Pope John Paul II: requiescat in pace!
Such is the first sentence of the first encyclical of Pope John Paul II--entitled Redemptor hominis. It was a statement, a statement of faith. The Holy Father, like the three Wise Men, followed that star until it came to rest over where the Child lay. For the just man lives by faith in the Son of God, and Karol Wojtyla proclaimed that faith in that Son, that Child, that King, God become man, right out of the starting-block of his twenty-six years of papacy.
Thanks be to God, he never lost heart. He told us, in Our Lord's own words, "Be not afraid", and he himself pursued that same course like a flaming arrow, his enemies' persecution of him notwithstanding.
His second last encyclical was a complement to his first. The first was a statement of faith; his second last was a statement about the relationship between faith and reason, called by that name (Fides et ratio). It begins with the beautiful sentence, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth".
It is as if the Pope's career were marked by the three temptations of Christ. First he is assaulted by the materialism, Communist-style. Faithful to his Lord, he says, Not on bread alone does man live, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Then he is assaulted (from inside the Church) by the false spiritualism of the dissenters: "That's right, your Holiness, forget these material considerations, especially of the Communists! Take the high road! Throw yourself off the top of the temple, for it is written, 'He has given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone!"'
How does the Holy Father respond? "It is also written, 'Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test.'"
Besides faith, there is reason. Besides the soul, there is the body. Besides the word of God, there is bread. Besides religion, there is science. Besides Scripture, there is Tradition.
Besides the vocation to the priesthood and/or religious life, there is the vocation of the layman.
All things go in pairs by opposites," the one consolidates the excellence of the other (Sirach 42:24). At the same time, the Holy Father, recognizing with the Book of Sirach those other types of opposites, good and evil, truth and falsehood, is quick to say, "Call sin by its name?"
So Satan, as he did on Calvary, gave up on trickery and resorted to force, thereby spelling his own downfall.
First he tried to kill the Pope, with a little help from Ali Agca, and, when that did not work, he visited the Pope with illness, increasingly severe illness, as if to say, "Forget this religious you-know-what! Worship me? I'll give you the world!"
John Paul: Begone, Satan. The Lord thy God shalt thou worship, and Him only shalt thou serve!
The outcome? Satan is defeated, and the world, far from following Satan, turns towards John Paul II's casket, mile after mile, day after day, in homage to His Holiness.
Father Joseph Thompson is a retired high-school teacher and a member of Catholic Insight's Advisory Board,
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|Date:||May 1, 2005|
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