As you all know Jean Paul II has died at the age of 84. He is the spiritual leader and head of the Roman Catholic Church. It is said that there will be over 1 million people that will visit his body in Rome by this Friday. The city of Rome is preparing for the biggest funeral for any pope in history with leaders of governments and other dignitaries coming from all over the world.
There has been round the clock coverage of this story since his illness and death. It is on the front pages of every newspaper and magazines around the world. Here in Montreal these are and will be special religious services held throughout the week, even the cross on Mt. Royal has changed the color of its lights to mark the occasion. The world and especially Catholics see this as an important and historic event, but how are we, as New Testament Christians, how do we react to the death of this Pope?
Our Reaction to Death
Our response and reaction should be the same as it would be to any person overcome by death.
Whether it is the Pope or our neighbor who works at IGA food store, the passing of a life leaves many with grief and sorrow and so we must be respectful. In the case of the Pope there are many people who are affected deeply by his death and our appropriate response to our Catholic friends and family is to respect their grief and comfort them in their sorrow. When someone dies, we don't discuss their faults and mistakes at their funeral. Solomon says,
"There is an appointment time for everything." Ecc. 3:1
We may not have agreed with what Jean Paul II taught or the position he held but this is a time for respect not debate.
2. Focused Attention
Hebrews 9:27 says,
"..it is appointed for man to die once and them comes the judgement".
As great as he was, as famous as he was, as powerful as he was, Jean Paul still had to face death just like every other person before or after him. This reality should make us afraid because if those who are powerful die, we who are small will not be able to avoid it either.
The Bible says that Jean Paul will be judged by God for what he did with his life. In other words, he, like us will be judged - his position here will not enable him to escape judgement. This should also get our attention because God's promise is that all will be judged, no exceptions.
His death should force us to think about our own sure death and the fact that we will be judged by God. Never mind asking yourself, "How will God judged the Pope," you should be asking yourself, "How will God judge me?" This is a far more important question to ask. This brings us to our final reaction to the death of the Pope.
3. Renewed Faith and Obedience To God's Word.
46I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me."
- John 12:46-50
During this time we hear all kinds of "expert" passing judgements on the Pope's work, his writings and teachings and his life. Most are favorable and no doubt at his funeral they will proclaim him to be in heaven with God. There is already an effort to see him as a saint. This may be the thing to do for Catholic writers and theologians, however, the Bible says - Jesus Himself says that person's life will be measured against God's word and nothing else. Jesus judged His own life and the worth of His ministry only against the word of God and so we can do no less or more for ourselves or for the Pope.
" .. For there is no partiality with God."
- Romans 2:11
Jean Paul, like us, will be judged according to his obedience to God's word, nothing more or nothing less. And we can be sure that God knows His own word and He knows completely the life and work and motivation of Jean Paul so the judgement on his life will be fair, merciful and righteous.
What we should be asking ourselves is not, "How will God Judge Jean Paul II," because we don't know his life and this judgement does not belong to us. What we should be asking ourselves is, "How will God judge me?"
Because in the end this is a much more important issue for us than the judgement of the Pope. As New Testament Christians we know this is the basis for judgement and the death of this man - or any person for that matter - should force us to re - examine our lives and see if the judgement for us was today - how would we do? What would God say to us?
So, let's respect our Catholic friends and family who are sorry that their leader has died. This is the right and loving thing to do. But let's also realize that even if it will be with less publicity and impact, we too will die one day and face God in judgment.
Can we say now that we're in obedience to His word?
In the simple things like actually becoming a Christian by repenting of our sins and being baptized, being faithful at worship, and living lives that are pure and Godly. Or, - In the more mature areas like overlooking offenses, forgiving one another, helping each other. Can we say we're obeying God's word in the demanding parts of the word where God calls us to leadership, ministry, and sacrifice?
Brothers and sisters, let's allow this event to re-focus our attention and efforts to obeying God's word where He is calling us to obey Him! You know in your hearts what that call is. Don' t wait until your funeral to answer Him, by then it will be too late. God have mercy on Jean Paul, God give us strength to obey His word and His calling. Amen.