CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Although Pope John Paul II was Pontiff for only 33 days, he left a great spiritual legacy, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this as he reflected on the readings from today’s liturgy before praying the Angelus with the crowds gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
He noted that the Gospel parable proposed by the liturgy “teaches us that humility is essential for welcoming the gift of salvation.”
The parable — from Matthew — speaks of two sons who were asked by their father to do some work in his vineyard. One of the two sons said yes, but did not go; the other refused, but then changed his mind and went.
“With this parable Jesus emphasizes his predilection for sinners who convert,” said the Holy Father.
The Pontiff added that the reading from the Letter to the Philippians also calls for humility. “Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory,” St. Paul wrote, “but humbly regard others as superior to you.”
“Reflecting on these biblical texts,” he said, “I immediately thought of Pope John Paul I, the 30th anniversary of whose death is today.”
Benedict XVI noted that John Paul I — known as the “smiling Pope” — had as his motto “Humilitas”: “a single word that synthesizes what is essential in Christian life and indicates the indispensable virtue of those who are called to the service of authority in the Church.”
The essential virtue
The Holy Father noted that his successor, who died 33 days after being elected Pope in 1978, had said in one of his four general audiences: “I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, ‘Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart.’ … Even if you have done great things, say: ‘We are useless servants.’ Alternatively, the tendency in all of us is rather the contrary: to show off.”
“Humility can be considered his spiritual legacy,” said the German Pontiff.
“His simplicity,” continued the Pope, “was a vehicle of a solid and rich teaching that, thanks to the gift of an exceptional memory and great culture, he adorned with numerous references to ecclesiastical and secular writers.”
Benedict XVI called John Paul I “an incomparable catechist.”
“We must feel small before God,” John Paul I had said. “I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one’s mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me.”
Benedict XVI commented: “These words display the whole breadth of his faith.
“As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us treasure his example, exerting ourselves to cultivate his humility, which made him capable of talking to everyone, especially the little and so-called distant.”