Today, Friday April 16 2021, Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 94th birthday. It is right and just to commemorate this great pope of the Church as well as an outstanding erudite theologian.
In an interesting birthday quote there was written the following words: A friend like you is more priceless than the most beautiful diamond. You are not only strong and wise, but kind and thoughtful as well. Your birthday is the perfect opportunity to show you much I care and how grateful I am to have you in my life. Benedict XVI surely merits this quote which came from an anonymous author. His was a life completely spent for God and His Church. Thus, in this few reflections I want to personally show my closeness and appreciation for what the Lord has been teaching and guiding me through this wise, humble and generous servant of the Lord’s vineyard, the Church.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches me alot about the Christian faith. First, he teaches me that it is only where there is love that hearts are opened. Only if there is love, if hearts are opened, can one person truly know the other. Second, following God’s Will is the best guidance and protection in one’s life. If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One that loves you. Third, holidays presents the splendid opportunity to appreciate God’s fabulous work in nature. Vacation time offers the unique opportunity to pause before the thought-provoking spectacles of nature, a wonderful “book” within reach of everyone, adults and children. In contact with nature, a person rediscovers his correct dimension, rediscovers himself as a creature, small but at the same time unique, with a “capacity for God” because interiorly he is open to the Infinite. Fourth, we were created not for comfort but greatness. The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. Fifth, Christ is the fulfillment is Truth and Love. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.
Sixth, it is wise to live together in marriage not before since love matures by time. Do not believe that living together before marriage guarantees the future. By burning certain stages, you risk burning love itself. Time needs to be respected gradually, just like the expressions of love. Seventh, living according to Christ’s values is the loving answer to those who seem distant from Him. Do not be afraid of seeming different and being criticized for what might seem to be losing or out of fashion; your peers but adults too, especially those who seem more distant from the mindset and values of the Gospel, are crying out to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity revealed by Jesus Christ. Eighth, supporting one another in the faith is important to be courageous witnesses. Help each other to live and to grow in the Christian faith so as to be valiant witnesses of the Lord. Be united, but not closed. Be humble, but not fearful. Be simple, but not naive. Be thoughtful, but not complicated. Enter into dialogue with others, but be yourselves. Ninth, a true disciple of Christ has the humility of asking His help in order to be transformed in his merciful love. The story of Mary of Magdalene reminds us all of a fundamental truth…A disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death. Tenth, true charity makes us like Jesus, give ourselves totally so that others might live. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy; rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave his entire self for us. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy; rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave his entire self for us.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches me that one keeps loving others, irrespective of what changes he and she has to do in his and her life. He said: Dear brothers and sisters…The Lord is calling me to “climb the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this, it is so I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. His bold act of resigning shows Benedict’s true love for the Lord in His Church. He wanted to give the best of his energies for the Bride of the Lamb. Now, from the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery located inside the Vatican City, from 2013, this humble Pope Emeritus is still giving his life for Christ’s flock. He is literally living what he taught us in his first encyclical of his pontificate on Christian love, Deus Caritas Est:
Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25). In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that reaches fulfilment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself (no.6).
Happy birthday dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap