Message: Trust God no matter what. Pope St. John Paul shows a life of trust and he invites us to that same life.
This is the third homily in our series Trust No Matter What. In the first two homilies we saw saints from the seventh and seventeenth century: St. Bede and St. Lorenzo Ruiz. Our saint this Sunday comes from the twentieth century. In fact some have called him the "Man of the Century."* I think you know who I mean: Pope St. John Paul II.
Like our two previous saints, Bede and Lorenzo, he lost his family: His mom died when he was nine. Three years later his older brother, Edmund, a medical doctor died of scarlet fever. He and his father continued on - the main support to each other in a world going insane. In 1939 (when Karol Wojtyla was in his late teens) the Nazis invaded Poland and they used terror to control the Polish people.
On February 18, 1941, young Karol Wojtyla experienced his greatest suffering. When he returned from work at the stone quarry, he found his father dead. Karol spent the night in prayer next to his dad's body. One account says he prostrated himself, that is, laid face-down on the floor. When he rose, he knew what he had to do. He made an act of trust in God. Trust no matter what.
He combated the Nazis using the gifts that God had given him. By day he worked in the stone quarry, but in the evenings he organized an underground theater to keep Polish culture alive. In this way they affirmed human dignity - against the Nazis who made race more important than the human person.
This same affirmation became central in the struggle against Communism. The Communists of course deny the existence of God. They present their atheism as "scientific." "Scientific atheism" they call it. Atheism has an immediate attraction because it seems to free a person from guilt - and responsibility. So how did Karol Wojtyla, first as a priest and later as a bishop, fight atheism? He did it by showing the dignity of the human person. For a consistent atheist each of us can be no more than a bunch of atoms doomed to disintegration. Only by faith in God can we see the value of each person.
When PBS did a documentary of Pope John Paul, they stressed his defense of human dignity in the face of Nazism, Communism - and Western secularism. But the central thing that PBS focused on was how the pope called modern man to faith. Even people who had no explicit religious belief said that the pope's message challenged them. He witnessed to something we are called to in the depth of our being - to trust no matter what.
For sure, many who hear that call do not respond. In today's Gospel we hear that some receive the invitation, but then make light of it. They have other things more pressing. Maybe even good things, like a farm or a business, but sadly they turn away.
Pope St. John Paul called people to faith - to trust God no matter what. At the same time, he did not lessen the demands of the Gospel. At the conclusion of today's Gospel Jesus adds a warning. One man tries to get in without the "wedding garment." What does that mean? According to the Jerome Biblical Commentary, the wedding garment is a life of faith "filled with good deeds."
Was Pope John Paul demanding? Yes, but in the same way that Jesus makes huge demands: Because of love. He desires our greatest good - eternal salvation. Now, you and I can turn to God and be saved in an instant. But no one can stop there. We have to put on the wedding garment: a life of faith - death to sin and life for God and others. Trust. Trust God. Trust God no matter what.
Young people responded to Pope John Paul because he called them to a beautiful love - a heroic love. He canonized more saints than any other pope because saints show us the meaning of heroic love. On the next two Sundays I will tell you about two saints that Pope John Paul promoted. Both died as martyrs in Poland - one murdered by the Nazis and the other by the Communists.
The lives of these two saints will inspire you. Even though God may not call you or me to martyrdom, he does call us to trust - in every circumstance. As St. Paul says today, "I know how to live in humble circumstance; I know also how to live with abundance." You might be walking through a dark valley at this moment. No matter what, God calls you to trust: "I fear no evil; for you are at my side." Amen.
*Investigative journalist Jonathan Kwitny makes that argument in his book Man of the Century: The Life and Times of Pope John Paul II
Trust No Matter What Week 1:
Trust No Matter What Week 2:
Trust No Matter What Week 3:
Trust No Matter What Week 4:
Trust No Matter What Week 5:
From Archives (for Twenty-eighth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
(Septiembre de 2014)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru