Yesterday at the Vatican Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI presided over a Mass in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the death of John Paul II. During his homily, the Pontiff recalled the hope that his predecessor communicated to society.
Turning to the young people early in his homily, the Holy Father noted that their "presence brings to mind the enthusiasm John Paul II was able to infuse in the new generations. His memory is a stimulus for us all, as we gather in this basilica where he often celebrated the Eucharist, to allow ourselves to be illuminated and summoned by the Word of God."
Moving on to reflect on the Gospel readings, Pope Benedict highlighted the difficulties involved in being witnesses of Christ. "Our thoughts", he said, "go to the beloved Servant of God Karol Wojtyla - John Paul II, who from his youth showed himself to be a bold and intrepid defender of Christ. For His sake, he did not hesitate to spend all his energies in order to carry His light everywhere. He accepted no compromise when it came to proclaiming and defending His Truth. He never tired of spreading His love. From the beginning of his pontificate, right up to April 2, 2005, he was not afraid to proclaim, always and to everyone, that only Jesus is the true Liberator of man."
Benedict XVI also spoke about the fruitfulness of John Paul II's pontificate. "We could say ... that he generated many sons and daughters in the faith," he commented, telling the young people present that they "ideally represent the ranks of young men and women who have participated in the twenty-three World Youth Days in various parts of the world. How many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, how many young families resolved to live the evangelical ideal and to tend towards sanctity are linked to the testimony and preaching of my venerated predecessor!" the Pope exclaimed. "How many young men and women have converted to, or maintained, the Christian path, thanks to his prayers, his encouragement and the support of his example!"
"John Paul II was able to communicate a powerful message of hope, founded on faith in Jesus Christ Who is 'is the same yesterday, and today, and forever'. ... As an affectionate father and a careful teacher, he indicated sure and sound points of reference indispensable for everyone, especially for the young. And in his final hours and his death this new generation wished to show they had understood his teaching, gathering silently in prayer in St. Peter's Square and many other places around the world. Those young people were aware that his demise was a loss: 'their' Pope was dying, whom they considered as 'their father' in the faith."
"We cannot live without hope", insisted the Holy Father, "but we must be careful. In times such as these, given the cultural and social context in which we live, there is a risk of reducing Christian hope to an ideology, to group slogans, to exterior cladding. Nothing could be more opposite to Jesus' message! He does not want His disciples 'to recite' a role, even a role of hope. He wants them 'to be' hope, and they can be so only if they remain united to Him."
"If the words of Christ remain within us, then we will be able to propagate the flame of love that He lit upon the earth; we will be able to hold high the torch of faith and hope," said the Pope as he concluded his homily. "This is the flame that Pope John Paul II left as his legacy. He gave it to me as his successor, and this evening I ideally consign it, once again, to you young people of Rome, that you may continue to be sentinels of the morning, watchful and joyful at this dawn of the third millennium."