The Vatican

Three thoughts from the Pope at Benedict XVI's funeral Mass

At the Funeral Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square for Benedict XVI, Pope Francis focused his homily on the example of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd who gives his life to the Father on the cross, a model fulfilled in "Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom."

Francisco Otamendi-January 5, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes
Benedict Funeral

Pope Francis touches the coffin of Benedict XVI

The homily of the Holy Father Francis in the sober The funeral Mass for Benedict XVI, as the Pope Emeritus wanted, was centered on Jesus Christ, and could be summarized in three ideas. 

In the first place, the surrender of the Lord into the hands of his Father as Shepherd and model of shepherds. This is how the Roman Pontiff began his homily: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (Lk 23:46). These are the last words that the Lord pronounced on the cross; his last sigh, we could say, capable of confirming what characterized his whole life: a continuous surrender into the hands of his Father". 

Secondly, the Pope outlined the profiles and characteristics of the Lord's surrender in the hands of his Father God: grateful dedication of service; prayerful and adoring surrender; and sustained by the consolation of the Spirit. 

Finally, the Pope pointed out how this model of Pastor has been fulfilled in Benedict XVI. 

In the final part, after quoting St. Gregory the Great, the Holy Father gave a broad outline of the funeral Mass: "It is the faithful People of God who, gathered together, accompany and entrust the life of the one who has been their shepherd. Like the women of the Gospel at the tomb, we are here with the fragrance of gratitude and the ointment of hope to show him, once again, the love that is not lost; we want to do so with the same unction, wisdom, delicacy and dedication that he knew how to bestow over the years."

Finally, the Pope concluded by returning to the opening words of his brief homily, with an express mention of the deceased Pope emeritus: "Together we want to say: 'Father, into your hands we commit his spirit: Father, into your hands we commit his spirit. Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be perfect in hearing his voice definitively and forever!".

These words were reminiscent of the words he mentioned at the end of the first Angelus of this year, on the Solemnity of the Mother of God, the day after the death of Benedict XVI, whom he called a faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church": 

"The beginning of a new year is entrusted to Mary Most Holy, whom we celebrate today as Mother of God. In these hours we invoke her intercession in particular for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who yesterday morning left this world. We unite all of us together, with one heart and one soul, in giving thanks to God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church".

"He allowed himself to be chiseled by the will of God."

In his beautiful homily, the Pope, who referred to Jesus throughout, described the "hands of forgiveness and compassion, hands of healing and mercy, hands of anointing and blessing, which impelled him to give himself also into the hands of his brothers. The Lord, open to the stories he encountered on his way, allowed himself to be chiseled by the will of God, carrying on his shoulders all the consequences and difficulties of the Gospel, until he saw his hands full of love: 'Look at my hands,' he said to Thomas (Jn 20:27), and he says it to each one of us".

"Wounded hands that reach out and never cease to offer themselves, so that we may know the love that God has for us and believe in him (cf. 1 Jn 4:16)," the Roman Pontiff continued. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' is the invitation and the program of life that whispers and wants to mold like a potter (cf. Is 29:16) the heart of the shepherd, until the same sentiments of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5) beat in it.

In enumerating the features of this dedication, the Pope spoke of a "grateful dedication of service to the Lord and to his people that is born of having accepted a totally gratuitous gift: "You belong to me... you belong to them," the Lord babbles; "you are under the protection of my hands, under the protection of my heart. Stay in the hollow of my hands and give me yours". 

"Prayerful dedication, silently shaped and refined in the midst of the crossroads and contradictions that the shepherd must face (cf. 1 Pet 1:6-7) and the invitation entrusted to him to feed the flock (cf. Jn 21:17)," the Holy Father continued. "Like the Master, he carries on his shoulders the weariness of intercession and the weariness of anointing for his people, especially where goodness must struggle and brothers and sisters see their dignity threatened (cf. Heb 5:7-9)."

"In this intercessory encounter, the Lord generates the gentleness capable of understanding, welcoming, waiting and betting beyond the misunderstandings that this can provoke. Invisible and elusive meekness, which comes from knowing in whose hands one places one's trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12)," he added.

"Pastoring means being willing to suffer."

"Prayerful and adoring trust," Francis noted, "capable of interpreting the actions of the shepherd and of adapting his heart and his decisions to the times of God (cf. Jn 21:18): To shepherd means to love, and to love means also to be ready to suffer. To love means: to give the sheep the true good, the nourishment of God's truth, of God's word, the nourishment of his presence."

And also, finally, "dedication sustained by the comfort of the Spirit, who always precedes him in the mission: in the passionate quest to communicate the beauty and joy of the Gospel (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate57), in the fruitful witness of those who, like Mary, remain in many ways at the foot of the cross, in that painful but robust peace which neither besieges nor subjugates; and in the obstinate but patient hope that the Lord will fulfill his promise, as he promised to our fathers and to his descendants forever (cf. Lk 1:54-55)". 

"Entrust our brother to the hands of the Father".

"We too," the Pope stressed, "firmly united to the Lord's last words and to the witness that marked his life, wish, as an ecclesial community, to follow in his footsteps and entrust our brother to the hands of the Father: may these hands of mercy find their lamp lit with the oil of the Gospel, which he poured out and witnessed to during his life (cf. Mt 25:6-7)."

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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