reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Saturday, December 31, 2022
As Pope prays year-end Vespers, tributes paid to Benedict XVI
Pope pays tribute to Benedict XVI's witness of faith, prayer, kindness
Pope Francis remembers "dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who left us this morning," recalling him as such a noble and kind man of faith, while expressing gratitude to God for his gift to the Church. The Pope's words came in his homily at the end of the year celebration of Vespers and the Te Deum.
By Thaddeus Jones
Pope Francis led the traditional end of the year celebration of Vespers followed by the recitation of the Te Deum, the Church’s solemn chant of Thanksgiving for the past year. The celebration on New Year's Eve took place in Saint Peter's Basilica.
In his homily, the Pope remembered Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died earlier in the morning, recalling his great kindness, witness of faith and prayer.
“And speaking of kindness, at this moment, my thought naturally goes to dear Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left us this morning. We are moved as we recall him as such a noble person, so kind. And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life. Only God knows the value and the power of his intercession, of the sacrifices he offered for the good of the Church.”
Kindness marked the key word in the Pope's homily during this celebration of Evening Prayer of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God.
The Pope recalled Mary's "yes" to God and that His will be fulfilled in her "began the slow journey of the gestation of a humanity free from sin and filled with grace and truth, filled with love and faithfulness." The Pope explained how God chose this way to enter into the world and history.
“A beautiful, good and true humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, but at the same time, woven with our flesh offered by Mary…never without her…always with her consent…in freedom, gratuitously, respectfully, in love.”
New, free, reconciled
This way that God chose to save us is also how we are asked to follow Him, said the Pope, so that we also may "continue to weave humanity – new, free, reconciled – together with Him." It is about relating to one another drawing on virtues of good and dignified living together, with one in particular being kindness that fosters fraternity and social friendship. Kindness can also be a "civic virtue," the Pope stressed, and can do wonders in helping improve our societies.
Kindness, dialogue, peace
Kindess is a key ingredient for creating a "culture of dialogue, and dialogue is indispensable to live in peace," the Pope stressed, esepcially since we do not always agree with one another on all matters, which is normal, but we must endeavour to speak and listen to one another to find understanding and draw closer to one another.
The Pope asked us to just think what our world would be like without the "many generous persons who keep families and communities together," keeping families and communities together through patient listening and dialogue. Kindness then is essential to this dialogue, he added, and this does not mean just showing "good manners" but living it as a virtue day in and day out, going against the grain of things in order to make our societies more loving and humane.
Stars shining in the darkness
The Pope described these indivduals who go against the tide of "consumeristic individualism," selfishness and aggressivness we find in society, as "stars shining in the midst of darkness," since they show how it really is possible to “cultivate kindness” through our daily lives, even in the most difficult situations. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is this kindness, the Pope added, "a benevolent attitude that sustains and comforts others and avoids any form of roughness and harshness."
“It is a way of treating one’s neighbour taking care not to be hurtful through words or actions; trying to lighten others’ burdens, to encourage, to comfort, to console, without ever humiliating, mortifying or despising.”
Explaining how kindness can be an "antidote" against the ills of society, especially cruelty and selfishness, the Pope said simple gestures such as just asking "permission" or saying "excuse me" or "thank you" can seem to achieve small miracles, since they come as welcome surprise and sign that better relationships and community are possible.
“Thanks be to God, there are still kind people who know how to put their own concerns aside to pay attention to others, to offer the gift of a smile, an encouraging word, to listen to someone who needs to confide something, to vent”
A civic virtue
Kindness can be promoted as a personal and civic virtue, the Pope went on to say, stressing how it could help improve our families, communities and cities. Speaking of the city of Rome in particular, he encouraged his fellow Romans to strive to grow in this virtue of kindness.
“Experience teaches that kindness, if it becomes a style of life, can create a healthy living together, it can humanize social relationships, diffusing aggression and indifference”
Contemplate the Virgin Mother
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged everyone to look to the icon of the Virgin Mother as today and on New Year's Day we venerate her, and in a special way in St. Peter's Basilica through the image of Our Lady of Carmine of Avigliano, near Potenza, Italy. Her divine motherhood needs to be contemplated, he emphasised.
“Let us not take her divine motherhood for granted! Let us allow ourselves to be amazed by God’s choice who could have come into the world in a thousand ways manifesting his power and, instead, willed to be conceived in full freedom in Mary’s womb, wanted to be formed for nine months like every baby and, in the end, to be born of her, to be born of a woman.”
We need to think about this amazing reality, the Pope underscored, as it marks "an essential characteristic of the mystery of salvation," showing us God’s way of infinite respect and kindness, "because the way for a more human world is found in the divine motherhood of the Virgin."