Legionary Father Juan María Sabadell delivered this homily at Holy Name of Jesus parish in Thornwood, N.Y., in the week of the 25th anniversary celebration of Pope John Paul II's election.
We heard today the parable of the rich young man. I am here today to pay a debt to a role model to whom I owe a great deal. He is a Polish native, raised in a humble and fervent Catholic family.
Orphaned of his mom from an early age.
A stone quarry worker and war survivor.
A serious student as well as young actor.
A clandestine seminarian and catechist.
A writer and poet — and “Lolek” to his family and friends.
Later on, he became:
A philosopher, intellectual and professor.
A priest, pastor, preacher, counselor and enthusiastic leader of souls.
He was always both a faithful penitent and a confessor.
He became a deep and insightful theologian and a bishop: Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, as he was known to the World.
For us Catholics he has been our priest, our bishop and now our Pope for the last 25 years. And he has said he will remain so until the good Father calls him up to heaven.
As Pope, he has been:
A head of state and stubborn peace negotiator.
A man of the year for Time magazine.
An untiring traveler and pilgrim to nations around the globe.
A contemplative with his feet firmly planted on the ground.
An activist with his eyes on heaven.
He's a visionary and a missionary.
He's a prophet of truth — so much so that he was the target of would-be assassins. He's the latest martyr to shed his blood for Christ in St. Peter's Square.
And for me personally, saint-to-be, His Holiness John Paul II, was, is and will always remain an inspiration.
I am one of the generation that the Spanish-language press likes to call “Papa Boys.” We learned from him the basics of the priesthood.
It was in 1982, when I first heard from him the call to serve the Lord, as he preached to us about the rich young man who failed to take the life-risk of gambling all his wealth to follow Christ in pursuit of happiness.
Like Christ, John Paul was saying: Be not afraid.
Like a Father, he taught us how to pray.
He also taught us how to love, how to make a gift of ourselves, in absolute surrender of our lives to Christ and his Church.
He showed us how to surrender — to the last penny, as the rich young man was asked to do; to the last minute like the faith-ful bridesmaids; and to the last inch like John Paul himself — leaving all earthly treasures behind.
He also taught us humility.
Humility that forgoes choosing a new name, but picks John Paul II, the second of a new series.
Humility that kisses the ground of every land he put his feet on, as he came as a “useless servant.”
Humility that prostrates itself, laying on the floor of his chapel every morning, bridging the gap between mankind and Creator (pont-ificating: making himself a bridge).
He taught us how to fight evil in the public square.
This man is the blunt and fearless accuser of the mafia on their own turf, at Palermo, capital of the Sicilian land.
This man never said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” but with a clear message of peace and solidarity (Solidar-nosc) to all men of good will, his voice helped knock it down.
Our Pope is an agent of communion and ecumenical reconciliation.
Our Pope removed century-long words of excommunication from our Orthodox brothers.
Our Pope forgave and asked forgiveness for past faults by Christians, making the prayer of Our Lord a living possibility.
John Paul is the witness to hope and the leader of the New Evangelization.
The unparalleled role model for our youth (his best hope), he is bold enough to challenge them where it most hurts, inviting them to live their best out of love for Christ.
He is unable to walk without help, but is still planning a trip to Mongolia, a newly Catholic land open to evangelization only since 1993.
He's the defender of life, family and the truth.
Protector of the unborn and the aging, he pleads for the pardon of the condemned.
He shares the suffering of the sick, and is wounded with the wounded.
Today his throne is a wheelchair — but from it his voice speaks strong about God to this pagan age.
With such a résumè, after all these years of leadership, a few words come to mind:
“I am sorry, I had forgotten.”
I had forgotten, after 25 years of faithful service.
And two other words: Thank you!
Thank you, Holy Father.
You make me proud to be a Catholic, in this day and age where God is locked in the closet out of fear of public opinion.
You make me proud to be a priest, in the middle of all the media bashing.
And you make me proud to have you as the leader of our bishops (successors of the apostles), Christ on Earth to all Christians.
Today, I promise, I will thank you through prayer. I will pray the luminous mysteries, asking Our Lady of the New Evangelization for the graces her Church needs.
And I will also pray in thanksgiving for you.