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John Paul the coherent

· Archbishop Bergoglio on the newly canonized pontiff ·

On 4 April 2005, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, celebrated Holy Mass in memory of John Paul II. The following is a translation of his homily, which is featured in L'Osservatore Romano's special edition for the canonization.

The Virgin Mary fits into that long line of men and women in history who have said “yes” to God, and who have developed this attitude of obedience in their lives. It is a line which began the day that our father Abraham took leave of his home without knowing where he was going. He obeyed and believed. And today, on the Solemnity of the Incarnation of the Word, the Son of God also begins this historic journey. He goes out, in union with the Father, to do his will.

In a rare image of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (6 October 2001), appearing together: John Paul II, Cardinal Bergoglio (second from the right at the presidency), and Cardinal Ratzinger (fourth from the lift in the first row)

“Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me.... Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God’”. And Mary in turn said: “Be it done unto me according to your word”. The obedient attitude of a wayfarer, a wayfarer, one setting out on a journey; and in the Lord’s case, it is an attitude of obedience prophesied by Isaiah: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means, God-with-us”.

God sets out in this human caravan, he sets out on this journey and continues to move along with us; God works his way into the cracks of our lives, he is one like us. The Word is anointed, and before being anointed with the oil of election, he is anointed with our flesh “to do your will” and thus begins Christ’s journey. “To do your will” and in the end, in the most critical hours of his life, when he is about to be arrested, he feels deep agony in the solitude of the mountain and in the solitude of his heart: “Father, not my will be done, but your will”. Being consistent in obedience is a vocation. The consistency of one who feels that he is called and obeys the call and journeys in accord with this call, and he is one who walks with us. Closeness, the nearness of God who walks with us.

I have been sent, I have been anointed with the oil of gladness, says the Lord. To proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to heal lepers, to make the crippled walk. Anointed in order to walk next to every human limitation, every human joy, every human misery; anointed with the authority of service of the One who came to journey, to be Emmanuel, God-with-us in order to serve. Christ’s attitude of obedience: “A body you have prepared for me, and I have come do to your will” is the fulcrum of coherence, and I do not mean only Christian but also human coherence. And today, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, we celebrate this coherence.

God willed to be consistent and to trace out the journey of coherence for us. Mary is consistent and traces out the journey of coherence for us, she does what she believes in, she proclaims what she believes, she carries out what she believes. And hers is not only a consistency that transcends her; it is within her. Christ thinks consistently because he thinks what he feels and what he does. He feels coherently because he feels what he thinks and what he does. He works consistently because he does what he feels and what he thinks. Consistency in obedience, transparent coherence, coherence that has nothing to hide, coherence that is pure goodness and that conquers evil with that consistent good of having offered “to do your will”, he says to the Father.

And on this Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord we remember another great, consistent figure. The Argentine authoress whose text we heard read at the beginning of Mass says: “the 20th century concluded” with this consistent figure. John Paul was simply consistent, he never deceived, he never lied, he was never evasive. John Paul communicated with his people, with the coherence of a man of God, with the consistency of someone who spent long hours in Adoration each morning, and as he adored he allowed himself to come into harmony with the power of God. Consistency cannot be bought, coherence cannot be studied at any academic faculty. Coherence is forged in the heart through adoration, through the anointing for service to others and through upright conduct. Without lies, without deception, without falsehood. Jesus once said, when he encountered Nathaniel: “Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile”. I believe we can say the same of John Paul, the consistent one. But he was consistent because he allowed himself to be moulded and formed by the will of God. He allowed himself to be humbled by the will of God. He allowed to grow in his soul that obedience which our father Abraham had and all those who followed after him.

We remember a consistent man who once told us that this century does not need teachers, but witnesses; and a consistent person is a witness. A man, who risks himself entirely, and with his whole self and his whole life, with transparency, lives what he preaches.

On the day of the proclamation of this coherence in obedience to the Incarnation of the Word, let us look to this consistent man. This man who for the sake of pure consistency got his hands dirty, and saved us from a fratricidal massacre; this consistent figure who rejoiced in holding small children in his arms because he believed in tenderness. This consistent man who on more than one occasion had homeless men come — those whom here we call linyeras — from Piazza Risorgimento, to speak with them and to give them a new condition of life. This consistent man who, when he had recovered, asked permission to go to the prison and speak with the man who had sought to kill him.

He is a witness. I conclude by repeating his words: “Today’s world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers but rather of witnesses”. And in the Incarnation of the Word Christ is the faithful witness. Today we see in John Paul an imitation of that faithful witness. And we give thanks because he ended his life in this way, consistently because he ended his life simply as a faithful witness.

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