These things I command you, that ye love one another -John 15:17
When life's journey comes to a close, a man's title holds no clout in determining the degree to which he has fulfilled his duty of being a steward over God's creation. Thus, Pope John Paul II's life needs not to be measured by his Pontifical achievements, but rather by his feats attained as a man made in the image of God.
On this day, one's concurrence or dissent of John Paul's theological and ecumenical views is irrelevant, but the manner in which he served humanity is applicable to all faiths, nations, and tongues. "Do not be afraid" are the first words uttered out of the Pontiff's mouth as he stepped onto the Vatican balcony for the first time. These four words are entwined into the very foundation of his Pontifical legacy.
What does the paradigm of John Paul's life offer to the world? He taught the world that even when a man is knee deep in the dark mires of poverty, there exists a torch to guide him towards the dry firmament of freedom. Once he is grounded on this firmament, this man holds an obligation to return to the forsaken land and free his neighbors from the same injustices that shackled his own wrists. Man is to stare straight into the eyes of the adversary and boldly proclaim "get thee behind me Satan".
Even in times of unfathomable pain and discomfort, John Paul II reached into the depths of his neighbors' hardships in order to alleviate them of their anguish. He frequently lowered his status to the state of servitude; so that, the weakest amongst us might be elevated to positions of high repute and honor. John Paul II's life is a reminder to the entire human race that mankind is collectively responsible for safeguarding the rights of the disadvantaged and preserving the sanctity of all human life.
Saint Maximus the Confessor proclaims, "A true friend is one who in times of trial calmly and imperturbably suffers with his neighbor the ensuing afflictions, privations and disasters as if they were his own." Pope John Paul II was a true friend to all nations and peoples. When reflecting on this friendship, one is left with an age old question. Are we our brother's keeper? John Paul's life leads us to conclude the answer is undeniably yes.
Zechariah Winter is a college student from Nashville, Tennessee. He attends St. John the Wonderworker Bulgarian Orthodox Church.