In Memoriam: Benedict XVI
(1 John 3: 11-21, John 1: 43-51)
We are here to celebrate the life and ministry of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. We join in prayer for the happy repose of the humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord who has returned to his Father’s House. For Pope Benedict, Christianity was not a mere recital of words, but an active search to see the face of Christ. Having been grafted to the Living Christ, he sought to immerse himself in the sufferings, crises, confusions, and challenges of the world. This was beautifully expressed in the council document Gaudium et Spes. “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men” (Gaudium et Spes, #1). Having been brought to the fullness of life in Christ, he sought to love the Lord Jesus, value his love and put his love into practice. “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in action and truth” (1 Jn 3:18). Christianity does not focus on a set of abstract concepts, but rather, it seeks to establish a loving relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Our feet are on earth, but our minds and hearts are focused on our heavenly homeland (CF. Phil 3:20).
Benedict XVI did theology on his knees in prayer. His explanation of matters of faith was carried out with the devotion of a man who surrendered himself to God and who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sought an ever-greater understanding of the mystery of Jesus, who fascinated him from his youth. Faith was not something that could be taught, it had to be caught. The Son of God has become the son of man to give God a face. In Christ, heaven and earth have united in a deep and indissoluble bond. As disciples of the Word made flesh, we are challenged to seek His face in the face of each person we meet. For us to become light in His light we have to allow the Fire of Divine Love to consume us. I was reminded of a story made popular by Scott Peck, The Rabbi’s Gift.
Finally, the time came for the abbot to leave. The men hugged and the abbot said, “It is wonderful that we could meet and talk after all these years, but I have failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there no advice at all you can give me that would help me to save my dying order?”
“I’m sorry,” said the rabbi. “I’m afraid I have no advice to give. All I can tell you, though, is that the Messiah is one of you.”
Upon his return to the monastery, the abbot was joined by the other monks who asked, “Well, what did the rabbi say?”
“He couldn’t help,” the abbot replied. “We just sat and talked. And as I was leaving, he said that the Messiah is one of us. I have no idea what he meant.”
… As they reflected in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the remote chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they each began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect as well.
… Soon, the monastery once again housed a thriving order, and, thanks to the rabbi’s gift, became a beacon of peace, love, and hope.
Benedict XVI left a beautiful testimony of how one should live in faith in the way he embraced his growing frailty. Arguably, the defining moment of his reign was his decision to renounce the papacy. This humble and loving act of faith permitted him to fulfill his desire to seek the face of Jesus in prayer and contemplation. Interestingly, the nurse who was attending to him reported that the last words he spoke were “Lord, I love you.” May the Lord he loved and served welcome him into eternal glory and number him among the priests worshipping before the divine majesty. May he rest in peace. Amen.
Comments are closed.