Question: When Holy Communion is distributed why is "The Body of Christ" said? Why not…
We are called to proclaim Christ. It’s really that simple.
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I finally made it to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Though it has only been open for a few years, having taken the space previously occupied by the now defunct John Paul II Cultural Center, it feels like it’s been on my must-see list for a long time.
This is especially the case these days, as my new book, “Praying the Rosary with St. John Paul II,” just became available. I worked on this manuscript in the evenings last fall — after my toddler was in bed and while my baby girl was still contained in utero — and those evenings reading John Paul’s reflections on the mysteries of the Rosary were pure grace.
I felt that grace again last week at the shrine that is so beautifully dedicated to our late pope. A huge structure, it was purchased by the Knights of Columbus in 2011 and contains a chapel devoted to the Luminous Mysteries, which also contains a first-class relic of his blood; the “Redemptor Hominis” church; and a moving exhibit called “A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II.” No expense was spared in this multimedia journey through John Paul’s life and legacy, and it was quite a moving visit.
St. John Paul II’s feast day, on Oct. 22, will mark the 41st anniversary of his first homily given as pontiff, in which he uttered those now-famous words that became a hallmark of his papacy: “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” But he also, in the same homily, reflected on the profession of faith given by Simon Peter to Jesus in Matthew 16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Pope John Paul II said: “On this day and in this place these same words must again be uttered and listened to: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all.
“Their content reveals to our eyes the mystery of the living God, the mystery to which the Son has brought us close,” he said. “Nobody, in fact, has brought the living God as close to men and revealed him as he alone did.”
He went on: “All of you who are still seeking God, all of you who already have the inestimable good fortune to believe, and also you who are tormented by doubt: please listen once again, today in this sacred place, to the words uttered by Simon Peter,” Pope John Paul II said. “In those words is the faith of the Church. In those same words is the new truth, indeed, the ultimate and definitive truth about man: the son of the living God — ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'”
In those words is the faith of the Church.
Really, when you get right down to it, it’s just that simple. No matter what challenges we might be facing, the solution is right there in front of us in the person of Jesus, the son of God, whose whole purpose for being was to bring us to the Father. John Paul knew that, and he wasn’t afraid to remind us.
Amid such a time of division within the Church (if you’re not sure what I mean, follow #AmazonSynod on Twitter for an hour, though consider yourself warned), this is what — he is who — we need to remember. Jesus Christ. And he is who we are to look and listen to.
St. John Paul II was not a perfect man. But like St. Peter, he completely and unabashedly proclaimed Christ to the world and, in doing so, earned the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Even amid storms of division, uncertainty, confusion and polarization, this is our calling, too.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.