Saturday, April 02, 2005

More than Conquerors - Reflections on the Death and Dying of Pope John Paul II

It is true that it is Christ who is our champion. Christ is our "Joe Louis", our hero, and we are called to indentify with the victory of Christ. But often, God gives us men and women of who are examples to us of how to identify with the suffering and the victory of Christ. The Pope, John Paul II, was a glorious example of how to both identify with the suffering of the world and in all this be more than a conqueror just like our Lord Jesus Christ.

For a billion Catholics, John Paul II was the Malcolm X and the Joe Louis of their faith. He was a radient example of what it means to be a Christian.

In death, John Paul II died with dignity and strength. He told us all that this life is not all there is, but, even in the end of this life, there can be victory.
Paul likewise was such an example of dignity in suffering. Hear Paul's testimony in Romans 8:
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is victory speaking in the midst of gospel suffering, suffering for the sake of the world.
Hear the Gospel again in the example of Paul:
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this allsurpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Pope John Paul II exemplified all of this victory and faith in his living, in his dying, in his sickness and, ultimately, in his death. May all Christians see in this man an example of living the story of the Gospel and becoming the Gospel for the sake of the world.

God Bless, brad

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