Beloved Lasallians and fellow believers, today we gather as orphans to celebrate the memory of our beloved Holy Father, Pope
John Paul II. For most of the young people who have joined us in this Eucharist, he was the only Pope you ever knew. He had
been a Shepherd and Pastor for all of us for the past 26 years of his pontificate and today we remember him fondly. Someone
said that the real blessing which we celebrate today is that after his death we no longer need to live under the shadow of
this great man for today in death he has become as a ray of the sun to light our steps. And indeed he now shares in the glorious
light of the Sun of Justice, Jesus our Lord.
Contemplating on the life and death of Pope John Paul II, one cannot help but appreciate even more these prayerful words
of the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore: "I have learnt the simple meaning of thy whispers in flowers and sunshine; teach
me to know thy words in pain and in death."
John Paul II was not a perfect man and we did not gather here today to canonize him even if there is already much talk
about setting in motion the process to investigate the heroic way in which he lived the Gospel virtues and ideals. Indeed,
John Paul II was a holy man. He was also a brave man. Among all of his virtues, what has touched me deeply, as I watched him
perform his pastoral duties during the last years of his pontificate, was the witness of his life which showed us that even
as he aged and became weaker physically, he turned suffering into what it really is, that is, another opportunity to proclaim
the providential goodness of our God which we proclaim today in our responsorial psalm: "Ang Panginoon ang aking Pastol,
hindi ako magkukulang. Ako ay Kanyang pinagpapahinga sa mainam Niyang pastulan."
In life and in death, in word and in deed, Pope John Paul II continually and emphatically reminded us of this truth from
our FSC Institute Bulletin: "There are those who work for a day; they are useful. There are others who work for a year
and they are more useful. Some work on for many years; they are really committed. But there are others who work throughout
their lives; one cannot do without them."
Pope John Paul II, just like St. John Baptist de La Salle whose feast day the universal church celebrates tomorrow, reminds
us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Not even a long, lingering illness that both suffered before death
gave them the final rest from physical pain. In both John Paul II and John Baptist de La Salle, we have witnesses and guides
in following Christ. The challenge for us today is to imitate them in their abandonment to God, their loyalty to the Church,
their creative apostolic spirit and their definitive commitment to the evangelization of young people throughout all the stages
of their earthly existence.
Perhaps, of the many lessons we can learn from the life and death of Pope John Paul II, one that is most applicable to us
in the Lasallian Family today would be this: that no matter how young or old, healthy or not, each of us has a vital role
in bringing to birth the Reign of God. For those of you who are approaching retirement, you are reminded that "your identity
and value are not at all diminished because of advancing years and declining energy" (FSC Rule 24). For those among us
who are still fully active, know that the gifts and talents you put at the service of others come from the Lord (cf. Mt 20:12).
And for those of you who are in the prime of life, remember that our Founder was a young man when he became involved in the
foundation of the Institute and you have the creative forces and vitality to help overcome the tendency to keep unchanged
the existing structures even when they become obsolete (cf. FSC Circular 435).
Today, even as we celebrate the happy memory of Pope John Paul II, let us renew our determination and commitment to seek
only God's will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Totus tuus! In the strength and wisdom of the same Holy Spirit
who led John Baptist de La Salle and John Paul II, let us strive to renew the face of the earth as one La Salle, one Church,
one people of God.
May the soul of Pope John Paul II rest in God's eternal peace.