In his homily at the Requiem Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis commends his predecessor into the loving hands of God the Father, and prays that his joy may now be complete as he contemplates the Lord face to face.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”
Recalling the final words spoken by the Lord, as heard during the Gospel reading at the funeral, Pope Francis said this 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,” he recalled, 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 the Lord’s 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.”
“Like the Master, a shepherd bears the burden of interceding and the strain of anointing his people, especially in situations where goodness must struggle to prevail and the dignity of our brothers and sisters is threatened.”
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.
“A trust itself 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.”
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 we remember Benedict XVI, saying:
“God’s faithful people, gathered here, 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’.
“Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”
Images and text: Vatican Media