Pope Francis at Requiem Mass: 'Benedict, may your joy now be complete!'
By Thaddeus Jones
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Pope Francis recalled those final words spoken by the Lord, as proclaimed in the Gospel reading at the Requiem Mass for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Thursday morning in St. Peter's Square.
In his homily, the Pope said Jesus' final words summed up the Lord's entire life, "a ceaseless self-entrustment into the hands of His Father."
The Lord's were hands of "forgiveness and compassion, healing and mercy, anointing and blessing," recalled Pope Francis, as he entrusted Himself also into the hands of His brothers and sisters, offering the ultimate sacrifice of life in loving and serving others.
The Pope said Jesus' invitation to entrust our spirit in the hands of the Father is a programme of life inspiring and shaping the heart of every pastor, so that he may be "attuned in grateful devotion, in service to the Lord and to His people, a service born of thanksgiving for a completely gracious gift."
He said this shows the great "closeness of God," who entrusts Himself into the "frail hands of his disciples," so they can care for His people in loving service and sacrifice.
Continuing to describe the characteristics of a pastor who strives to follow the Lord, the Pope noted that "prayerful devotion" is required, one that is "silently shaped and refined amid the challenges and resistance that every pastor must face."
The Lord, he said, then offers His "spirit of meekness that is ready to understand, accept, hope and risk," a spirit that sustains a pastor despite the challenges, born from a pastor's confident trust in the Lord.
Every pastor of the Church, added Pope Francis, should seek to embody that trust, which is "born of prayer and adoration, capable of discerning what is expected of a pastor and shaping his heart and his decisions in accord with God’s good time."
Consolation of the Spirit
The Pope then described how a pastor strives to be attuned to "devotion sustained by the consolation of the Spirit, who always precedes the pastor in his mission," as he strives to share the beauty and joy of the Gospel through his life and service.
The Pope then said that as we strive to follow the Lord as an ecclesial community, we too "want to follow in His steps and to commend our brother (Benedict) into the hands of the Father... may those merciful hands find his lamp alight with the oil of the Gospel that he spread and testified to for his entire life."
Recalling how Saint Gregory the Great urged a friend to offer him spiritual accompaniment to support him in his ministry, the pastor also needs to commend himself to the prayers and the care of the people entrusted to him.
He noted the importance of this aspect of mutual, prayerful support, in entrusting one another to the Lord, as the Church remembers Benedict XVI.
"God’s faithful people, gathered here," said Pope Francis, "now accompanies and entrusts to Him the life of the one who was their pastor... We want to do this with the same wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years. Together, we want to say: “Father, into your hands we commend his spirit.”