Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I have St. John Paul II’s hockey stick!
When he came to St. Louis in 1999, St. John Paul II was given a hockey stick signed by the St. Louis Blues. Now, that hockey stick is not only a memento but a relic. And, as Archbishop of St. Louis, I have inherited it!
I mention that for several reasons. First, because we celebrate the feast day of St. John Paul II on Oct. 22. Second because, as someone who was named a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 2004, it is amazing that I now live in a house where he stayed. Third and last, because I think he has something important to teach us.
One of his favorite quotes — often repeated in his speaking and writing — came from paragraph 22 of “Gaudium et Spes,” one of the documents of Vatican II. The quote is this: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light … Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”
If we contemplate the mystery of Christ, we learn who we are meant to be. And apart from Christ, we remain a mystery to ourselves.
This favorite idea of St. John Paul II echoes something that St. Paul says in the readings this week, the 29th week of Ordinary Time. He tells the Ephesians that Jesus is the “capstone” of the household of God, and that “through Him the whole structure is held together.”
Ancient languages didn’t have separate words for “capstone” and “cornerstone.” But ancient architects knew as well as modern architects that a “capstone” is the final piece that holds an arch together. When the capstone is put in place, everything fits together. And if that capstone is missing, everything falls apart.
What a fitting analogy for Christ! And how fitting that we should reflect on it, since the world’s greatest example of an arch is right here in St. Louis.
In his first homily as pope, St. John Paul II said that we should “open wide the doors to Christ,” letting Him be the capstone not only of our personal lives, but also of our social, political and economic systems. Many people know, from personal experience, how their lives fall apart without God. It seems fair to say that the last several decades have shown us how a culture can fall apart, more and more drastically, without God.
So, here are some encouragements this week. First, let’s allow Jesus to be the capstone of our lives. Second, let’s offer Jesus to others as the one who can help their lives to come together, especially in times when they’re falling apart. And last, as we think about voting, let’s think seriously about how we can let God be the capstone of our social, political and economic systems. In God, everything holds together; without God everything falls apart.