The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on April 2, the Fifth Sunday of Lent and the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.
Every one of us is impressed and touched, I think, by a person who is faithful to his or her responsibilities in life. When we observe such a person, remaining faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, something within us affirms: "Yes, there is a good person, someone I want to imitate."
Remaining faithful, no matter the cost: is this not what we are observing today in the Gospel account just proclaimed in our hearing? The Lord Jesus remains ever faithful to doing what God His Father is asking; the Lord Jesus remains ever faithful to the mission which He received: to give His life for the salvation of every human person. Jesus Himself points to this fidelity: "I am troubled now. Yet, what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."
Remaining faithful, no matter the cost: this would ultimately lead Jesus to suffering and a cruel death. As we heard in today's second reading, "In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered." Jesus' fidelity led Him to the Cross and then to His glorious resurrection. By that Dying and Rising, Jesus won for us the priceless gift of salvation; He freed us from the grip of eternal death and sin. "He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Or, as He Himself tells us, "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."
Remaining faithful, no matter the cost: this must be the fundamental attitude of every follower of Jesus. From Baptism on, we are being called each day to be like Jesus, to think, to speak and to act like Him. Our daily discipleship is truly a daily imitation of Jesus. So then, we too must remain faithful to our Baptismal consecration, to the responsibilities and duties of our individual vocations, whether that be to the priesthood, the consecrated or religious life, the permanent diaconate, marriage or the chaste single life. We must remain faithful to Jesus and to all that He teaches us through the Scriptures, the Living Tradition of the Church and the Teaching Office or Magisterium of the Church.
Lent is the season for recalling our Baptismal consecration and renewing our Baptismal commitment. Through prayer, fasting or penance, and almsgiving or deeds of mercy, we are seeking to become renewed in mind and in heart, so that we can live in greater fidelity to the Lord.
Remaining faithful, no matter the cost: this was so eminently visible in Pope John Paul II whose first anniversary of death we are observing today. Pope John Paul II was truly faithful to the Lord and to the Lord's will for his life. He heard Jesus' call: "Follow Me." And in faithful obedience to that summons, Pope John Paul II followed his Lord and Savior. Remaining faithful meant that the young Karol Wojtyla would put aside literature, the theater and poetry and enter the seminary to become a priest. Remaining faithful meant that Father Karol Wojtyla would move away from his much-loved teaching duties to accept the call to become a bishop, first as Auxiliary and later as Archbishop of Krakow. Remaining faithful meant that Cardinal Wojtyla would leave his archdiocese and native land to follow the Lord's will that he be Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church as Pope John Paul II.
Remaining faithful, no matter the cost: this marked the entire papacy of our beloved Pope John Paul II from the moment of his election on October 16, 1978, to the moment of his death at 9:37 p.m. on April 2, 2005. He remained faithful to the Lord and to the calling and mission which the Lord gave him in proclaiming clearly and fearlessly the Gospel of Life, in seeking to draw every disciple to true holiness of life, in upholding the dignity of every human person, in traveling throughout the world to bring Christ and the Light and Truth of His Gospel to everyone. Above all, he remained faithful in sickness and increasing infirmity. When most people would limit public appearance so as not to be seen becoming weaker and more frail by the ravages of a debilitating illness, Pope John Paul II remained among us, a shining example of how to carry the cross of infirmity with dignity and patience. He lived out the paschal mystery in his life without hesitation or shame. Pope Benedict XVI pointed this out so beautifully when he, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, preached the homily at Pope Jon Paul II's Funeral. "And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: 'In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love. It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good'. Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful."
Yes, the legacy which Pope John Paul II left us is precisely "remaining faithful, no matter the cost." This fidelity which he lived will ultimately lead, I believe, to his beatification and canonization. This same fidelity, held out for us to imitate, leads us to follow Christ more closely, because remaining faithful to God, no matter the cost, is what Jesus Himself lived and taught.