- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Following are excerpts from the homily read in Italian by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, during yesterday’s funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, as translated by the Vatican:

” ‘Follow me.’ The Risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. ‘Follow me’ — this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II.

“Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality — our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.

“As a young student, Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theater and poetry. Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord: ‘Follow me!’ In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and theology, and then entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal Sapieha. …

“He interprets his priesthood with particular reference to three sayings of the Lord. First: ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15:16). The second saying is: ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (John 10:11). And then: ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love’ (John 15:9). In these three sayings, we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father. He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts.

” ‘Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!’ is the title of his next-to-last book. ‘Rise, let us be on our way!’ — with these words he roused us from a lethargic faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today. ‘Rise, let us be on our way!’ he continues to say to us even today.

“The Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep. …

” ‘Abide in my love:’ The pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, tells us once again today, with these words of the Lord, that by abiding in the love of Christ we learn, at the school of Christ, the art of true love. …

“In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to very ends of the Earth, guided by Christ. But afterward, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ’s sufferings. … And in the very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end.

“None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing ‘urbi et orbi’ (to the city and to the world). We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father.”

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