Christ the King Cathedral, Atlanta
Thursday, April 7, 2005, 7:00 p.m.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
From the heart, I welcome to this Mass the many people from throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta who have come together to entrust to the Lord’s own Mercy, the soul of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. These include my beloved brother priests and deacons, the Religious and Lay Faithful of this local Church. I offer a special and sincere cordial greeting to the distinguished Civic Officials from our State, County, and City. I warmly embrace our revered Ecumenical and Inter-Faith neighbors and friends. Thanks to each one of you for being close to all Catholics throughout the Archdiocese as together in prayer we are ever so grateful for the great ministry and witness that this wondrous man has provided for our Church and for the world for more than 26 years.
The contents of his final will and testimony were released earlier today. In a handwritten reflection, composed over more than two decades, Pope John Paul II repeatedly placed himself totally at God’s disposal – Totus Tuus – I am completely yours as his papal motto declared. We pray that the Lord has indeed received this singularly generous and effective pastor of souls into his Mercy.
Teaching in The Name has always been a hazardous endeavor. The Book of the Acts warns us that the hardships were present from the earliest days of the Church – We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. To teach in the name of the Lord Jesus and in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit continues to be a very dangerous activity – yet it was also the obligation of the Apostles and it remains so for their successors. We must obey God rather than men. Pope John Paul II could have said those same words – and in fact, he lived them.
He spoke to the world in The Name about our dignity as God’s children. He spoke about the importance of living in peace in a world rendered ever so complex by a wide variety of peoples, political systems, religious faiths, economic conditions. In Jesus’ name, John Paul II spoke forcefully about the obligations that we all share to be engaged in forming and shaping a world society that respects the human person whether within the womb or in the final stages of life or at any point on that spectrum.
He called all Catholics to understand and to live our faith, not just the parts of our faith that are attractive and personally pleasing to us, but the entire deposit of our religious tradition as it has come down to us through the centuries that go back to the earliest era that we find described in the Book of the Acts.
He taught in The Name in such a way that he intrigued and fascinated the young and gave hope and encouragement to poor and neglected, and confirmed and strengthened his brothers in the Episcopacy in guiding our own local churches which is uniquely the responsibility of the one who is Peter in the Church in every age.
It was his strength and fidelity that we shall miss most of all with his passing. The whole world has paused at the death of this Universal Shepherd in homage and in gratitude. We now pray for him as he himself asked us to do since he understood all too well that every human being is radically dependent upon God’s Mercy and Forgiveness. None of us, no matter how lofty our position, no matter how well developed our gifts and talents, no matter how privileged our status in life can escape rendering an account of our stewardship to the Father and Judge of all creation. Therefore, we humbly beg the Lord of the Universe to be merciful in His judgment of John Paul II. We ask him to forgive whatever sins he may have committed and to reward him with life eternal.
Our prayer this evening for John Paul is filled with confidence both in the Lord’s endless compassion, but also in the goodness of this exceptional man of faith. The Holy Father firmly believed in the Son and therefore Saint John’s words are even more consoling – Who ever believes in the Son has eternal life. Even in our grieving we find a reason to hope, as Saint John tells us God does not ration his gift of the Spirit. We are confident that the same Spirit that gave strength to the Apostles, enlightened the Cardinals in 1978 will be present once again to provide a pastor after the heart of Christ for the Church. We praise him for the gift that John Paul II was and we ask him to provide him with a reward for his service and witness of love. Amen!