In Thanksgiving for the Ministry of Pope Benedict XVI
February 28, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters, friends all, especially representatives of so many communities of Faith.
A special word of thanks to the representatives of our brothers in the Orthodox communities and the Eastern Churches: with whom I was blessed to share an evening with not long ago. The presence of all of you, brothers and sisters in Orange, brothers and sisters in Faith is a blessing in this moment which is so historic, and a moment of Faith in this “Year of Faith.” This evening, and these days, it seems the entire world is being invited in to this time of Faith, to share a conversation with Christ, to whom Peter, James and John said on Mt. Tabor, and which we heard just this past Sunday “It is good for us to be here.” It is indeed good for all of us to be here!
As we meet the Sacred Scriptures in this Liturgy, I can think of no better place to begin than the Prayer of the Church for this morning, Psalm 80, which is a please for God, to come and take care of His vineyard. In that prayer, one of the verses prays “May your hand be on the man you have chosen, the man you have given your strength” It is a theme which surfaces again in St. John’s Gospel to day when the Lord says to the disciples “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you”. In this choice, it is indeed a call to friendship with Christ and a call to love in all moments of ministry. It is a call from the human point of view is impossible, and one that will never be understood from a secular point of view. But, from the point of view of Faith, indeed “All things are possible for those who love God.” I believe that Pope Benedict XVI has shown us just that. The Psalm is a pray for him these days, it is a prayer for the one who will be elected, and indeed a prayer for all of us, as we know that the Lord God does indeed come to us these days, and stays with us, and protects us!
I would speak from the heart so to speak to all of you. I had the chance, as I have said, to meet then Cardinal Ratzinger several times when I was a graduate student in Rome, and later on when on sabbatical. But the relationship as Bishop of Rome is a most personal one for me: I was, I believe, probably his third Bishop to have appointed in 2005. It was his appointment that sent me here to all of you, and brought all of us together. His letter of appointment here showed his personal knowledge and care for us as a shepherd [cite the decree of appointment here]. His personal knowledge of, and care for, of the Church in the United States can be shown in countless ways again and again. I remember when as a newly ordained Bishop, having said that I was from Texas, his response was “Muchos Hispanos”!. His response to the Bishops of the United States a year ago when he said that “This is Peter’s house, you are at home here.”His care and love for the vineyard, the Church, in her life and communion has been shown in his constant search for unity and communion: the continued dialogue and prayer with the Orthodox Churches; the blessing that I had to be involved first hand with the “Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter”, for example.
These to me are sentiments of a grateful pastor and son. Like many of us, as I watched his departure and then the closing of the doors of the Papal Villa at Castelgandolfo, one could not help but have a sense of sadness, but again, Faith, as we go forward [siempre adelante, as Blessed Junipero said] in this year of Faith, that he has proclaimed. The insignia of the boat for the year of Faith, with the sail, is indeed appropriate. The Church, as the Barque of Peter, may have been buffeted by storms, but indeed has not always been the case, as the personal testimony of the Gospels tell us. Again, the Lord approaches and walks with us, and says in these days “Do not be afraid.” Above all, these days are a story of Faith before all us. And it is our story to tell, relate, and invite others to be a part of!
The Holy Father has invited us again and again to look at our Faith, to renew our Faith as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The volumes of his books tell that. Just this past year, we read in his book on Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy narratives that “My hope is that this short book, despite its limitations, will be able to help many people on their path toward and alongside Jesus.”
Finally, his Encyclical “Spes Salvi”, is a work that we all need considering . We live in a world so distant from God at times, that humanity lacks hope. How often do the people whom come our way show us that. Yet, there is another way, another path, which Pope Benedict VI has shown us: “Hope, in fact, is a key word in Biblical Faith—so much so that in several passages the words ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ seem interchangeable.”
Thank you Pope Benedict, for showing us once again, that we can BELIEVE , in fact, do have reason for HOPE. Thus, we can certainly know and experience the words of Christ to us, His vineyard, that we must remain in His love, and together love one another. Not with a human love, but with the presence of Christ, with whom we can do all things.
For that, and many other things, we thank you!
God bless all gathered here this day!