When the helicopter carrying John Paul II began its final descent into Mile-High Stadium for World Youth Day 1993, something unexpected took place.
As the pilot approached the stadium, he was startled because the aircraft began to experience unexpected turbulence, the likes of which the pilot said he hadn’t sustained since being under enemy fire in Vietnam.
What surprised him more was that this turbulence was not caused by atmospheric conditions, but by the sheer volume of the crowd cheering for the coming of their beloved Holy Father.
Was this astounding welcome simply due to the celebrity status of the Pope? It was certainly a factor.
But the underlying cause was much more profound.
The turbulence that the helicopter pilot experienced was, in reality, the intensity of love that was being shared between a Shepherd and his Sheep.
Throughout the remaining five days of the event, the myriads of pilgrims continued chanting “John Paul II, we love you!” to which John Paul would respond, “John Paul II, he loves you!”
The origin of this love was that John Paul II always told the Truth: that the key to life was to embrace the Gospel and follow Jesus Christ!
As the joyous strains of Christmas come and go again we might be left asking, “What should we do now?” I suggest we listen to the words of John Paul II and also make a resolution to follow Christ!
How do we accomplish this? Our first step must be to pray. We should ask the Lord to give us the grace to walk with Him in friendship this year.
The next step is to find the Lord. Where is He?
The Good News is that the Lord comes to us in many ways. For Catholics, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324).
We believe that, in the Eucharist, Christ remains “truly present” in a special way. Catholics also share the belief with our Christian brothers and sisters that another privileged place to encounter the Lord is in the Word, the Holy Scriptures.
Scripture is where we come to know Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, we become acquainted with God, the patient and loving Father who constantly forgives and reestablishes relationship with his wayward children.
God’s love for and desire to be with His people becomes even more radical in the New Testament when God takes on human nature and becomes man in the Person of Jesus Christ. As Irenaeus teaches, “God became man so that we can become like God.”
To become like God, we must first follow Him by imitating Him in our lives and responding when He prompts us to do His will.
But before we can imitate Him, we must first get to know Him.
St. Jerome, a Father of the Early Church (AD 342-AD 419) and one of the most impactful biblical scholars in the history of Christianity, succinctly said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Let’s strive to deepen our knowledge of Christ this year by encountering Him through the Scriptures.
We can do this by reading the Bible (especially the Gospels) for a few minutes in the morning or just before we go to bed. Brief readings give us something to think about as we journey through our day.
It can also be enriching to add helpful Scripture teachings such as Ascension’s highly acclaimed Bible in a Year Podcast hosted by Fr. Mike Schmitz.
By spending time each day learning Scripture, we come to know Christ. We thereby deepen our relationship with Him, so that one day we can say with St. Paul, “It is not I that live, but Christ that lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
As John Paul II descended to the pilgrims at Mile-High Stadium, I imagine he was overwhelmed by the sheer force of being loved by so many people and the excitement of returning that love.
But just how did he capture the hearts of millions of people during his time as Pope?
John Paul II wasn’t able to give and receive this love through his own strength, but because he first spent his
Matthew Montag is Seminarian Intern at St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Wilmington.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association (WAMA).