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Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1085   
"In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father 'once for all.' His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is—all that he did and suffered for all men—participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life."

Just a quick thought concerning our most Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, as he prepares to resign this coming Thursday, February 28, 2013.

The single line, "The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life" can be understood in a number of ways. An obvious, and perhaps the most appropriate, understanding is that of the liturgical sacrafice of the Holy Eucharist, where we do what Christ did in offering himself to the Father "in memory" of him, as he instructed his Church to do. At that time, when Christ is made truly present on the altar, we participate in his Paschal Mystery in a very significant way. In some sense, we can understand how this "unique event of history" which was the offering of God himself for the salvation of man is also an event "which does not pass away," but which "abides," as we know that throughout the two thousand year history of the Church, the Eucharistic sacrifice continues to be celebrated and remembered, and the Church continues to be sanctified through this Sacrament.

What this also should remind us of is the prayer of the Church. The liturgy is prayer. The celebration of the Sacrament is a prayer. Our offering of ourselves to God along with the offering of Christ through his minister, the priest, is one that must always be prayerful. It is also intercessory. It is also sacrificial.

Each time we are able to praticipate in the Paschal Mystery through the Holy Eucharist, we must share in the offering of self which Christ made on our behalf, and we must recall that the offering he made was in intercession for us, was sacrificial of his very self, and was in all ways a prayer to the Father.

We too, especially in the season of Lent, must find ourselves making new our offering to the Father. We need to enter into a prayer that intercedes for the Church, for others, and for ouselves. We need to make sacrifices which will draw us closer to the truth, to the Heart of Christ, to the ability to "worship in spirit and in truth." We must pray, in the Mass, with Sacred Scripture, with our bodies through our penances, with the Church through the liturgy, with our families and friends, and certainly with our daily lives, in the work that we do. We must invite the Holy Spirit to be with us as we rise, that the whole day that we have been given, we will in turn offer back to the Father. What else can we learn from the Paschal Mystery if not that our very lives have the power and the value to be something worth offering to the Father. We exist out of the gift of love that God has given to us. We therefore must take the gift of life and offer it back to our Creator, just as the Son has revealed to us.

This is precisely what I believe the Church is being taught by the witness of our Holy Father. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the call upon his heart to intercede for the Church; to serve the Body of Christ particularly through prayer and fasting. His leadership is one that we should not fail to follow now. This Pope has been a blessing to the Church in so many ways, and his witness of life is not over yet. This final act of sacrifice is ongoing, because as long as Pope Benedict XVI lives, he will be offering himself to God in prayer and fasting on behalf of the Church, for the sake of us all, that we will more fully enter into the Paschal Mystery. This is the kind of "rebirth" that Nicodemus questioned Christ about. He asked Jesus how a man could be "reborn." It is the process of entering into the sacrifice of Christ that is precisely how we are made new. Jesus told us that we must be made into "new wineskins," because the wine of the New Covenant will burst our old skins, as they are dried up and ill prepared.

We need to enter into the event of the Cross, in our prayer, our fasting and our intercession, so that with the Holy Father, we too will participate in this "unique event of history which does not pass away" and so that we can truly hope to share in the ongoing event of Eternal Life one day.