Father Benedict, as he would have preferred to have been called instead of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, celebrates his 88th birthday today. It’s going to be a private affair, as usual, with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, visiting.
The retired Pope is doing well, according to his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, in recent interviews: his mind as sharp as ever, although his legs have begun to give him trouble. Indoors he walks with a cane, outdoors with a walker. But at the age of 88, mortality is a topic that Father Benedict does not avoid. He has spoken about his own death several times with Msgr. Gänswein.
For now, however, we wish Benedict a happy birthday and all the blessings of the Lord for the future. May he live long in comfort, surrounded by those he loves, and aware of our gratitude for his prayer for us.
“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea… asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:38-40)
The thoughts of two followers of Jesus:
The bodies of those condemned to crucifixion were judged unworthy even of burial. Yet two men of standing, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, were concerned to protect the body of Jesus.
“How fortunate for you and me” – Joseph tells us – “that we became disciples of Jesus! Before I was a secret disciple. But now I have found great courage. I even approached Pilate to obtain Jesus’ body. More than out of courage, I did it out of affection and joy. I am happy to have provided a new tomb hewn in the rock. To all of you I say: Love our Saviour!”
Nicodemus could well add: “I first met Jesus by night. From him I was invited to be born from above”. Only slowly did I come to understand his words. Now I am here to honour his body. I readily brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes. But in fact Jesus did much more for me: he brought new fragrance to my life!”.
The thoughts of Mary:
“John stood close to me. Beneath the cross my faith was sorely tried. As in Bethlehem and then in Nazareth, now once more I ponder these things in silence. I have put my trust in God. My hope, the hope of a mother, is not spent. You too need to trust! For all of you I implore the grace of a strong faith. And for those experiencing dark days, consolation”.
Lord Jesus, sometimes we can do only do what seems to us to be too little, too late. Your followers left You in Your tie of agony, but they returned to do what they could to honour You with a proper burial.May we see that, no matter how small it seems to us, our efforts to help others have value and are worth doing. May we also do those things with hope in our hearts, looking forward to Your return.
“The centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus… said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’. Many women were also there … Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:54-56)
Lord Jesus, it is so often easy to despair and give up. When they took Your lifeless body from the Cross, many of Your followers also despaired. May our example be the centurion, who recognised the glimmer of hope and faith amid death and desolation.
Jesus’ words on the Cross:
Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. Then, turning to his Mother, he said, “Woman, here is your son!”, and to the disciple John, “Here is your mother”. He said, “I am thirsty”. He said, “It is finished”. And finally, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.
Lord Jesus, no words can express our prayer at this time, except the words of children. Be with us. Accept us as your children. Quench our thirst. Accept our spirit when we come to you.
“Then they handed him over to them to be crucified … Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’” (John 19:16,19)
They are driving nails into my hands and feet. My arms are outstretched. The nails excruciatingly pierce my flesh. I am immobilized in body, but free in heart, with the same freedom with which I went forth to my passion. Free, for I am full of love, a love which embraces all.
I look at the men who are crucifying me. I think of those who have ordered them to do this: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. Beside me are two other men condemned to crucifixion. One of them asks me to remember him when I come into my kingdom. Yes, I tell him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.
Lord Jesus, after Your garments were taken away, they drove nails through your hands and feet. You know both physical and mental pain. Stand with us when we are struck, tortured or killed. We also pray for all those who are killed becuase they are a burden, especially the unborn and the elderly.
“They divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:18)
I stand in silence. I feel humiliated by so apparently banal an act. I was already stripped hours ago. I think of my Mother, who is here. My humiliation is also hers. Once more her heart is pierced. To her I owe the robe which was torn from me, which is a sign of her love for me.
Lord Jesus, with your garments they took away your dignity, but you underwent it with an innate silent dignity. May we follow your example when we are vilified and mocked, and know that our human dignity comes from God and can not be taken away by men.