W hen St. John Paul II was chosen as pope on October 16, 1978, Cardinal Stefan Wysziñski, the Primate of Poland, told him the Holy Spirit chose him specifically to lead the Church into the third millennium. John Paul worked ceaselessly to bring all people to the awareness that Jesus Christ is central to history and to all of humanity itself. He traveled in 1999 in the Middle East and Holy Land to underscore this fact. He established numerous jubilees, pilgrimages to Rome and celebrations to commemorate special events. There were jubilees recognizing migrants, journalists, scientists, sports, priests, families and many more. All of this to draw attention to God's presence and love.
The first person whom he canonized in the new millennium was Sister Faustyna Kowalska who received the vision of Jesus, the Divine Mercy. He was teaching us that God's mercy comes to the whole world through the crucified heart of Christ. Jesus made our sins hissins so that He could expiate them. The wounds, the marks on his sacred Body, remain after his Resurrection to show us his abiding love for us. St. Faustyna was the bridge from the previous to the present millennium, as an instrument to remind the world of endless mercy of God in spite of all the sin and darkness in the world.
In establishing the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, St. John Paul II said that he wanted to show the connection to the Second Vatican Council. This Council purposed to reveal to the world by modern means the eternal truths concerning God and us. It's not surprising, then, that Pope Francis decided, along with John Paul, to canonize Pope John XXIII who convened the Council. Both Popes deeply desired to lead every person to the God of Mercy.
In his homily during the Mass of canonization on April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said:
In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy Popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.
We need the intercessions of these two great Saints along with our continued prayers that the world know the light of God's mercy and his love.