This morning I was glued to the television as our Holy Father gave his last General Audience before renouncing the office of the papacy tomorrow evening. For the last time, at this Mass I will pray for ‘Benedict, our Pope’. In his pontificate and in his resignation, this gentle shepherd has given us a profound lesson in humility and shown us our real need of Christ.
In the gospel at today’s Mass the Lord tells us that ‘anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant’. The one who is humble and meek, the one who seeks to serve others, he is the one who is given the place of honour. This why the Pope – the servant of the servants of God – is not in the place of honour, in the best robes, and in the best seat – presiding over crowds of hundreds of thousands as he was this morning – by his own virtue, but because the Church (and so, the Lord) has put him there in reward for his service. He who has given up his own life ‘as a ransom for many’ – in the service of Christ and the Church – he is rewarded by the Lord, and by us. Pope Benedict has shown us that so well, always seeking to bow to the office, and in so doing point us beyond himself and our human nature to the person of Jesus Christ.
In this season of Lent, we are all called to follow this summons of the Lord and the example we find in our beloved Holy Father. We are called to set ourselves aside, to crucify ourselves and put our own desires to death, in order that Christ might shine through. If we seek to become instruments of his grace, and so devote our lives to his service, then not only will we be sources of light and joy to the world, but we will be rewarded – not in this life, perhaps, but with the reward for which we so earnestly long: everlasting union with Christ in God in the kingdom of heaven. May God grant us the grace to achieve it.