It was the spring of the year 1986. I was 23 years old, and deeply immersed in mental suffering that was, in part, due to my as yet undiagnosed depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I turned to the writings and talks of Pope John Paul II.
I had read him before, many times. But here I read him with a anguished, searching heart. And my heart recognized something in those words, and in the energy of the man who had expressed them. It was as if everything he said shined with an implicit but unmistakable truth: "God loves you. God loves every human person. God wants to draw particularly close to every human person in this time, in this age when so many have forgotten Him. God wants to glorify His mercy. Do not be afraid."
Here were words that came from a living man, a witness of my own time. The media made his presence in our world accessible in other ways. His face was in pictures and on television. I could see and hear his gestures and his voice with all of its great strength and tenderness. Although I did not "know" him, his particular humanity burst through all of the indirect and partial glimpses of multimedia and addressed me head on.
"Every person matters. Every person, absolutely every human person has been created by God and is loved by God. And that means that even you, John, are loved by God."And I felt that I was loved, personally, by the man who was living such a compelling witness in front of the world. I "met" him in a dialogue of mind and heart, and through him, I met Jesus Christ in a new way--a way that has remained fundamental to my identity and my way of looking at life.
I discovered Jesus not just as a subject for theological study but as a Person who is really there "on the other side" of my prayers, who loves me, who is active in my life and who enables me to love Him.
Thank you, Jesus, for the life and witness of Blessed John Paul II. Thank you, Jesus, for this great family, the Church!