“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”
(Lk 23:46).

Pope Francis’s homily today for the funeral Mass of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was a meditation on these, the last words of Christ. He said that Christ offers an invitation with these words—an invitation that was radically yet quietly embraced in the life of the shepherd whose body was being laid to rest.

Francis spoke about Jesus’ complete self-entrustment to the Father. He described how the pierced hands of Our Lord— hands of forgiveness and compassion, healing and mercy, anointing and blessing, which led him also to entrust himself into the hands of his brothers and sisters—invite us to follow him and entrust ourselves to God as he did. Pope Benedict, for Francis, was a model of this self-entrustment. Every person is called to respond to the same invitation, each in our unique way and in the context of our own life.

He describes the life of a faithful pastor in terms of grateful devotion, prayerful devotion, and “devotion sustained by the consolation of the Spirit, who always precedes the pastor in his mission.” Francis frames Benedict’s life in this context: “We see the awareness of a pastor who cannot carry alone what in truth he could never carry alone, and can thus commend himself to the prayers and the care of the people entrusted to him.”

He concludes by calling Benedict “faithful friend of the Bridegroom,” and adding, “may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”

For Pope Benedict XVI, there is no greater praise one can give than to call him a faithful friend of Our Lord, because—as Benedict knew well—intimate friendship with Jesus is that “on which everything depends.”

Image: Vatican Media.

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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