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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

John Paul II and the Paschal Christ

John Paul II had an enormous impact on my own spiritual journey and today marks the 4th anniversary of his death. This picture is from my friend James Baca of the Denver Catholic Register. It is a statue outside the Cathedral in Denver - where the pope visited in '93. My parish, Good Shepherd (and the surrounding neighborhood), helped host about 5,000 of the c. 300,000 people who participated in World Youth Day. The Holy Father told us to be bold in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ - "Shout it from the rooftops ... of the modern metropolis"'

I like to reflect on his apostolic zeal and special concern for young people. I especially love his teaching. Some of Pope John Paul II's most powerful theological insights included his vision of mercy. Mercy, he explains, is love that suffers the brokeness of another so as to affirm that person's dignity. This idea is beautifully explored in his encyclical on Mercy (

"In His resurrection Christ has revealed the God of merciful love, precisely because He accepted the cross as the way to the resurrection. And it is for this reason that-when we recall the cross of Christ, His passion and death-our faith and hope are centered on the Risen One: on that Christ who "on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, . . .stood among them" in the upper Room, "where the disciples were, ...breathed on them, and said to them: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" 99

Here is the Son of God, who in His resurrection experienced in a radical way mercy shown to Himself, that is to say the love of the Father which is more powerful than death. And it is also the same Christ, the Son of God, who at the end of His messianic mission - and, in a certain sense, even beyond the end - reveals Himself as the inexhaustible source of mercy, of the same love that, in a subsequent perspective of the history of salvation in the Church, is to be everlastingly confirmed as more powerful than sin. The paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of mercy, its living sign in salvation history and in eschatology. In the same spirit, the liturgy of Eastertide places on our lips the words of the Psalm: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo." 100

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