Today Fr. Ron chose to say the Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict XVI, and that is when it became real to me that he would no longer be the shepherd of the Church here on earth. Eight years is a relatively short time for the papacy, but Benedict XVI left quite a legacy. I have a stack of books of his written work, almost all of it published while he was pope. He led us with a gentle spirit, yet legitimate concern for our spiritual welfare.
Fr. Ron gave a wonderful homily about Pope Benedict. He mentioned how, as a boy, Joseph Ratzinger was very shy, but had the courage of his own father to stand up for Truth. And his whole papacy has been about fighting the relativism so prevalent in our world today. There is a Truth and Jesus is it. He always encouraged people to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As I listened to Fr. Ron reflect on this point, I thought about how it seems people today are afraid to have a personal relationship with Jesus. They're afraid of that encounter they could have with the Risen Lord. But why? I know I can find myself sometimes skirting around my own prayer life. Are we afraid we could change!? Are we afraid of the unknown? Afraid we might see an image of the Blessed Virgin in our toast the next morning? What keeps us from that relationship?
This Lenten season has been about strengthening my prayer life. I have begun almost every day with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. I find comfort in praying that way and see it as a way to get back on track. Some mornings my thoughts are quite distracted or I'm pressed for time, so my prayer doesn't seem as genuine, but it's still there. The mornings when I take time to actually have a conversation with God and express myself are the best ones.
This morning the Pope tweeted: "If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!" We can only experience that joy when we are in true relationship with the living God and acknowledge His presence in every moment of our lives. In his last Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict said he felt the presence of the Lord with him every day of his papacy. Can we say that about our normal, everyday lives? I'd like to acknowledge that same presence. Maybe some days we have to look for it, but joy and peace are a simple prayer away.