Diocesan Mass commemorates Pope Emeritus Benedict

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Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula celebrates a diocesan Mass Jan. 4 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport commemorating the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died during the Christmas Octave, embodied characteristics of some familiar figures in the Christmas story, Bishop Thomas Zinkula observed during his homily at a diocesan Mass commemorating the life of the late pontiff.

The bishop presided at the Mass on Jan. 4 at Sacred Heart Cathedral with five priests concelebrating and three deacons assisting. A portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict rested against an easel in the sanctuary. Retired for nearly 10 years, he chose to retire at age 85, the first pope to resign from the papacy in 600 years.

As pope, he “gave himself to the Church pastorally, intellectually and spiritually,” Bishop Zinkula said in his homily. Like the shepherds — meek, lowly, simple, humble —“Benedict was shy and retiring, kind and gentle, compassionate, generous and hospitable. He was a man of deep, personal humility. He lived up to the pledge he made when he became pope, which was to be a ‘humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.’”

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“We witnessed Bene­dict’s humility in a striking way when he resigned as pope because he no longer had the strength to govern. His admission required a lot of courage and humility. He loved the Lord and had a deep friendship with Christ. His final words were ‘Jesus, ich liebe dich!’” (“Jesus, I love you”),” Bishop Zinkula said.

He reflected next on the late pope’s connection with the magi, wise men from the East who were scholars and intellectuals. “The first reading of tonight’s Mass was from the Book of Wisdom, which is appropriate because Pope Emeritus Benedict was a very wise man. His stature as a fine scholar matched his meekness. He demonstrated astute intelligence and was a superb, brilliant theologian. As a pastor and teacher, he always sought to speak the truth with love.”

As the late pontiff wrote, “Love seeks understanding; it wishes to know even better the one whom it loves; it seeks his face.” Bishop Zinkula referenced that quote in noting, “Benedict said to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square (during his opening homily as the new pope): ‘Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away and he gives you everything’ Pope Emeritus Benedict tried hard to make the faith clear to people. He gave a lot of attention to the synthesis of faith and reason.”

The bishop moved on to the angels. “In Luke’s Gospel, the angels sang songs of praise at the birth of Jesus. We sing this same praise in the Gloria at Mass. There was always an interconnection between Pope Emeritus Benedict’s theology and his spirituality. He had a deep love for sacred liturgy. It was his source and summit, the beginning and end of everything he did. He sought through his teaching and writing to educate people on how to venerate, read and understand sacred Scripture. He continuously announced the enduring presence of Christ’s love in the euchar­istic mystery. In his apostolic exhortation, ‘Sac­ra­mentum Caritatis’ (‘The Sacrament of Charity’), Benedict wrote that the Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, celebrated and lived. He said right praise leads to right doctrine (orthodoxy), which then leads to right action/practice (orthopraxis), which includes care for the poor, the sick and the abandoned.”

“This evening we say thanks and goodbye to this faithful servant of the people of God,” the bishop said. He connected the farewell to a verse from the second reading of the Mass (2 Cor. 5:10): “… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”

“Let us close with Pope Emeritus Benedict’s own words about God’s judgment of his life: ‘Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life. Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless in good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my Paraclete. In light of the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian becomes all the more clear to me. It grants me knowledge, and indeed friendship, with the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass confidently though the dark door of death.’”

Among the concelebrants at the Mass was Father Marty Goetz. The pastor of Divine Mercy Parish-Burlington/West Burlington and St. Mary Parish-Dodgeville said he “wanted to come and offer

Fr. Goetz

my prayers at the diocesan Mass for Pope Benedict” and to give thanks for his life and all he did for the Church. “Four things stand out to me about Pope Benedict. His work on the Catechism (I’m doing ‘The Catechism in a Year’ with Father Mike Schmitz, offering a prayer for Pope Benedict before starting), his gift of hope, his writings on Jesus and the  Eucharist, and finally, his courage.  He was an example of God doing great things through us, even in the silence of prayer.”


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