following the Second Vatican Council and was remarkable in his efforts and stance against the tide of relativism and attempts to change Church teachings. He led the Church into the third millennium and through his years of suffering and perseverance, he inspired many of the people of God to remain faithful and true to God, even amidst great sufferings they experienced in life.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall the great life and the amazing faith which Pope St. John Paul II has shown us, all of us are encouraged to follow his good examples and we are all called to walk in his footsteps, in following what he has done in being faithful, as a successor of St. Peter, to whom the Lord Jesus had entrusted His flock and people in our Gospel passage today. Pope St. John Paul II had committed himself to the mission entrusted to him, and we ourselves should live our lives fulfilling the missions that each and every one of us have as Christians.
Let us all be great and exemplary role models for one another, and let us be filled with faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our respective journey in life, and may He bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.