Fire, wind and light

The life and teachings of the Polish Pope are benchmarks in the history of the Church and of the world. A remembrance 10 years after his death

Ten years have passed since that unforgettable evening when John Paul II passed away, lulled by the sombre prayers of thousands of people – “I have called you and you have come” – which, at the feet of his room, in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, accompanied him in his last journey towards the embrace with the Father, towards the encounter with Mary whom he deeply loved and worshipped. The universal Church was present on the day of the funeral, and with it the entire world, deeply moved, expressing gratitude for his life, his witness, and his love. Ten years were enough for the concretization of the joint cry “Saint now!” voiced on the day of the funeral. Rethinking about his life and his death, he comes to my mind with the words that the Bible dedicates to Prophet Elijah: “Until like fire a prophet appeared, his words a flaming furnace. Blessed is the one who shall have seen you before he dies!” (Sirach 48:1.11). A fire: that was the Polish Pope; like the fire of Sinai, that endlessly burns, because it is endless love, that brings to the people oppressed by sin the freedom of the children of God; like the fire of the Pentecost, that overturns human predictions to originate a new creation. But Pope Woityla was more than this. He was also the wind/spirit of God that hovered over the waters on the day of creation; that “powerful east wind” that parted the Red Sea to set free the people of God in their flight from slavery in Egypt; the same wind of the Pentecost, whose impetuous blow prepares the coming of the fire that transforms the Church into the people of God. We could add: just like the wind that on the day of his funeral stirred and disrupted the pages of the Gospel placed on his coffin. And there was the light: in him, in his mission, once again, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9,1); the light of God that in a world of wars, abuse and human misery, is once more capable of igniting hope in goodness, justice, universal brotherhood. This is what John Paul II has been throughout almost twenty-seven years of his Petrine mission, also visually, physically: a wind, a fire, a light for the Church and for the world. And like the wind, the fire and the light, that nobody could ever extinguish, he restored strength to the word of God, to the presence of the Church in the world; he guided with a steady hand the people of God in their exodus towards the third millennium. Like the king who tried to extinguish the fire of Elijah, silencing his voice, like the pharaoh who in vain pretended to nullify the strength of the fire of Sinai that guided Moses, in the same way an earthly force attempted to violently extinguish the wind, the fire, the light of John Paul II: in vain. It was May 13 1981. The will-o’-the-wisp of mankind cannot extinguish the blazing flame of God that kindles the life of his prophets and blazes through their witness the entire Church and the whole world. Ten years after his death, his life, his ministry, his teachings are forever narrated in the pages of the Gospel that the wind leafed through in the celebration of his last farewell. Those pages that the wind finally sealed – so that his words and his love would forever be fastened in the hearts of all those who knew him and loved him.

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