I knew he was a saint! The several times I met John Paul II, it was clear to me that this very human man was close to God, was a friend of God, was holy, was a saint. Now it is also clear that he was human, a sinner and perhaps at times mistaken in his judgments about people. Nonetheless, this merely helps us all the more to see that we too, we who are sinners, can also live close to our God.
As we move closer to our diocesan assembly this November, one of the calls to each of us is to develop our relationship with Jesus. Some may wonder what exactly that is.
It seems to me that all too often we mystify what a friendship with God is like. Frankly, it seems that it is like any other friendship, that is, any other real and good friendship that we may develop. The ingredients are easy: we get to know the person; we spend time with the person; we love the person; we are willing to do anything (that is good) for that person.
God wants us to know him. That is why he sent his Son, Jesus Christ—in order to show us the face of God. Read the Gospels and get to know more about Jesus and how he not only shows us his Father in heaven but also shows us what it really means for us to be human.
It is, of course, never sufficient to know about someone. We have to enter the story, engage the person, and feel a presence. This is where we need to spend time with Jesus. We do this, certainly, at Mass. We need to pray, to be quiet with the Lord, to share our needs and concerns with him and to listen as he places in our hearts the needs of those around us, especially the poor. Most of all we need quiet in order to hear. A desire for that kind of knowledge of Jesus is the beginning of the process of his friendship with us.
Once we know Jesus we are going to love him – what is not to love? But our love must be for him and for his Father since that is how he wants us to love him. Our love for him is not to see what we can get out of him. If that is our stance, then we really do not know him at all. He has already given us himself completely – gaze often on the cross!
Our love of Jesus will lead us to want to give ourselves away in whatever manner he chooses. This is a friend who love us, gives himself to us completely, would never lie to us, and wants us in heaven. We have a true friend whom we can trust completely with our lives. That, of course, for us sinful human beings is easier said than done. So let us pray for greater courage to be the friend of Jesus he is seeking.
On April 27, Pope Francis will declare John Paul and John XXIII to be saints. Both were very human, but also became friends of Jesus Christ. If they can do it, so can we.
Bishop Earl Boyea is the fifth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.