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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Blessed John Paul II, Prayer and Evangelization

On Saturday we commemorated Blessed John Paul, an apostle of divine mercy for our time, a time filled with so much poignant suffering, a time when even a mother's womb has become a place of violence. He well understood that only the loving goodness of God revealed in Jesus Christ could address such misery. He generously engaged the fray in the battle for human dignity to which we are joined by our Catholic faith. To win this battle, he well understood the primacy of prayer.

Although prayerful throughout his life, in his final years he made prayer the special focus of his teaching. In particular, he invited all the members of the Church to contemplate the face of Christ. By this he meant that we should seek the face of Christ in our prayer, in our study, in our relationships with one another, in every situation.

The face of Christ is revealed in so many beautiful ways in the Scriptures, in our tradition and in our daily life. On this point, John Paul II was especially aware of the writings of John of the Cross who describes the loving eyes of Christ reflected on the propositions of our faith, eyes that are attentively fixed on us, eyes that wait to be discovered in the deep silence of prayer. He was also very heedful of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who helped the whole Church discover the face of Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor, a face to which we must never allow ourselves to be indifferent. The heart piercing gaze of Christ in prayer and in prayerful action melts the hardness of our hearts and helps us rediscover the warmth of God's love. Indeed, Christ who understands the tender strength of humanity waits for us to discover his loving glance in every moment, in thousands of ways. He hopes in us even more than we hope in Him.

Christ fully reveals man to himself by revealing the love of God the Father. To contemplate the face of Christ is to see the mysterious truth about who we are and the even more mysterious truth about who the Father is. Do not the atheist ideologies of the 20th Century witness that, without Christ, humanity is always at risk of forgetting itself in the most violent and dehumanizing of ways?

Searching for the face of Christ and discovering in his loving gaze the truth of the mystery of man and the truth of the Father's merciful love is an urgent task that every Christian must take up. When we see the extent to which God has gone for our sake, we find motivation to live by love for those entrusted to us. Only those who seek an ongoing encounter with Christ are able to address the evil threats against human dignity so alive in our societies today, threats with which even those closest to us must deal. Those who open wide the doors of their hearts to the Redeemer have a real word of life which counters the culture of death engulfing our civilization, engulfing those most relying on us. That is why when he came to Denver in 1993 he directed the youth who were so alive with the love the Lord to bring the Good News of our faith to the modern metropolis, to shout the Gospel form the rooftops - to be proud of the Gospel of Christ.

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