“Go ahead!” I looked down the longtowering passageway without breathing. My legs started to move as my mind triedto grasp the reality of the situation. Everything went as planned and we turnedright going into a small room. “Wait here.” We stopped too nervous to tremble.
It’s moments like this recentexperience I had in Rome that leave lasting impressions, and you would almostlike to live them again. They are in the past but effect your present. Youlearn to always take a step forward.
People started to gaze at us throughthe plexi-glass. My mind raced to find an explanation…. Just two days before Iwas at the seminary when a priest pulled me aside: “Would you like to be analtar server for the Pope?” “For the Pope?” I replied “What an honor.”Satisfied with the answer he continued “It will be a special Mass where thePope will ask pardon for the sins committed throughout the history of Christianity.”I could hardly believe my ears. The Jubilee Year 2000 had been full of specialgraces but it almost seemed too much. Now I stood next to the famous Pietàstatue waiting to begin the ceremony.
“Come on. The Holy Father iswaiting!” A fellow seminarian and I stepped through the door into a smallprivate sacristy just large enough for the Pope, two monsignors and both of us.Pope John Paul II had his back towards us, hands folded, head bent with hiseyes closed as he faced a crucifix on the wall. A peaceful silence came overall of us. We looked at him while he looked at God. No words, no movement, justthe silent testimony of a man in prayer. Conscious of his own weakness andnecessity, aware of who man is and his great need for God and his mercy. ThePope was interceding before Christ for humanity.
When he opened his eyes the monsignorsignaled and we headed out to lead the procession into the basilica. As weturned right to head down the center aisle flashes of light from the press andthe packed crowds of faithful blinded me. Little did they know that they had justmissed the most important moment.
Pope John Paul II was an incredibleman not because he was in the spotlight, but rather because he learned fromChrist how to forgive and ask for forgiveness. His past already included onemoment of forgiveness, when he pardoned the man who tried to kill him.
More than ten years after thishistorical Mass of Pardon we are today aware more than ever of man’s weakness,his sin and his need for God. Wars, injustice and hatrid are still a part ofour daily lives. Living testimonies are necessary who follow the example ofJohn Paul II and pray every day as Christ taught us: “Forgive us our trespassesas we forgive those who trespass against us....”