Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
In his spiritual testament, written in August of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI noted that many of the various ideologies that alleged that the Church was dated, out of step, or wrong in her teachings had collapsed with the changing generations. These ideologies, inspired by liberalism, existentialism or Marxism were merely “a tangle of hypothesis” out of which “the reasonableness of faith has emerged” (and is still emerging). “Jesus Christ,” he affirmed, “is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life and the Church, in all her shortcomings, is truly His Body.”
Joseph Ratzinger was a priest, a bishop, a cardinal, and a pope. He was also a brilliant intellectual and scholar who served as a “peritus” during the Second Vatican Council. He lived through the tragedy of the Second World War and the Cultural Revolutions of 1960s and the “aggiornamento” of the Post Vatican II era. In his writings, in his preaching, in his life dedicated to Christ, he witnessed to the reasonableness of faith standing strong against what he called “the dictatorship of relativism” or what his successor Pope Francis would term as “ideological colonization.” His overriding priority was to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.
In 2007, he presided over the meeting of the bishops of CELAM in Aparecida, Brazil. The document which emerged from that meeting — which Jorge Bergoglio had a hand in writing – anticipated Pope Francis’ inaugural Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel. In that Aparecida document, the phrase “missionary disciples” figured predominantly. But Benedict insisted that the phrase was incomplete for it begged the question “why”? And he provided the “why”: “disciples and missionaries of Christ so that our people will have life in Him (discípulos y misioneros de Jesucristo para que nuestros pueblos en él tengan vida).”
In other words, as Pope Benedict has said — and Pope Francis has repeated — Christianity is not an ideology, it is not merely a moral system; it is above all a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ.
Thus, missionary disciples have encountered Jesus through a personal experience of the love and presence of God. As a result of this encounter, they have chosen to say ‘yes’ — to surrender to God's love and God’s will for their life. They allow their entire life to be transformed by this relationship. Pope Ratzinger was truly such a missionary disciple. Pope Benedict has taught us that "To be a Christian is not a burden but a gift; to have encountered the Lord is the best thing that has ever happened to us, and to share him with others is our joy."
Pope Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est: “In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: ‘The love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5: 14).” #35 Deus Caritas Est.
Some unfairly disparaged Joseph Ratzinger as “God’s Rottweiler”; but as pope he received and dined with Hans Kung, his longtime theological adversary. He was a gentle shepherd — even if he was a German shepherd.
We entrust him to the Lord grateful for his long and fruitful ministry in the Church and for the Church. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, welcome him saying: “Well done, my good and faithful servant ... Come, share your master’s joy.”