The Prophetic Pope Comes Home
By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
One could almost hear an audible universal sigh of relief this past week, being breathed across the entire globe. "Thank God", we cried inside, "he is home." Millions paused to express their gratitude to God. Pope John Paul came home from the hospital.
It seemed particularly significant to me that this last appointment with sickness and suffering involved intense difficulty with breathing. This Pope has repeatedly called, with great prophetic urgency, for the "two lungs" of the Church, East and West, to breathe together again, in order for the "New Springtime" of Christianity in the Third Christian Millennium to truly begin. It struck me as one more prophetic action in a life that has become a prophecy. The coming communion between the two lungs of Christianity is one of the thematic areas of his prophetic message to both the Church and the world. It is one that has perhaps received the least attention, and seemingly made the least progress. It is as if he has been given a little more time to see that it takes root, so that we who are left behind can continue the work.
However, it will happen.
In the Old Testament, the prophet was often asked by the Lord to live the message that he proclaimed in a symbolic way. To, in a sense, become the message. One has only to call to mind Hosea's marriage to a harlot as a prophetic sign of Israel's infidelity to her Lord and the Lord's redemptive mercy, always ready to forgive. (Hosea 1:4-9). This tradition of prophetic action has continued throughout the history of our beloved Church in the lives of great men and women, the Saints and Heroes of the faith, who continue to "incarnate" God's love and reveal the beauty of the face of Christ in our midst.
It is in this tradition that Pope John Paul II now exercises his Petrine ministry. Jesus spoke to Peter: "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (St John 21:18) This Pope is so clearly poured out, in the words of St Paul, like a "drink offering" for others. Soon, he will "finish the race" (2 Timothy 4:6-8); and we will mourn. However, then he will be truly home. We will be left behind to carry on the great work that he has proclaimed in both word and deed.
This Pope is now a prophetic symbol of the message he has proclaimed for the world during these years that we have been privileged to have him with us. His stooped frame, his beautiful face, once filled with the light of heaven, now frozen from the ravages of Parkinson's disease; these have become a prophetic sign of the Civilization of love he proclaims; wherein every human person is viewed as an unrepeatable gift from the hand of God, beautiful, no matter what disability or apparent impediment they bear in their body, no matter how young or how old.
This extraordinary communicator, whose voice inspired multitudes and brought down that wall in Berlin, is now barely able to speak. This Pope is an extraordinary theologian, philosopher, playwright and writer who has authored more letters and books than any Pope in Christian history. When he really goes home, to the heart of the Father, he will leave us a legacy of love, still to be unpacked; containing the material from which the great restoration of the Church and - through her the world - will proceed. Yet, he can no longer even steady his hand to hold a pen. This athletic Pope, who once climbed mountains, now presides over the universal Church from a wheelchair.
Oh, the beauty and the prophetic weight of it all.
"Thank God" we cried inside, "he is home." Well, not really. We have just been given a gift, a few months, years... who knows. But we have him with us, at least for a while, to show us the way of love; to be that sign of contradiction in an age that has lost its way, to call us all to the foot of the Cross of the Savior, where he now stands with the beloved disciple John and the Mother of the Lord.
During this Lent, we are called by the Holy Spirit, still at work within the Church which is the Body of Christ, to turn from sin and believe the Gospel. We who bear the name Christian are to become the message that we proclaim. Pope John Paul, our brother in the Lord, is home with us for a little while longer, to give us strength by his example of suffering, borne out of a pure love for God and a life lived for others. Let us welcome him home by turning to Jesus Christ and carrying forward the work of the Gospel he proclaims.
Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy with permission. He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is the Senior Editor and Correspondent for Catholic Online.
Third Millennium, LLC
http://www.catholic.org VA, US
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