In these days, the individual local Churches, spread throughout the world, are entrusting the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, the humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard, to the Most Holy Trinity: they owe him so much for the ecclesial service that he carried out during the years of his pontificate. We too in Como, and at the same time in Sondrio, make grateful memory of this great Pontiff whom the Lord has given to his Church.
Endowed with a fervent intelligence, combined with profound modesty, Pope Benedict enlightened the Church with his theological wisdom, so much so that he was defined as “the theologian Pope”. He knew how to present God’s truth with simplicity and clarity, while he let his deep spirituality shine through through his teaching.
As humble as he was courageous, to come to the resignation from the Petrine ministry, with prophetic determination, when his physical and psychic strength were failing, without however abandoning the Church, which he supported with the strength of his assiduous prayer in these nine years in which he lived in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican in a monastic style and with a lucid attention to the ecclesial reality.
I remember him in the various personal meetings I had with him: it was precisely the Lombard Episcopal Conference that was received last in an “ad limina” visit a few days before his transfer to Castel Gandolfo. Endowed with an exquisite kindness, combined with tenderness, he was able to focus his attention on the person he had in front of him, as if she were his only one, with a truly surprising cordiality. Until the last meeting, on the day of the Consistory, last August 27, where completely mute, he limited himself to speaking with his lively eyes to the new cardinals, encouraging them and offering them his blessing. A truly unforgettable, moving and high-profile moment.
Some reflections now starting from the Word of God just proclaimed.
The proposed Gospel is the meeting between the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Peter on the shores of Lake Tiberias. The risen Jesus surprises Peter with this question:
“Simone di Giovanni, do you love me more than these?” Pietro was able to offer a timid, albeit sincere answer. The successor of Peter, our beloved pope emeritus Benedict XVI, resolutely spoke out without any hesitation.
Speaking of those who were close to him in the last hours of his earthly life, Pope Benedict repeated in Italian, as his last words, the expression: “Lord, I love you!“.
Thus he concluded his uninterrupted dialogue of love with Christ, through this solemn profession of faith, which reveals a deep and sincere friendship which, like all true friendship, involves a communion of thinking and willing.
Pope Benedict has repeatedly told us that Jesus knows us by name, in a wholly personal way. The friendship that he gives us leads us to know him better and better in the Scriptures, in the sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who approach us and whom he sends us.
Friendship is above all a communion of will. The will of the Lord Jesus is not for us an external and foreign will. In friendship our will unites more and more with his. Thus the will of the Lord becomes ours, until we become one with him. Pope Benedict taught us to live our lives no longer for ourselves, but with the Lord Jesus for the benefit of others. And he repeated several times: “Help me to become more and more your friend“. Here is a first treasure that he has left us: his profound and tender communion with Christ Jesus, lived through a spirituality deeply rooted in the ecclesial tradition.
I would like to underline another element that struck me about Pope Ratzinger’s teaching. The Christian faith does not say “I believe in something, but in Someone.” Pope Benedict has repeatedly told us that only Christ can fully satisfy the deepest longings of every human heart and answer the most disturbing questions about pain, injustice and evil, about death and the hereafter. The center of life must therefore be none other than the Lord. Announce the reasonableness of faith it was a constant concern of our beloved Pope Emeritus, so much so that he wanted to underline this truth by taking it up again in his own spiritual testamentjust published.
Finally, I would like to underline the expression of the second reading, where s. Paul announces that “our homeland is in heaven”. The following of Christ is not only an imitation of his virtues, but it is a journey that has a precise goal. Pope Benedict has strongly called us to great prospect of eternal life through which Christianity reveals all its meaning. Truth and love open us to the full breadth of God’s plan with us, to the courage to live in expectation of eternal life.
Now Pope Benedict contemplates the truth itself in the infinite love of the Most Holy Trinity Mercy. Like the great saints, he was called and welcomed to the fullness of life on the eve of a great feast: that of the Mother of God, the title from which all the other titles with which the Church honors the Madonna derive. Thus he was able to enjoy in heaven what we, still in an imperfect form, enjoy here below.
Oscar Card. Cantoni