John Paul the GreatJohn 21:15-17
When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.
He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.
He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.
John Paul II, the "man from a far country," has been laid to rest in the Grotto of St. Peter's Basilica. This man who led the flock of the Lord for nearly 27 years asked that if his funeral be filled with the Pomp and Circumstance of the Petrine Office, his burial be simple. Indeed it was, as he was laid to rest in the Grotto, beneath a simple stone marker bearing his Papal name. The Pope indeed did what the Gospel requires of him-in Peter's stead, he fed the Lord's sheep.
Rather than view this as merely a great loss to the Church and the world, which it surely is, we should also remember John Paul's life, and his reign as Pontiff. We should celebrate them now, in this mourning period, as well as in the years to come. It speaks volumes about his holiness of life that orthodox Catholics have already begun to acclaim him as "John Paul the Great." Several theologians seem to have embraced the belief that most of us will live to see him canonized a Saint.
Time simply does not permit me to recount here the untold influence of this man's writings and holiness on my own life. I am of the firm belief that I might not have entered the Church were it not for the fact that in my process of discernment, I could get my hands on a rich library of the Pope's theological mind and works. His powerful testimony and witness to Christ taught me how to live as a Catholic, and in death he taught me how to die as one.
I do not envy the College of Cardinals, for when they meet in Conclave next week, they will be forced to reckon with the fact that they are charged by God with selecting the replacement for the greatest Pope of modern times, and undoubtedly one of the greatest Popes since St. Peter himself. It isn't an easy task. As Archbishop Foley said this morning "I don't know of anyone who actually wants the job [of Pope]." In our modern age, the position of Supreme Pontiff is not one that men seek out. You have no privacy, no time to yourself. It is well known that John Paul's morning Mass was one of the few times during the day that he could have five minutes alone to pray. The burdens of the Pontificate today are so great that men do not seek it out, men are called by God to the office, usually kicking and screaming. Let's pray the next Pontiff does not kick too hard against the goad.