22 October – St John Paul II
Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Kraków and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.
If I may use human terms to help your natural weakness: as once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!
‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
I have come to bring fire to the earth
I don’t know if many of you followed the various news and Youtube broadcasts of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States. For me, it was a significant few days which truly captured the imagination. I watched the telecast of his address to the House of Congress and was truly amazed at the number of times the members stood up to applaud, interrupting his delivery.
Apart from the fact that this was the first time ever a foreign dignitary was allowed into the hallowed chamber to address some of the most seasoned politicians in the world, what struck me was how Pope Francis’ message of love and peace was delivered. He didn’t use complicated language but communicated in plain, simple English that obviously struck the hearts of the audience as many were seen wiping away tears at times. As someone who has to write speeches for my bosses quite regularly, I wondered at the process it took to get to the final delivery. Was it written originally in English or Italian? How many edits did it go through? What was the thinking behind choosing the four Americans that the speech focussed on? Or did Pope Francis himself write the draft and have others clean it up?
Whatever the case, his message of love and peace certainly resonated with everyone. His reminder to love everyone regardless of race, background, educational qualifications or social status was timely, in the face of the refugee crisis. And he also alluded to how we need to entrust the future of our world to the youth. As he traversed the country, the joy in his eyes was plain to see whenever he encountered young children and infants. His motorcade would stop and his eyes would light up as he walked into the crowd to kiss children and babies. Truly, we are all blessed to have such a humble, joyful and loving man to call our shepherd and to follow – someone whose heart is aflame and who is not afraid to show the world who he really is.
Brothers and sisters, for those of us who are in positions of leadership and who have people who rely on our judgement and guidance on a daily basis, take care to avoid the temptation of becoming self-righteous and self-centred, and beware the sin of pride. I have learnt, especially over the last few weeks, that to be an effective leader, one has to lead from the heart. And that is something that requires a lot of faith and trust — just as Pope Francis has faith in his flock, the entire Church.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Dear Lord, set our hearts afire, give us the courage and zeal to be true sons and daughters of God, who are unafraid to open up our hearts to all those around us.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of our wonderful shepherd, Pope Francis.