Presiding at a Mass Monday afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that “the fragrance of his love has ‘filled the whole house,’ that is, the whole Church.”
Before the thousands of pilgrims gathered - many of them Polish - along with various Cardinals, Bishops, and others, the Holy Father recalled that this second anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death falls in the midst of Holy Week. The Holy Father noted that today’s Gospel speaks of Mary of Bethany’s anointing of the feet of Jesus with aromatic oils (Jn 12:1-9).
The action of Mary, as recounted by John the Evangelist, “speaks of love for Christ, a superabundant love, prodigal, like that ‘costly perfumed oil’ poured upon his feet,” the Pope said.
“For us, reunited in prayer in memory of my venerated predecessor, the gesture of the anointing of Mary of Bethany is rich in echoes and spiritual meaning,” he continued.
This act, Benedict said, “evokes the luminous testimony which John Paul II offered of a love for Christ without reserve or limitation. The ‘fragrance’ of his love has ‘filled the whole house,’ that is, the whole Church.”
And that love, the Pontiff continued, spread throughout the world, reaching “far and wide, because the love of Pope Wojtyla for Christ boiled over, into every region of the world, always more strongly and more intensely. Aren’t the esteem, the respect and the affection that both believers and non-believers showed him at his death a telling testimony of this?”
“The fecundity of this testimony, we know, depends on the Cross,” the Pontiff continued. “In Karol Wojtyla’s life, the word ‘cross’ was not just a word. From his infancy and in his youth he knew sorrow and death. As a priest and as a Bishop, and above all as the Supreme Pontiff, he took very seriously that last call of the Resurrected Christ to Simon Peter, on the bank of Lake Galilee: ‘Follow me.’”
Through “the intensive and fruitful pastoral ministry, and even more the Calvary of the agony and the serene death of our beloved Pope, he taught to the men of our time that Jesus Christ really was his ‘all,’” Benedict added.
“Especially with the slow but relentless progress of the disease, which slowly deprived him of everything, his life became entirely an offering to Christ, the living announcement of His passion, in the faith-filled hope of Resurrection.”
And “from the house of the Father,” Pope Benedict said, “he does not stop following the path of the Church.”
The Papacy of John Paul, Benedict said, “was inspired by ‘prodigality,’ by his generously and unstintingly committing of himself. What moved him but a mystic love of Christ, of He who, on October 16th 1978, had called him, with the words of the ceremonial: "Magister adest et vocat te – The Master is here and is calling you?”
And, the Holy Father continued, “On April 2nd 2005, the Master came back, this time with no intermediaries, to call him and take him home, to the house of the Father. And he, once again, promptly responded with his fearless heart, and sighed: ‘Let me go to the Lord.’”
“…and the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil…” The Pope said, returning to the image offered by today’s Gospel. “The fragrance of the faith, the hope, and the love of the Pope filled his house, filled St. Peter’s Square, filled the Church and spread to the entire world.”
“What happened after his death,” Benedict went on, “for those who believe was the consequence of that ‘scent’ that reached everyone, close and afar, and attracted them to a man that God had progressively conformed to His Christ.”
Due to this, the Holy Father said, “we are able to apply to him the title Servant of God…a title particularly appropriate for him.”
Mentioning the different “drafts of his will,” the Pope recalled that his “beloved” John Paul II “for a long time had been getting ready for this last encounter with Jesus. Like his divine Master, he lived his agony in prayer. He died praying. He really fell asleep in the Lord.”