As a non-Catholic, I hadn't paid much attention to the Pope. I knew that Pope John Paul II was a well liked Pope. I remembered the time he broke protocol and rushed down to greet an armless guitar player who played for him on one of his visits to America. I knew that when he came to visit, everyone got excited and throngs of Catholics filled the streets. I really didn't know how much God had used him in his many years of service to the church.
I believe that God wanted me to know and so He gave me a little incentive to think more about this Pope. On Saturday morning I read from one of my devotional books Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen. When I turned to April 2 the first words I read were a quote from Pope John Paul II. Nobody is so poor that he or she has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich that he or she has nothing to receive. Immediately I went to Brian and read this quote and stated that I thought that Pope John Paul II would die today. It was a God-thing! Henri Nouwen, who has been in heaven for many years had no idea that his devotional would have a quote by the Pope on the date of his death. Perhaps his editor had made that decision and not even Father Nouwen himself. For me it was an invitation to think more deeply about the life of this Pope.
I sat down in the living room and joined in the vigil with the rest of the world as we prayed and waited for the news of the Pope’s death. I've never heard so much scripture quoted on secular news media. It was rewarding to watch the reporters who seemed to be sincerely affected by the mood and impact of this servant of God. I learned a lot too. I learned that this Pope had offered a lot of prayer and influence in bring down Communism. I learned that through his experiences of growing up Catholic in a communist country that he experienced the value of being ecumenical in his approach to faith and leadership. I learned that he remained a conservative in his beliefs and convictions about such controversial topics as abortion and the practice of homosexuality, but resolved to show compassion and concern. He cast a vision for bringing youth into the church and resolved to find ways to nourish their young faith to help them grow to be mature Christians.
It was a rewarding Saturday to be inspired to live my life fully for God. I too want to remain conservative about my convictions, yet compassionate to those who are dealing with the issues the Bible is clear about. I want to encourage faith in Jesus Christ wherever I see it and not let doctrinal differences take my focus from what is important. I want to realize that young people are our future and find ways to invest in their lives as well.
When I think of the Pope today I think of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only tome but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
I pray that you will pray for the Catholic church and for the decision to elect a new Pope, may it be the man God has for this church.