6th DAY OF NOVENDIALI
JOHN PAUL II
HOMILY OF H.E. MONS. LEONARDO SANDRI
St Peter's Basilica
The Basilica of St Peter's, a witness to many meaningful and important moments in the ministry of John Paul II, looks out today on those gathered in prayer who in a special way have had the responsibility and the privilege to be close to him as his direct collaborators, sharing in the pastoral care of the Universal Church.
In these days of mourning and sadness, the Word of God enlightens our faith and strengthens our hope, assuring us that he has entered into the Heavenly Jerusalem where, as we heard in the Book of Revelation, "[God] shall wipe away every tear... death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore" (Rv 21: 4).
These sentiments move the hearts of us all, gathered around the altar to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Eucharist for our beloved Pontiff. We entrust his venerable person to the Lord of life, calling to mind the precious heredity that he has left especially to us who, according to our roles, have been closer to him in our daily work in the Dicasteries, Tribunals and various Offices of the Roman Curia.
In the Interventions of these last years we can discover a beautiful synthesis of the vast and rich Magisterium of John Paul II. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, signed by him at the closing of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he mapped out guidelines to begin the Third Christian Millennium, indicating the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council as the "sure compass" to direct the Church's journey into the new millennium (cf. n. 57), and he pointed out to all the baptized the fundamental importance of holiness, defined as the "high standard of ordinary Christian living" (n. 31).
With the proclamation of the Year of the Rosary he wanted to make evident once again the importance of devotion to the Virgin Mary; with the special Year of the Eucharist that we are living, which in a very meaningful way has also marked his return to the house of the Father, the Holy Father emphasized the centrality of the Mystery of the Eucharist in the Church.
In Ecclesia de Eucharistia he revealed the secret of his complete surrender to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church:
"For over a half century", the Pope wrote, "every day, beginning on 2 November 1946, when I celebrated my first Mass in the Crypt of Saint Leonard in the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, my eyes have gazed in recollection upon the host and the chalice.... Each day my faith has been able to recognize in the consecrated bread and wine the divine Wayfarer who joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened their eyes to the light and their hearts to new hope (cf. Lk 24: 13-35)" (n. 59).
How great his love was for Christ truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar!
This love becomes almost an invocation in the same title of the Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, his last Document for the Year of the Eucharist. Stay with us, Lord!
In the Pope's death, which coincided precisely with Easter of the Year of the Eucharist, how can we not see a mysterious sign of the intensity with which John Paul II participated in Christ's sacrifice?
Every day, for more than 50 years, he repeated the words of the Consecration: "This is my Body which will be given up for you".
In a very particular way the Pope made these words his own in his final days, when he brought to fulfilment the complete gift of himself. It was as if he was making a continual renewal of the Totus tuus ego sum through the hands of the "Mother of his Master", as we read in his Spiritual Testament.
We who had the grace as his collaborators to assist him in these last months, followed with trepidation this personalized "Mass", wherein the Pope, in union with Christ's passion, made of himself a gift, through pain and suffering, to the Church and the world.
Those who were able to share most closely in the daily activity of the Pope were able to witness his deep love for the Eucharist. Before making important decisions, he usually remained for a time before the Blessed Sacrament, bringing the dossiers to be examined into the Private Chapel to reflect and pray in front of the Tabernacle. Every decision resulted from the understanding of God's will for the true good of the Church.
There is also another element of the personality and spirituality of the Pope that particularly emerged in the months marked by the progressive worsening of his health conditions: his simplicity and poverty of life.
Those who had the possibility to meet him more than once in the last weeks experienced none other than a sense of admiration for his modest furnishings, his humility and simplicity, the spirit of detachment and total availability with which he surrendered himself into God's hands.
This disposition can also be clearly perceived in the moving expressions of his Spiritual Testament, which closes with the words of Jesus on the Cross: "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum" (cf. Lk 23: 46).
This, Brothers and Sisters, is the great example and precious teaching that the deceased Pontiff bequeaths to each one of us, called to work in the Roman Curia, the heart of Catholicism. It is an example of simplicity and detachment, of faithful and unselfish service in the vineyard of the Lord, of continual availability and docile conformity to the will of God.
We are certain that John Paul II, for whom too, according to the unfathomable divine plan, the "time of departure has come" (cf. II Tm 4: 6), is now receiving the crown of heavenly victory from Christ himself. To us, who remember him as a sure Guide, as a Pastor ready to give his life for the flock that Providence has entrusted to him and as a Father, good and understanding towards all, he leaves the extraordinary richness of his teaching, his wisdom and his profound humanity.
Looking at him we perceive the truth of Christ's words that we just heard in the Gospel: "If the grain of wheat that falls to the earth... dies, it produces much fruit" (cf. Jn 12: 24).
Dear and beloved Holy Father John Paul II, thank you for the example that you leave us. Like the good and fruitful grain of wheat, joined to Christ's death, you truly brought forth abundant fruit that God will preserve to eternal life.
May you continue to watch over us all from Heaven and never cease to entrust the Roman Curia, the Church and all of humanity into the maternal hands of Mary Most Holy. Amen!