I celebrated Mass today in a Cleveland church. As warm as it was for all the beautiful Christmas decorations and prayerful cheer of the people, it was also a bit chilly. So I decided to keep my black sweatshirt on under my white vestments, but the black sleeves came through. I was celebrating the Mass intention for the soul of Benedict XVI to be united, in some way, to his funeral earlier today, and I thought about how his black sweater sleeves poked out of his white cassock on the day of his election, April 19, 2005. It was a silly memory, I know, but it was the only time I remember his vestments a bit mismatched, but it made a lot of sense: in his practical humility, the new pope really didn’t care about all the externals of the office; it’s the interior availability to Jesus and our commitment to His call that really matter. Benedict’s example on both of those counts was inspiring. Even when his managerial abilities failed him, and he retired from the office of the Papacy, he left future popes a lesson of “how to retire”, should the need arise for you (no, I don’t advocate mandatory papal retirement, though it is obviously an open theological issue now “on the table”).
In our vocation to follow Christ wherever he may lead us (most likely not to the Papacy) the humility of Benedict XVI inspires us. The capacity to know our abilities and limitations in order to best serve God and humanity is pretty much the meaning of life, here and in eternity. If, like Pope Benedict XVI (no longer emeritus) we allow our humility to outpace (and with God’s grace transform) our abilities, we’ll all reach our heavenly reward!
If you have 10 more minutes, you’ll enjoy a much sharper intellect on the life and contributions of Benedict XVI.