by Grace Wilde
We all love St John Paul II. Many knew what it was like when he was alive, but, others like me have never known what he was like as the pope. He died 12 years ago. A lot has changed since then. But, his message still relates a lot to today's world with refugees, war, peace and dialogue. His message transcends time with its roots in the Bible and its continuation with Pope Francis. Let us look at his message and let it guide us in our everyday life.
War is a fun game right? Never in the world as Pope John Paul II said:
"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. “
(Address of his Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January 2003)
Even today, many people think that war is the only answer to quickly solve a problem. But, war only causes death, hate and unbalance in the world. As Gandhi said, domination is not the answer either.
But if Gandhi says that domination is not the answer to war, then what is? The answer is peace.
"Peace is a value with no frontiers. It is a value that responds to the hopes and aspirations of all people and all nations, of young and old, and of all men and women of goodwill. This is what I proclaim to everyone, and especially to the leaders of the world."
(Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 Jan, 1986)
As Pope John Paul II said “Peace is a value with no frontiers.” There is not an excuse for peace. Peace causes love between enemies so they become friends. Peace causes love for the weaker, so they become rich in spirit. Pope Francis said:
“Many religious traditions contribute by promoting compassion and nonviolence and protecting victims of injustice. For that reason, I emphatically reaffirm that 'no religion is terrorist'" and the name of God can never be "used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!"
(World Day of Peace Jan. 1 2016)
But if Pope Francis says that “no religion is terrorist” why not welcome all religions into our hearts? John Paul II said this as his Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 1996
“Today the trend in migratory movement has been as it were inverted. It is non-Christians, increasingly numerous, who go to countries with a Christian tradition in search of work and better living conditions, and they frequently do so as illegal immigrants and refugees. This causes complex problems which are not easy to solve. For her part, the Church, like the Good Samaritan, feels it her duty to be close to the illegal immigrant and refugee, contemporary icon of the despoiled traveler, beaten and abandoned on side of the road to Jericho (cf. Lk 10:30). She goes towards him, pouring "on his wounds the oil of consolation and the wine of hope" (Roman Missal, Common Preface VII), feeling herself called to be a living sign of Christ, who came that all might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). “
This message was given 21 years ago but, today it's the same. Today “the trend in migratory movement” as John Paul II said is still upside down. Refugees and illegal immigrants come to America searching for a job, and a home. The Bishops are advocating for the immigrants and refugees. In a letter they wrote, mirroring Pope John Paul II,
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as immigrants and refugees sought for a place to live and work hoping for a compassionate human response. Today this history repeats itself; this morning we visited detention centers and respite centers for mothers and their adolescent and minor children traveling with them. These centers are described as places of intolerable and inhumane conditions. There we heard the evangelical call: “Because I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was hungry and you gave me food…” (Mt 25:35-36).”
(Statement of the Bishops “The cry of Christ and voice of the migrant moves us” 2/15/2017)
But what keeps peace and welcoming hearts together? The answer is dialogue. Pope John Paul II said this:
In the spirit of solidarity and with the instruments of dialogue we will learn:
- respect for every human person;
- respect for the true values and cultures of others; respect for the legitimate autonomy and self-determination of others;
- to look beyond ourselves in order to understand and support the good of others;
- to contribute our own resources in social solidarity for the development and growth that come from equity and justice;
- to build the structures that will ensure that social solidarity and dialogue are permanent features of the world we live in.
(Pope John Paul II, World Day of Peace, 1 Jan 1986)
Today we still have problems with dialogue with each other. If someone is different some people do not talk to them. If somebody does not agree with other people, some people will respond with anger, tearing people apart. These instructions that St John Paul II gave us can start a peaceful dialogue between friends and enemies. Even Pope John Paul II teachings mirror the Bible which was written thousands of years ago. Colossians 4:6 says:
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
The Bible and other sources might have made way for Pope John Paul II, but, Pope John Paul II made way for Pope Francis and the bishops. They did not know it but their words were supporting each other. So, now they can all speak to the world for peace.
Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace...Peace will be the last word of history.
St John Paul II pray for us.
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
He was hidden in the shadow of the stairs, his palm outstretched, face shielded under his tunic in shame. Most would hardly notice the grey figure hiding beneath the staircase, focused instead somewhere else with a more important task on their minds. Or maybe you do subconsciously notice, but your aversion to the conditions causes him to be removed from the scene, to make him not exist anymore, in an attempt to not feel repulsed by the sight of him. Yes, a conscious acknowledgement of the figure would be the first step. But, if you were to even notice him begging for life, would you approach him? Would you come close enough to see the dark shadows under his eyes, the look of pain and suffering, asking for just enough to live another night? Would you reach out and grab his hand before noticing his scars, the scars of a tortured life, the scars of punishment...the scars of crucifixion?
It was an image, a statue to be exact, hidden under the staircase to the basement of a church that still flashes in my mind every time I see someone hiding from existence. In fact, I think half of the challenge exemplified by the parable of the good Samaritan is just this - seeing and then acknowledging the person in need. Look him in the eye and smile. Sometimes the biggest gift we can give someone is to make them feel human. Ask him what his name is; you wouldn’t believe how long a homeless person can go without hearing his or her name spoken, a dire sign of dehumanization.
My child, do not mock the life of the poor;
Here in the U.S., it is hard to miss the beggar on the street corner or the shack in disrepair that someone lives in on the edge of town. But, for every person you see on a corner, there are communities where the poorest are hidden out of sight. In one case, this can be by force - such as by law, or less forcefully, such as when a ghetto is bought and redeveloped into commercial property, effectively forcing those living there to move to the fringes. In another case, it is because they have given up any hope and have stopped asking for help.
One of the saddest adoption stories that I remember was used to explain why an orphanage nursery is so quiet...not by fear of punishment or force, but because the babies had learned that crying didn’t help - they had given up any hope of their voice being heard.
Manila was like this for us. Walking the busy streets, we saw many families living on the sidewalks, children waking up in the seat of their father’s peditrike, or running around naked while their mother was busy cutting fruit to be sold for 5 pesos per serving (less than 3 US cents). Groups of older children ran around in the middle of the school day, hitchhiking on the back of a passing Jeepney. Westerners might call these examples of ‘hard working people’, when in reality, they had no other choice. They were a part of the large population living a homeless existence in extreme poverty and had given up any hope of a handout. Worse yet, the cycle was never ending since they couldn’t even afford the supplies, transportation, or food to send their children to the free public schools.
The poorest people in the world were literally all around us, and if we traveled like a typical tourist - hailing a cab instead of walking a couple of blocks, avoiding public transportation like the plague, and only visiting the popular tourist sites with a guide, - we would never see them. We rob them of their dignity of life.
We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 53)
On our mission trip in Malaybalay, we visited the local public hospital. We prayed, visited and provided supply bags for patients in the pediatric ward. After seeing all of the patients in our ward, we decided to join the other missionaries in their wards. Suddenly, our missionary leader for the day, Junar, noticed a mom and her daughter sleeping underneath a staircase on a piece of cardboard. I would have completely missed them, but Junar, with the eye of a missionary and the heart of the good Samaritan, stopped to see if everything was ok. He bent down and felt the little girl's forehead when his smile quickly turned to concern. She was burning up. After talking with the mom for a little, he found that her sister was in the maternity ward upstairs, and she was there as an advocate. They had been there for 3 days when the little girl got sick. We had already given away all supply bags, so another missionary ran to get one from another team in the hospital. Jason ran to the pharmacy for some children’s fever suppressant. In the meantime, Junar talked with the mom, prayed over the little girl, and advised the mom to let a doctor see her if she didn’t feel better soon. Unfortunately, seeing a doctor may have been out of the question for this family, but we did all we could to see, acknowledge, touch, help, and pray for the girl under the staircase. Once again, I couldn't help but think of the image of Jesus in the church in Toronto, hiding under a staircase.
It is so easy to become lost in our own personal plans that we don’t notice, acknowledge or help God’s children hidden in the shadows. Even when they are in our sights, we put on blinders so we don’t see them or help them. Instead, we need to be like Junar, living as the good Samaritan and always on the lookout for Jesus. We must not only stop to help but also be on the lookout for God's precious children who are most in need of our help.
We have to state, without mincing words, that “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”. May we never abandon them. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 48)
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.