Father Popieluszko’s Last Sermon Before His Murder
SERMON OF FR.JERZY POPIEłUSZKO GIVEN ON OCTOBER 8 1984 IN BYTOM
Gospel Reading Was Luke 10: 25-37
I am honored to have been invited by you to take part in the celebration of this Holy Mass organized by the Capuchine Fathers for the week of Christian Culture. I was very pleasantly surprised by your response to the patriotic poems because, when I was being questioned along with some miners, some of them from Bytom, they were told then that Fr.Popiełuszko “will not “dirty” the quiet waters of Śląsk” yet I see that the waters are already “stirred up”.
My dear friends, our Holy Father, John Paul II, on June 23, 1982 prayed to Our Lady of Jasna Góra with these words: O, Mother of My Country do not let evil conquer us, but let us conquer evil with goodness. This is the trial of our times and it is not the first one. Here is tested the conscience, here is tested the heart, and the will not to allow evil to win, but to conquer it with good. “I thank You, Mother- prayed the Holy Father,John Paul II- for all those who pass this test, who in their conscience, heart and will find the strength to increase and strengthen the good in their lives. I thank you for all who remain faithful to their conscience, who while they fight with their weaknesses, strengthened others. I thank you for all who do not let evil conquer them and fight it with goodness. Only he who is rich in goodness can conquer evil. The one who cares about growing in values which determine human dignity, the dignity of the child of God. To increase good and conquer evil means caring for one’s dignity. Life must be lived with goodness, because we only have one life.”
We have to talk much these days about the dignity of man in order to understand that man is greater than everything. everything that exists in the world, everything except God. Man is greater than the wisdom of all the world. To retain dignity in order to increase it and to fight evil means to remain free within oneself in spite of external enslavement. It means to remain being oneself in every situation. As sons of God, we cannot be slaves. Our being sons of God makes freedom our inheritance. Freedom is given to man as a measure of his greatness. True freedom is the first characteristic of humanity. It was given to us by God. Given not only to us but also to our brothers. Hence the duty of demanding it whenever it is diminished for us. But freedom also is not just a gift from God to us, it is also a lifetime duty for us. We have to retain our dignity to increase the good and to fight the evil.
We have to direct our lives with justice. Justice comes from truth and love. The more truth and love is in a man, the more justice. Justice and love must go together. Because without love, one cannot be fully just. Where there is lack of love and goodness their place is immediately taken by hate and force, and guided by hate and force one cannot speak of justice. Hence in countries where the governments rule by force and enslavement, injustice is experienced and painfully felt. It is important for Christians to realize that God Himself is the source of justice. So it is difficult to talk about justice where there is no room for God and His commandments, where the word “God” has been officially eliminated from the life of the a nation, and here we must realize the illegality and the harm of such action in a nation, predominantly Christian, being officially made atheist yet financed by the earnings of Christian workers. When Christian values are destroyed in the hearts and souls of children and youth, values that were instilled by their parents in them from the cradle. Values which passed numerous tests in the thousand years of our history. Everyone without exception must execute justice and call for justice. Because, as the ancient thinker said “Bad are the times when justice fills its mouth with water…” It would be good to reflect upon this in our own hearts and face our own conscience. To what extent is each one of us a creator of justice? Starting with ourselves, our family, our surroundings, because often our apathy alone inspires and causes injustice, and at the same time aids evil.
To increase goodness and overcome evil means to be guided by truth every day. Truth is a very delicate possession of our conscience. The desire for truth was instilled in us by God. Hence man has a natural thirst for truth and dislike of lies. Truth and bravery are very important values in the life of every man, especially a Christian. Just as justice is connected to love, and love has a price, true love means sacrifice, so truth must also have a price. To live in truth is to be at peace with one’s conscience. Truth always unites people and encourages them. The greatness of truth scares and unveils the lies of little people, frightened people. A continuous war with truth has lasted for ages. But truth is immortal. And lies die a quick death. Here, as the late Primate of the Millenium has said: ” you do not need many people to tell the truth, Christ chose but a few to proclaim the truth. Only lies have to have many words because lies rely on details. It is like a shop, it changes like the goods on the shelves, has to be always new, has to have many servants who according to the program learn for today, for tomorrow, for a month and then have to be re-trained in a hurry again in another lie, in order to learn a new programmed pattern. And it takes a lot of people, one does not need that to proclaim truth. It can be a small group of people but truth will make them shine. People will find them themselves and will come from afar to listen to the words of truth. People have a natural longing for truth. One cannot be satisfied in life by easy, superficial truths, superimposed truths. We must learn to distinguish lies from truth. It is not easy in the current times, as the poet said : “never before have our backs been beaten by a rod of lies and cheating”. It is not easy today when even the censorship which strikes out, especially in Catholic press, true words and courageous ideas, strikes out the words of the Primate, the Holy Father, or even the holy Bible. It is not easy today when a only a Catholic is forbidden to criticize points of view, express or defend his own or universal opinions. He cannot deny false accusations which others have full freedom to to publicize and spread without any consequences. It is not easy today when, for the last two years, our native soil is dirtied by seeds of lies and atheism. The Christian’s duty is to stand by the truth, regardless of cost, because it costs to declare it, only weeds are free. A grain of wheat has to be paid for sometimes.The poet said: “man leans on truth. If he betrays truth, he betrays himself” Lies belittle man, they have always characterized slavery. Holy Father called in February last year: “You are not a slave, you are not allowed to be a slave, you are a son”. Life cannot be cheated just like earth cannot be cheated. If you saw weeds, you get chaff. Christ’s Gospel is so fruitful throughout the ages and so valid today, because it is true. Ideologies which are based on lies and force, wither, bear bad fruit and moral disasters regardless how exciting and uplifting are their mottos. We have all too many examples of this in in the history of Europe and the World.
The basic condition of freeing man to seek truth and at the same time eliminating evil, which means lies, is the virtue of bravery. The virtue of bravery is the overcoming of human weakness, especially of fear. A Christian must remember that he can only fear betraying Christ for but a few silver coins of worthless peace. It is worth while to remember this sentence. “To be afraid of betraying Christ for a few silver coins of restless peace.” But it is not enough for a Christian just to fight evil, lies,slavery, hate, force. A Christian must himself be a true witness, an example and a defender of justice, goodness, truth, freedom and love. He has to bravely demand these values for himself and for others.” Only a man who is brave can be truly prudent and just” – says Holy Father, John Paul II. “Pity the nation – called the Primate of the Millenium – whose citizens do not govern with bravery, they stop being citizens and become simple slaves.” If a citizen gives up being brave, he becomes a slave and causes great loss to himself, his own person, his family, his co-workers, his Nation, his Church, even if he could be easily used because of fear, bread, or anything else. But pity the powers who want to gain support for the price of constant fear. If the government scares citizens, it lowers its authority, ruins national, and cultural life and the value of work. So the concern about bravery should be that of the ruling powers and the citizens. It is necessary that every day we should be aware that demanding truth we ourselves must live the truth. Demanding justice, we must be just in relation to others. Demanding courage and bravery, we must be courageous and brave. Holy Father last year at the Błonie in Cracow reminded us and highly emphasized the words of the Psalm which should be our roadsign especially in the difficult days ahead of the nation as it is being enslaved. “The Lord in my shepherd. Even though I walk through a dark valley I fear no harm, for you are at my side…, ” We shall gradually eliminate the evil from our personal, family, social and national life if every day we shall be strong in our faith, hope and love. As we walk the way of truth and justice, as we retain our freedom and respect. We will not fear evil as, every day, we build solidarity of hearts and minds in our families, our neighborhoods and our country. We will not fear evil as Jesus Christ, Our Lord and His teachings will be our way and our truth and our life. Amen.