Spirituality for Today – February 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 7

Popes John Paul II And Benedict XVI: One Voice With One Answer To The Questions Of The World

By Gerard-Marie Anthony

Rome is the center and heart of the Church. So it is fitting that as we start the new Liturgical year, we reflect on the heart of our Pope Benedict's and Bl. John Paul II's message. These two Popes are seen as different in many ways: one is an extravert, the other an introvert. One is a philosopher and poet at heart, the other a theologian and teacher. As different as they seem however, they both have taken the Church in a similar direction with one voice through their Wednesday Audience Catechesis answering the fundamental questions of man, "Who Am I?" and "What is my purpose?"

A photo of Pope Benedict XVIPope Benedict XVI

Blessed John Paul II answered this question from a natural, philosophical perspective with his Wednesday audiences now titled, the Theology of the Body. In his teachings, he shows that the answer to mankind's question of "Who Am I" is written in the very bodies, our very biology. In them, we see that we are meant to give and receive something outside of ourselves to be made complete. This something is a great gift. It is true, complete self-giving, everlasting, faithful, and unconditional love. This is agape love; God's love and this love is the only love that will complete us as human beings. Thus, through the Theology of the Body, Bl. John Paul II shows that man is directed towards the giving and receiving of true, divine love. This is what it means to be human and so this great Pope leaves us with the Personalistic Norm.

Pope Benedict XVI states the same message, but has a different starting point. He begins not from man like his predecessor, but from Revelation and God. His general audience catechesis entailed the virtues, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and most recently prayer. Pope Benedict states that being human first and foremost means to accept in truth everything God reveals. In this, we will find the answers to our questions about our purpose and identity. Therefore, Pope Benedict shows that God, in his kindness and mercy, has directed himself towards mankind through Revelation.

So we see that Bl. John Paul II shows through his theology of the Body that man finds his identity by realizing he is directed and made for God. Pope Benedict shows through his Wednesday catechesis that Revelation tells us that to be human means to walk with and receive the love that we were made for; i.e. to receive God. Together, they complement one another by showing that this Divine Agape love which we were made for is something that God wants to give us as a grace, a free gift; and through this grace, God directs Himself towards man. In other words, they both proclaim the Personalistic Norm! The persons of God and man are meant to dwell within one another; to give and receive one another in perfect agape love.

How do they do this? Both of these spiritual giants have this answer as the main points of their pontificates: The Sacred Heart of Jesus! In him, the divine love of God for man, and the human love and search for God become one! He is the bridge which connects both of their pontificates and guides us to the heart of man, the church, and Revelation. John Paul II confirms this when he said, "In the heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep Himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor." Pope Benedict agrees when he stated:

"The glory of God is the living man, but the life of man is the vision of God", says St. Irenaeus, getting to the heart of what happens when man meets God on the mountain in the wilderness. Ultimately, it is the very life of man, man himself as living righteously, that is the true worship of God, but life only becomes real life when it receives its form from looking toward God. To understand our personhood we must look towards God and we can only look towards God with and in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Therefore we see during this time of preparation, we should remember that the two Popes we celebrate have not been saying two separate messages, but have simply taught the same lesson in different ways. This lesson is we need to get back to the basic and fundamental meaning of the Gospel: the heart of God and the heart of man. In other words, the Sacred Heart of Jesus! There, we realize the Personalistic Norm of the Theology of the Body and the fulfillment of Revelation. Most of all, it is there that Bl. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI proclaim with one voice the answer to man's most fundamental questions: "Who Am I?" and "What is my purpose?" They declare, "Look at the Sacred Heart of Jesus, there you will find the love you were made for and the answers to all you seek!"