The Pope’s gratitude to Benedict XVI: Only God knows his sacrifices
On the afternoon of this Saturday, December 31, the Holy Father presided over the Celebration of First Vespers on the solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God and Te Deum of thanksgiving for the year that is ending and remembered the Pope emeritus who passed away this morning : “With emotion we remember your person so noble, so gentle. And we feel so much gratitude in his heart: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world ”.
Renato Martinez – Vatican City
“Let us not rush by, let us stop to contemplate and meditate, for here is an essential part of the mystery of salvation. And let us try to learn God’s ‘method’, his infinite respect, his ‘goodness’ so to speak, because in the divine motherhood of the Virgin lies the path towards a more humane world”, Pope Francis said in his homily in the Celebration of the First Vespers of the solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God and Te Deum of thanksgiving for the year that ends, this Saturday, December 31, in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.
God’s way of salvation
In his homily, the Holy Father pointed out that, in the fullness of time, God became man, he did not come into the world falling from heaven; he was born of Mary. He was not born into a woman, but from a woman. This is essentially different: it means that God wanted to take flesh from her. He did not use her, but asked her “yes”, her consent. And with her he began the slow path of the gestation of a humanity free of sin and full of grace and truth, full of love and fidelity.
“This is the path that God has chosen to enter the world and history, this is the path. And this path is essential, as essential as the very fact that you have come. The divine motherhood of Mary – virginal motherhood, fecund virginity – is the path that reveals God’s extreme respect for our freedom. He who created us without us does not want to save us without us (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo CLXIX, 13)”.
This way of his coming to save us is the path by which he also invites us to follow him, to continue with him weaving a new, free and reconciled humanity. It is a style, a way of relating to each other from which derive the many human virtues of good and dignified coexistence. One of these virtues is kindness, as a way of life that fosters brotherhood and social friendship.
Gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
And speaking of kindness, Pope Francis indicated, at this moment, our thoughts turn spontaneously to our dearest Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who left us this morning.
“With emotion we remember your person, so noble, so gentle. And we feel so much gratitude in his heart: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him, for all the good he has done, and especially for his testimony of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his life withdrawn from him. Only God knows the value and strength of his intercession, of his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church.
Kindness also as a civic virtue
For this reason, this afternoon the Holy Father once again proposed kindness as a civic virtue, thinking in particular of our diocese of Rome. Kindness is an important factor in the culture of dialogue, and dialogue is essential if we want to live in peace, as brothers, who do not always get along – it is normal – but who, nevertheless, talk to each other, listen to each other and try to understand and meet.
“It is enough to think “what would the world be without the patient dialogue of so many generous people who have kept families and communities together.” Persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines like confrontations and conflicts, and yet quietly helps the world to live better” (ibid., 198). Kindness is part of dialogue. It is not just a matter of “etiquette “; it is not a question of “etiquette”, of gallant ways… No, this is not what we mean when we talk about courtesy. Instead, it is a virtue that must be recovered and exercised every day, to go against the current and humanize our societies”.
Faced with individualism, it is possible to choose kindness
In fact, Pope Francis pointed out that the damages of consumerist individualism are visible to all. And the most serious damage is that others, the people around us, are perceived as obstacles to our peace of mind, to our comfort. Others “make us uncomfortable”, annoy us, take away our time and resources to do what we like.
“Individualistic and consumerist societies tend to be aggressive, because the rest are competitors with whom you have to compete (cf. ibid., 222). And yet, within these same societies of ours, and even in the most difficult situations, there are people who demonstrate that ‘it is still possible to choose goodness’ and thus, with their lifestyle, they become stars in the midst of the darkness”.
kindness a benevolent attitude
And quoting Saint Paul, in the Letter to the Galatians, the Holy Father said that this text speaks of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and among them he mentions one with the Greek word chrestotes (cf. 5,22). This is what we can understand by “goodness”:
“A benevolent attitude, which supports and comforts others avoiding all harshness and harshness. Way of treating others, taking care not to hurt with words or gestures; seeking to lighten the burdens of others, encourage, console, comfort; without ever humiliating, mortifying or despising”.
An antidote against some pathologies of our societies
Goodness, Pope Francis also indicated, is an antidote against cruelty, which unfortunately can enter the heart like poison and intoxicate relationships; against distracted anxiety and frenzy that make us focus on ourselves and close off others (cf. ibid., 224).
“These ‘diseases’ of our daily lives make us aggressive and incapable of asking for ‘permission’, or ‘forgiveness’, or simply saying ‘thank you.’ And so, when we meet a kind person on the street, or in a store, or in an office, we are amazed, it seems like a small miracle, because unfortunately kindness is not very common anymore. But, thank God, there are still kind people who know how to put their own concerns aside to pay attention to others, give a smile, a word of encouragement, listen to someone who needs to trust, let off steam.”
Let’s try to learn God’s ‘method’
Finally, the Holy Father said that, seeing the icon of the Virgin Mother, let us be astonished by the choice of God, who could have appeared in the world in a thousand ways showing his power, and instead wanted to be conceived with full freedom in the womb of Mary, he wanted to be formed for nine months like any child, and finally to be born of her, to be born as a woman.
“Let us not rush by, let us stop to contemplate and meditate, for here is an essential part of the mystery of salvation. And let us try to learn God’s ‘method’, his infinite respect, his ‘goodness’ so to speak, because in the divine motherhood of the Virgin lies the path to a more humane world”.