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REMEMBRANCE

Pope John Paul II: The Lion and the Lamb

By Deacon Keith A Fournier
Third Millennium, LLC

CBN.com Like millions of the faithful throughout the world, I have watched and prayed for our wonderful Pope. He has showed us how to live, fully given over to Jesus Christ. He has showed us that suffering, joined to the Savior, can become a sign of God’s continued mercy and an occasion of grace. Now, he shows us how to embrace death, not with fear, but with faith.

There is no doubt that we who are alive at the beginning of this Third Christian Millennium have been profoundly privileged to experience the leadership, in both word and deed, of this successor of Peter, this Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II. To encourage us all to a continued, prolonged and heartfelt prayer for the Pope, the entire Christian people and for the world, I offer a tribute that I wrote on the twenty fifth anniversary of his pontificate:


In October of 1978, Pope John Paul II stepped out on to the balcony in St. Peters Square and proclaimed:

"Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development…. Be not afraid!"

Affirmed by many as one of the chief architects of the Second Vatican Council and its extraordinary document on the relationship of the Church to the “modern” world” (entitled "Joy and Hope" or “Gaudium et Spes” in Latin), this strong, passionate, charismatic priest and Bishop now occupied the chair of Peter. At a critical time in the history of both the Church and the world, he stepped forward like a lion, with a prophetic roar.

He strode onto that platform with strength and vitality. This mountain climbing Polish Pope was so filled with the love of God it was contagious. A talented and gifted "man of letters", a playwright, a philosopher, an intellectual giant, a poet, but more importantly, a genuine human being with a heart that embraced the whole world, like the Heart of the One whom he represents on earth. He truly has been the “Vicar of Christ”, representing the Lord, the King of kings, for so many millions throughout the world.

Like a lion in Peter’s chair, he consistently and tirelessly lived what he boldly proclaimed with great courage. Unafraid, he traversed the globe, proclaiming freedom to the captives and truth to the victims of failed false ideologies that had ravaged the people of the twentieth century, the bloodiest in all of human history. He has not stopped passionately re-presenting the classical, unchanging, Christian message with a prophetic urgency, profound clarity and contemporary relevance.

Communism, atheism, secularism, false humanisms … have now all been exposed in both their empty promises and the horrors that they unleashed in the wake of their false utopian claims.

This Pope proclaimed that the “Redeemer of Man” (the title of his first encyclical letter), Jesus Christ, is the path to authentic personal, social and universal freedom! He authored more encyclical letters, apostolic exhortations, constitutions and letters than any Pope in the two thousand year history of the Christian Church. In these writings and so many allocutions, this marvelous man has given us a treasury to unpack for centuries.

He has meticulously and brilliantly developed themes during his service to the Church and the world. Among them; "The Culture of Life", "The Civilization of Love", "The New Evangelization", "The New Springtime of world missions ", "The Universal Call to holiness"; "Christian Marriage and family life as a domestic church"; "A Spirituality of Communion"; "The Theology of the Body"; "The Common Good"; "The Unity of Life"; "The New Humanism"; "The New feminism and the Feminine Genius"; "The Two Lungs of East and West"; “A New Catholic Action", and a “New Advent” for all of humanity in Jesus Christ.

His rich teaching sets a framework for what I believe will be a five hundred year renewal of the Church and, through her, a transformation of the entirety of human culture, including the arts, politics, the academy, and economic and political theory -- because no area of human experience is “off-limits” to the influence of the Gospel and the Church. The Church is, in the words of the Fathers of the second Vatican Council, an “expert in humanity”.

Pope John Paul II has called all men and women to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. In Him they are invited to discover the purpose and fulfillment of human life itself. He has proclaimed the profound truth that human existence itself is an invitation to communion with God and with one another. He has proclaimed to an age bent of “self fulfillment” that we only find our human fulfillment in giving ourselves in love to God and to one another. He calls us to live a dynamic, integrated Christian faith and lifestyle, what he calls a “unity of life”, wherein the implications of the Christian faith inform the entirety of ones life with no contradiction or separation.

Confronting and exposing the “culture of death”, wherein the human person is treated as an instrument to be used rather than an unrepeatable gift to be received, he has in its place proposed a different way, that of building a new “culture of life” where every human person, at every age and stage, is recognized as having an inviolable dignity and right to life, freedom and love.

He has charted a path to authentic peace and solidarity, proclaiming to the nations that we are all our brothers’ keeper and that we owe an obligation in solidarity to one another and, most especially, to the poor in all of their manifestations in our midst. He writes of authentic freedom as a freedom “for” and not just a freedom “from”, a freedom that must be bounded by truth and lived in accordance with the moral understanding of our obligation to do what is right.

He has exposed what he has called a “counterfeit notion of freedom” as a raw power over others and the false notion of the autonomy of the individual as the measure of a “freedom” to do whatever one wants. Instead he has proclaimed that the path to authentic human flourishing is only found in our rediscovery of our call to communion. His writing proclaims a new and true humanism, a rediscovery of the truth that we were created in the Image of God, made for communion with God and with one another and that we only become fully human by giving ourselves in love to the other.

He has insisted that through both understanding and applying the treasury of the social teaching of the Catholic Church - in our relationships with one another, personally, in our families, in our societies, our nations and the global community -- authentic justice and freedom as well as the “Joy and Hope” for which we all hunger, can actually be achieved. Catholic social teaching forms the textbook for building just such authentically just societies and international relations.The problem is that it largely remains both unread and untried.

His brilliant writings help provide the tools to build this society, this new culture of life and this civilization of love. Not only are they treasuries of rich theology and philosophy but they offer principles that, if unpacked and applied, can help to change entire cultures, as well as build truly just political and economic systems. The work of unpacking and building will remain, beyond his brief time with us. In fact, it should now compel and inspire us to build a living legacy in his honor after the Lord, whom he serves with such inspiring faithfulness, calls him home.

That day draws near.

Entrusted for twenty five years with the most important role of service in the Church and the world, Pope John Paul II has been a Prophet. From his first encyclical letter entitled "The Redeemer of Man" to his most recent Encyclical on the “Church of the Eucharist, he has eloquently, with deep spiritual beauty, proclaimed that the truth is, as he wrote in one of his best encyclicals, a “splendor”

He has boldly called for reconciliation among separated Christians and, in one of his most profound encyclical letters, “May They Be One”, he has offered a path to a new model of communion that has only now begun to be implemented. With deed love, respect and dedication for the “Light of the East” he has called for Eastern and Western Christianity to rediscover their absolute dependence upon one another in order that the entire Body of Christ might rise up and once again breathe with “two lungs” in order to present the whole Jesus Christ to a world that needs to be liberated.

The transforming themes of his work are set forth in this body of rich theology (and philosophy) that lays the ground for that task of authentic liberation and for the continued renewal of the Church and through her, the transformation of human culture.

The oft-repeated paragraph 22 from "Joy and Hope", one of Pope John Paul’s favorite, is a key to understanding his deep faith:

"In reality, it is only in the mystery of the word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of His love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling."

Our faith does not just speak only to our "personal" lives. It is not "private". It speaks to the whole of life and is meant to inform and transform the entire way we both view and live our lives. Our faith is to be lived in our lives as an integrated whole. Our baptismal vocation invites us to live what Pope John Paul has termed a "Unity of Life"

In fact the "separation between faith and life" has been called "one of the greatest errors of our age." That expression was a vital part of the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (Gaudium et Spes), the profound document of the Second Vatican Council :

"43. This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come,[13] think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation.[14] Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age."

The phrase has been repeated numerous times by Pope John Paul II and became the framework for the Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life wherein the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proclaimed:

"It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible.There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.

The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In fact, every area of the lay faithful's lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the 'places in time' where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility - as, for example, skill and solidarity in work, love and dedication in the family and the education of children, service to society and public life and the promotion of truth in the area of culture - are the occasions ordained by providence for a 'continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity' Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism, but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”

Pope John Paul II has been, and continues to be, an extraordinary gift. He has ushered in a great new missionary age and a great renewal of Christianity. His insights are a key to the "new springtime" and the "great missionary age" which he heralds. His message must now be made known so that it can both be lived and inform human culture. His teachings, his ecumenism, his humanity and holiness, his hope and his confidence have been contagious and profoundly influential. They must become more. They must become the stuff out of which the future is built.

He began his twenty five years like a Lion roaring. Now, it seems, he is to become another sign of the love of the Lord whom he so faithfully serves, he is a lamb.

This once vibrant, strong Pope has become frail, sick and physically weak. He has been such a sign and a symbol of the main themes of the Christian faith. He not only opposed the “culture of death” but proposed a new “culture of life” and “civilization of love” in its place. Now, this message of the inviolable dignity and unrepeatable beauty of every human person - at every age and stage - is being symbolically demonstrated by this lion who has now become a lamb.

This giant of a man, who once climbed mountains, now symbolically mounts the cross of human suffering and, in his frail frame, exercises the authority of his office from a unique chair, still the Chair of Peter, a wheel chair. How fitting for the champion of the weak, the disabled, the elderly, those who have no voice, to now be joined physically to them in order to show the world the truth of the beauty and dignity of every human life!

This man, who has so profoundly “incarnated” the love of God and the truth of the Christian faith throughout his years of emptying himself out for the Lord and His people, now does so once again on the world’s stage. He shows us the beauty of a suffering endured in love and offered for others.

With decreasing verbal eloquence, because his lips now stammer from the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, he has achieved something beyond words; he has demonstrated the truth of the Christian message of love by revealing the God who came to suffer for us all. His very presence now invites all to give ourselves away in love.

Soon he will go home to the Father, having become a seed of the “New Springtime” he has proclaimed. The Lord proclaimed that “unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground…” and when this Pope’s prophetic mission on earth is over, he will join the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain for our sins. I know that he will hear those wonderful words “Well done, good and faithful servant”

We who are left behind must build a living legacy in his honor, a Church that is holy, proclaiming and demonstrating the “good news” of the Gospel that this wonderful Pope proclaimed in word and in deed.

More from CBN.com's tribute to Pope John Paul II


Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic 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 (BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University(MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law(JD). He also holds honorary Doctorates in Humane letters and Divinity (LLD,DD) He is the Senior Editor and Correspondent for Catholic Online and a contributing Editor for Traditional Catholic Reports and Reflections. Deacon Fournier has written hundreds of articles on faith and life and seven books. His eighth book, "The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Life” will be released by Thomas Nelson this summer. Long active in efforts to bring Christians together, Fournier is well known in the broad Christian community. Having recently turned fifty, he has dedicated the “second half of life” to making the teachings of Pope John Paul II known to the world.

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