I had the opportunity this year to visit Poland to attend the World Youth Day. I had been to Poland once before, but it was in winter and only for a few days. This time I had more opportunity to see the country. It is a beautiful country. In particular, I had the chance to visit some sacred shrines. I visited Czestochowa and had the immense privilege of saying Holy Mass before the image of the Virgin. That was a great personal grace for me. I was also able to spend a little time with the Pauline Fathers there as I knew some of them.
I had a week in Krakov and was able to wander around this beautiful city. I was able to visit Lagiewniki and the shrine of Divine Mercy. It was a special moment for me to pray before the image of Divine Mercy in the chapel of the Sisters of our Lady of Mercy. That was a moment of special grace.
With the pilgrims I also visited Auschwitz. Before leaving for the WYD I knew we would be visiting Auschwitz and was not so enthusiastic. I wanted to visit holy places and not places of evil. However, we spent several hours in Auschwitz. It was a very moving experience. I had to come to face the evil that was perpetrated there. I was able to stop for a little time in front of the cellar where St Maximilian Kolbe died. The horror, the darkness, the inhumanity, the sheer evil of that place deeply touched me.
It also put me in touch with the great suffering of the Polish People during the Nazi occupation.
What I had not realised before was that Auschwitz was so close to Krakov. And I saw a new dimension to the revelations to St Faustina. The Lord visited this humble nun in the 1930s and revealed to her the depth of his mercy towards mankind. It was as though the Lord wanted to prepare the Polish people for what was about to happen in the years that followed. St Faustina herself would die at a young age just before the horror of World War II was unleashed on Poland.
And the words at the foot of the image which the Lord asked St Faustina to record have such deep meaning: “Jesus I trust in you”. Jesus I trust in you. It was the way in which the Lord wanted to reach out to the Polish people before the suffering that would descend on the nation, encouraging them in the midst of their darkness to turn to Jesus in trust. Despite all the signs to the contrary he was with them in these dark days. He would sustain them through times of privation and suffering.
The mercy of God for mankind is greater than any evil that can be perpetrated. Trust in the Lord will enable anyone to survive horror and darkness.
And the Polish people survived the great darkness and the unleashing of evil. From the ashes of World War II and the subsequent tyranny of Communism rose a people strong in faith and singularly devoted to the Lord.
And from this people who endured such suffering rose one of the greatest popes of history, and one of the most extraordinary world leaders in the twentieth century, and now a saint: Pope St John Paul II.
Out of darkness such light was born. Out of suffering such faith emerged. Out of persecution such a spiritual leader would come forth. It became Poland's finest hour.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is a proclamation that there is a Kingdom which is eternal. It is the Kingdom of God. Other earthly kingdoms will come and go - like Nazism and Communism. This kingdom will endure forever.
Christ is victorious. Light has triumphed over darkness. Goodness has triumphed over evil. Life has triumphed over death.
Christ is King. Viva Christo Rey.
Today the Church sings in its entrance antiphon: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and divinity, and wisdom and strength and honour". We look to heaven, to the angels and saints around the throne who are worshiping the Lamb, who is also the Lion of Judah, who is also the Lord, the conqueror of sin and death.
The crucified one is the King reigning from a tree and can with absolute authority say to the thief crucified with him, "Today you will be with me in paradise". Jesus opens the gate of heaven to all who entrust themselves to him.
To say, "Jesus I trust in you", is to be like the thief on the cross. I can say that while I know my own sinfulness I entrust my life and my salvation to you, O Lord. And Jesus says to us - I promise that you will be with me in paradise.
He is the King, the victorious lamb who was slain. In him lies all our hope and desire.
And so today we worship him. Today we praise his holy name. Today we sing of his glory. Today we honour his presence among us in the Blessed Sacrament.
He is King and He will reign forever. Praised be Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
Friday, November 18, 2016