Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Sunday celebrated Mass for the group of his former students, which has been meeting annually since the late ’70s. For the first time this year, he did not participate in their study seminars.
Drawing from the readings of the liturgy, the Pope Emeritus told his former students, “We are on the way of Christ, on the right way if in His place and like Him we try to become persons that ‘come down’ to enter into real greatness, into the greatness of God that is the greatness of love.”
Ratzinger’s former students focused this year on a topic that Benedict XVI had chosen: “The question of God in the context of secularization.” He also chose the speaker for the group, French historian and philosopher, Rémi Brague, who was awarded the Ratzinger Prize for Theology last year.
The Ratzinger Schülerkreis met Aug. 29 through today. They have been meeting each year since 1977, and even as Pope, Benedict XVI would join them.
About 50 people attended the Mass celebrated by the Pope Emeritus. The focus of his homily was the passage in the Gospel in which Jesus invites us to take the last place, the one “according to his measure.” A measure made up of abasement, because Christ never chose a “preferential lane” or a privileged position, but rather was born in a stable and died on a Cross, presenting himself therefore as he “who wishes to serve,” explained the retired Pontiff.
Whoever calls himself a Christian must be “the last in the opinion of the world,” affirmed Pope Emeritus Benedict. “He who in this world and in this history is perhaps pushed ahead and arrives in the first places must know he is in danger, he must look at the Lord more, measure himself to Him, measure himself to the responsibility of the other, he must become one who serves, one who in reality is seated at the feet of the other.” Only in this way “he blesses and in turn becomes blessed.”
“Christ, the Son of God, came down to serve us and this is the essence of God, which consists in bending down to us,” he added. Humiliation, therefore, is “elevation,” and “the Cross,” which in history is the last place, a “non-place,” is in reality “the true exaltation,” as John states in the Gospel.
On the Cross, Jesus is higher, he is at the height of God because the height of the Cross is the height of the love of God, the height of renunciation of oneself and dedication to others, he continued.
The concept of God freely giving his love is a pivot of the Christian faith, according to the Pope Emeritus. “In the struggle for justice in the world, we must never forget God’s gratuitousness, the constant giving and receiving and we must build on the fact that the Lord gives to us, that there are good persons who give their goodness freely to us, who freely endure us, love us and are good to us for free.” In turn, therefore, we must “give this gratuitousness, in this way to bring the world closer to God, to become like Him, to open ourselves to Him.”
“Without the gratuitousness of forgiveness no society can grow,” said Benedict.
In fact, the greatest things of life, namely, “love, friendship, goodness, forgiveness, we cannot pay for, they are free, in the same way that God gives to us freely,” stressed Ratzinger.
Finally, Benedict paused on the Christian liturgy, a “humble” liturgy but at the same time “incommensurably great,” because “ it unites us to the choirs of angels and saints in the festive joy of God.” The liturgy renews the sacrifice, Christ’s extreme self-abasement, who sheds His Blood in the Eucharist.” And this Blood enables us to enter into the splendor of the joyful gathering of God,” because it represents “His love,” “the Mountain of God that opens us to the glory of God,” he concluded.