TOTUS TUUS: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. JOHN PAUL II, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO CSsR, IBADAN
The word ‘Lord’ in Igbo is ‘Onyenw’anyi’, which literally means the one who owns me. St. John Paul II has as the motto of his pontificate the Latin expression ‘Totus Tuus ego sum’ which means ‘Totally Yours’. By this he consecrated himself completely to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of course, in our Catholic tradition, Mary is not a god, but her position as the Mother of God means that, through her intercession, our relationship with Jesus grows stronger. Therefore, to consecrate oneself to Mary is in view of getting to Jesus. It is like when you want to travel and you first get to the airport. The airport is not your destination, but it will provide what it takes to get to your destination.
Our responsorial psalm says ‘He made us, we belong to him’. To St. John Paul II, he does not only belong to God. He belongs totally to God. It is easy to be prepared to give God a lot, but not everyone is prepared to give EVERYTHING to God. He made us, we belong to Him. We are His people, the sheep of his flock. Psalm 99. You may want to read this psalm sometime today.
Everything else St. John Paul II came from this basic identity of himself as belonging to God. This identity led him to develop a strong devotion to the Divine Mercy. We always begin every mass by saying ‘Onyenw’anyi mee ebere‘ which means ‘Lord have mercy’. I prefer to say it in Igbo as it literally says ‘The one who owns us, have mercy’. Of course that is what it means to say ‘Lord’, or ‘Inkosi’, or ‘Here’, or ‘Ondu’. Because we do not belong to ourselves, we do not call the shots. We are to do whatever he wants. The first reading tells us that we are not saved by anything we have done, but purely by the grace of God. The grace of God is the same as his Mercy. How can we survive without the mercy of God. God granted to St. John Paul II the grace of dying on the 2nd of April, 2005, vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, which is Divine Mercy Sunday. He lived his life completely dependent on this mercy of God.
In the Gospel, we see a man who had depended completely on his wealth. He felt that his wealth assures his security. St. John Paul II depended on the mercy of God as his only security. Just when the unnamed man in the Gospel felt it was time to relax and enjoy His wealth, God reminded him that he doesnt belong to himself. The one who owns him demanded that which is His ‘the soul of the man’. Let us not live as if we have created ourselves, or as if we are in control of things around us. Control is an illussion. We are not in control of anything. Our so called control is always subject to God’s control. We own nothing as well, because the wealth of a slave belongs to the master. Anybody who owns you owns everything you own.
Because of his total dedication to God, St. John Paul II spent many hours in recollection, and silent prayer. His long hours of prayer shows that he depended completely on God. God has asked us to pray for our daily bread. But we often pray for the bread that is endless. Praying for daily bread helps us to pray daily. Praying daily helps us to realise how dependent we are on God. You may want to listen to the song ‘Totus Tuus, totally yours’.