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Blessed Pope John Paul II: Influence continues today Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Sue Klamer Barry, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, May. 31, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Professor Douglas Bushman of Ave Maria University gives his lecture on “Faith, Unity, and Reason” at the recent diocesan celebration of the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II. (Catholic Herald photo/Joe Ptak)

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MADISON -- A ripple effect is taking place from the many important documents and contributions made by Blessed Pope John Paul II in his lifetime, according to Professor Douglas Bushman , who gave an engaging talk about the life and works of John Paul the Great as part of a special diocesan event in his honor held at St. Maria Goretti Church on May 20.

The talk entitled “Faith, Unity, and Reason” was presented prior to Mass being concelebrated with Bishop Robert C. Morlino and many other priests from around the diocese.

The special day to honor and celebrate the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul, which officially took place last May 1, 2011, in Rome on Divine Mercy Sunday, was planned to coincide with the Ascension of the Lord liturgy.

God is love

In his introduction, Bushman summed up Blessed John Paul’s remarkable works in a single anecdote, “He found 1,000 ways to say essentially the same thing — John 3:16 — God is love. God so loved the world that he gave his own son.”

His lecture presented example after example of how the Blessed John Paul

aught on this key truth for his entire pontificate. His message and work will live on in the Church and its members for years to come, Bushman said, because John Paul the Great challenged us all to take up that mission of demonstrating and teaching God’s love.

Blessed John Paul gave us, in part, 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters, Most focused on this one truth, according to Bushman, “We are all valuable and are deserving of love.”

Also, because God gave his only son to us, suffering is part of God’s plan and love comes out of this suffering.

Living the message of love

Love is the meaning of everything, Bushman explained. All the main themes of Blessed John Paul’s pontificate are developed in terms of love. Human dignity is the unique value ascribed to all those who are created in God’s image, and because they are endowed with reason and freedom, all are able to love and are called to love.

“We’ve all heard the word ‘love’, but do we understand it?” Bushman asked. “John Paul believed it, lived it, celebrated it, taught it, and believed the Holy Spirit would lead us in it.”

The foundation of the Church’s mission is this mandate of love and the challenge of the New Evangelization that was so dear to his heart, Bushman said. “The sad reality today is that people are getting baptized, but not living the message of love.”

The first fundamental example of living the message of love is to be happy. Pope John Paul focused on the saints and how they lived their lives. The lives of the saints are great models for us.

“Are we fundamentally happy? What about when the economy gets really bad or when someone we love gets cancer or we lose our job?” Bushman asked his audience.

Our happiness is not contingent on what happens to us. We need to refocus on the fundamental truth of God’s love.

Adam and Eve and the fall

Bushman talked about Blessed John Paul’s teaching of love as witnessed with Adam and Eve. Blessed John Paul saw Adam and Eve created in God’s image and given the awareness of the gift of love — a perfect harmony of love — until they became suspicious of God’s love and broke the relationship with sin. They doubted God’s love for them and ate of the forbidden fruit.

This was an example of how freedom destroys itself when people believe they can do whatever they want. The serpent or license to do whatever one wants came between God and Adam and Eve and broke the commandment of love in an attempt to get a happiness that didn’t exist, Bushman explained. Sin became the rotten fruit of disobedience. Fortunately this broken bond is not the final story, Bushman said.

Love is mercy

We still have lots of serpents and competing voices (for example, don’t you want to go out and get drunk? Don’t you want to make more money whatever it takes to do it?). Sin is in the world, but Jesus came to overcome the power of sin and evil, Bushman explained.

Blessed Pope John Paul described another meaning of love, which is mercy. Mercy is the special name we give to love when we reject that love, but God still loves us.

The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of humanity. The Prodigal Son had the power to walk away from his father’s love (the wrong use of freedom), yet the father was overjoyed to take him back when he returned home after a life of sin.

Blessed John Paul celebrated the Great Jubilee in the year 2000 and it was about this joy of conversion, the joy of repentance in which God reveals his love as mercy, Bushman said. It is this heavenly joy that is celebrated when sinners return to God.

In Christ, God’s love is revealed as mercy, which calls us to conversion and to discovering the meaning of human existence in the Paschal Mystery, Bushman explained. Blessed John Paul recognized that because every single person is born in God’s image, that person must be loved back.

The model for this begins in the family and everyone has a right to be loved. This was the pontiff’s “Precepts of Justice” theme. We must all help and serve the poor, the sick, the hurting, and the suffering in our midst.

Mary the model of faith

In Mary we are shown perfect love. She humbled herself and acted on her faith when the angel Gabriel asked her to be the mother of God’s Son.

We, on the hand, Bushman explained, are beggars desperate to get God’s forgiveness when we don’t understand how God can make some things happen and we try to do things our own way.

Mary said, “thy will be done,” even when she didn’t know how such a thing (conceiving a child and remaining ever-virgin) could happen. She just trusted and knew with God all things are possible. She believed God when he said he loved her and with her “yes” and her faith, her life was enriched.

This is what the Blessed John Paul wanted for us — for our lives to be enriched by our saying “yes” to God and to the sacraments even if we don’t understand completely. It is the theme of our whole patriarchal Church.

We should keep studying, trying to do better next time, and showing up to receive the sacraments, to receive forgiveness, to receive nourishment for our souls that only comes from God in the Eucharist and in his Word.

Casting out our nets

In conclusion, Bushman explained the essential continuity that Blessed Pope John Paul was calling for in the New Evangelization of the Church and in his renewal efforts of Vatican II. In essence he was saying that we need an abundance of faith, hope, and love so we can serve others who are in need.

Human beings are always in war zones, in places of disaster or despair — where dignity is threatened. There are too many unloved people in the world and it is our mission in the New Evangelization to be the outreach of the Church and help those in need. We need to love and be Christ to those in need even if it means suffering ourselves in order to help.

We need to do it in a spirit of joy and in a spirit of happiness. We are called to be examples of love and joy in our families and in our communities. This is what Blessed John Paul wanted and that is what his message is still carrying out today.

After a long night of unsuccessful fishing, Jesus asked Peter to try again, to “put out to the deep.” Bushman explained, we too are called to “cast out on the mystery of the sea” and keep giving our hopes and dreams and trust to Jesus.

Imagine how amazed Peter must have been when he cast his net once more and pulled in the abundant catch. We must continually love and share the message of our beloved John Paul and we too will be amazed at the ripple effect of his teachings, Bushman said.

Douglas Bushman is director and associate professor of theology for Ava Maria University Institute of Theology and teaches courses on Vatican II, Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pastoral Theology, Social Ethics, and more. Bushman and his wife, JoAnn, a research scientist in cardiac toxicology, are in their 26th year of marriage. They reside in Green Bay, where they homeschool three of their six children, while the other three are completing undergraduate and graduate degrees. Bushman is the author of introductions for the Sixteen Documents of Vatican II and the In His Image Program of Renewal Through Education. His talk was part of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series, which is an ongoing ministry to educate Catholics in the Diocese of Madison on traditions of the Church and provide an opportunity to learn more about their faith.

 
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