Pope St. John Paul 11 is a household name which may not be uncommon even to non-Christians of our own generations. Nevertheless, we may not be at home with his personal life History especially the area that gave rise to our thought for this week’s series. For the sake of doubt, we shall give a brief analysis. It is on record that Pope St John Paul 11 who goes by the name Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born into a family of 5 (2 sons, one daughter and the parents) at Wadowice Poland. His only sister died a year after her birth. His mother also kicked the bucket when he (John Paul) was 9. Since there was no much money for the father to sponsor John Paul and his elder brother in education, he (the father) decided to train the elder brother who will in turn ensure that JP attended college. Unfortunate for the family, the elder brother died immediately after his education. Far more agonizingly for John Paul, his father could not bear the shock and he gave up the ghost when the young Wojtyla was 21.
Meanwhile, the crux of the matter is that in the most difficult moment in the life of John Paul, we could hear the words of the Psalmist “my tears have become my food by night and day, while all day long they say to me where is your God?.” (Ps. 42:3). Moreover, as he rightly mentioned in one of his earliest encyclical “Laborens Exerciens”, Pope St John Paul 11 worked extensively with his bare hand in order to ensure a living.
Nonetheless, the perfect combination of the confirmation made by his colleagues about him and the stable sense of himself created an enabling environment for the pious Wojtyla to achieve his priestly identity. Pope St John Paul 11 himself gave testimony to his life in 2005 (during his golden priestly jubilee) when he said “At 21, I had lost all I loved but today, the whole world is my family.”
The life of Pope St John Paul11 which could be likened to the life of many great men within and outside our Christendom, depicts the nature of our core tradition; a tradition that is submissive to the will of the eternal father, who plans for the good of his children.
It could be recalled that in our immediate past weekly series (precisely vol.1 no.16) we noted how Christianity took its origin from Jewish religion. It is also worthy to note that since it was the same God, they also believed and appropriated their core traditions which includes Yahweh’s accompaniment of his people in their movements, his concern for the plight of the oppressed, and his readiness to ease their plight, and his promise of new and decisive things to come. How this core tradition developed is impossible to say, although the work of patriarch and of Moses in the shaping of such a core tradition cannot be excluded. Again, if we now ask whether this core tradition seems to underline the traditions that we have, the answer seems to be clear. In fact it is essential to the life and faith of successive generations, which had therefore to be passed along intact.
Far more significantly, this core tradition communicates to us a singular message; that both Christianity and Judaism are religions of promise and not of immediate fulfillment. The Scripture tells us that our father Abraham did not live to see the fulfillment of the promises that God made to him. In spite of Joseph’s humiliating and most agonizing moments from the hands of his brothers to slavery and imprisonment, he was convinced that God was with him. Even Jesus himself, the founder of Christianity felt God’s abandonment but remained submissive to God’s will. By implications therefore, tribulations and trials do not mean the absence of God, but the assurance of greater things to come. The life of St. Pope John Paul 11 and many others, even among us, is a testamentary affirmation of this tradition. So, a Christian preaching an uninterrupted immediate and automatic satisfaction of human needs is practicing a different religion for ours is a religion of hope, and a religion that is ever ready to welcome God’s will.