Today is Holy Thursday, the sacred day on which we commemorate Jesus' institution of the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood and give thanks to our loving God for the abundant graces he so generously showers upon us through these two sacraments of the Church. Today, April 2, also marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Saint John Paul II. In the Gospel reading for tonight's Mass of the Lord's Supper, it says of Jesus, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). These words can be fittingly applied to John Paul II as well. He was such a Christ-like pope who generously gave of himself and spent himself for the good of the Church and the world. He was truly a loving father to all of us who loved us right to the very end--and now he is in Heaven praying and interceding for us.
In honor of this holy day and this great champion of our faith, I would like to offer for reflection a brief passage from one of his final written works, the book Rise, Let Us Be on our Way (Warner Books, 2004), which offers a beautiful and intensely personal teaching on the vocation, ministry, and responsibilities of a Catholic bishop. This wonderful book, written from the heart of a man of deep faith, courageous hope, and fatherly love, offers an unforgettable glimpse into the soul of John Paul II. Marked by the profound spiritual intensity, penetrating theological vision, and untiring pastoral solicitude for which he was so well known, it is a lost treasure that deserves to be rediscovered. The following passage is taken from pages 215--216:
"When 'His hour' had come, Jesus said to those who were with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, to Peter, James, and John, his closest disciples: 'Rise, let us be on our way' (Mark 14:42). Not only must He 'be on his way' to fulfill His Father's will: they too must go with Him.
"That invitation, 'Rise, let us be on our way,' is addressed particularly to us bishops, His chosen friends. Even if these words indicate a time of trial, great effort, and a painful cross, we must not allow ourselves to give way to fear. They are also words of peace and joy, the fruit of faith. On another occasion, to the same three disciples, Jesus said: 'Rise, and do not be afraid!' (Matt. 17:7). God's love does not impose burdens on us that we cannot carry, nor make demands of us that we cannot fulfill. For whatever He asks of us, He provides the help that is needed.
"I say this from the place to which the love of Christ Our Savior has led me, asking of me that I should leave my native land so as to bring forth fruit elsewhere through his grace--fruit that will last (John 15:16). Echoing the words of our Lord and Master, I, too, say to each one of you, dear brothers in the episcopate: 'Rise, let us be on our way!' Let us go forth full of trust in Christ. He will accompany us as we journey toward the goal that He alone knows."
A blessed Triduum and Easter to everyone!