There should be no question why the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul the Great, is one of the patrons of the Missionaries of the Eucharist. After all, he wrote the theology of the body. Yet, just as the great graces given to St. Joseph were not the only reason that he was chosen as a patron, so too with the writings of John Paul the Great. In other words, there’s more to this man than meets the eye.
Pope John Paul the Great quoted two sections of Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes over and over. The first of which says, “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (22). Now, when John Paul quotes this in his theology of the body, he often leaves out the middle section: “by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love.” Why he does this, I am not sure, but I believe that he was inferring that section whenever he invoked the text. In other words, for us to understand John Paul’s love for this quote, we should take it in context with the section often left out, namely how God reveals His great love for us. That revelation is at the root our understanding the humanity of man, and it is that revelation that makes man’s “supreme calling clear.”
Why is this so? The answer is in the First Epistle of St. John:
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:9-11).In other words, just as God’s love is manifested through the cross, so too should man’s love be manifested in his self-sacrificial love for God and man. And, what does this have to do with John Paul the Great? Everything. This idea of self-sacrificial love pervades his writings. Still, not only was it at the heart of his theology, but it was also manifested constantly in his life. Most visibly, we can see this in his last years as Pontiff. He showed the world what the power of redemptive suffering looked like. He showed the world how great is the dignity of man, even in the face of death. What he was not able to write in the theology of the body, he wrote through the will and actions in his own body. He not only gave the world a theology in his words, but he also gave a theology in his deeds. This great witness showed how he had taken his other favorite quote to heart: “Man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24). And this is exactly how he found himself through his whole priesthood: he gave himself away out of love for God and neighbor.