The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
The Mass for the Dead for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Dear brothers and sisters,
As we gather on this first day of the new year, Mother Church turns our attention to Holy Mary, the Mother of God, she who continually reflected upon the life of her Son in her heart (cf. Luke 2:19). We celebrate Mary and look to her example because her “greatness consists in the fact that she wants to glorify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Luke 1:38,48).” In this, Mary is a model for each of one of us to imitate.
It was with sadness that we received word yesterday morning of the death of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the finest theological mind of the last century because he, too, continually reflected upon the life of Mary's Son. It is somehow fitting that he died at the threshold of the new year when Mother Church presents to us the great blessing of Aaron: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let us face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26)!
Pope Benedict XVI devoted his entire life to the search for truth and for love, which can only be found in Christ Jesus, who is both truth and love (cf. John 14:6; I John 4:8). This search led him to the realization that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
As one Protestant commentator on the life and work of the man born as Joseph Ratzinger has said, “Though his opponents may have called him God’s Rottweiler, whenever I read his work, I encounter God’s border collie. Small, tough, faithful to the Shepherd and to the ultimate welfare of the sheep.”
Throughout his theological writings, Benedict repeatedly returned to two particular passages of the Sacred Scriptures. One comes from the New Testament: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as expiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). The other comes from the Old Testament: “they shall look upon him whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).
Having encountered Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, in his own life, Pope Benedict never tired of reminding us that
the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own "yes" to God, for he wishes to give himself to you.
Time and again Benedict said “yes” to God and made of his life an offering to Jesus through his Mystical Body, the Church.
He made of his life a quest to the look upon the Face of God. This is why he described the book that was the culmination of his theological research and reflections, Jesus of Nazareth, as “an expression of my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord’ (cf. Psalm 27:8).” Today we pray that the Lord may show his Face to his faithful servant Benedict and give him peace.
Pope Benedict’s final words in this life were, “Jesus, I love you.” As we celebrate today the Motherhood of Mary, how can we not wonder how often she herself said those same words? May these words be our final ones, as well. Amen.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 41
 Ibid., Spe salvi, 1.
 Tim Perry, ed., The Theology of Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation (Bellingham, Washington: Lexham Press, 2019), 5.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Address at the Celebration Welcoming Young People to the XX World Youth Day, 18 August 2005.
 Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. Adrian J. Walker, trans. (New York: Doubleday, 2007), xxiii.