I’ve been trying to think all day of something to say about Pope Benedict on his last day as Pope. Something suitably profound and intelligent. Something that says, “Just casually, I’m pretty much as holy and erudite as Benedict himself.”
But I kept getting mixed up with all the feelings of warmth, and concern, and gratitude until I just want to shout, “I love you Papa! We’ll miss you!!!” Like somehow, this Pope is my Pope, my Papa.
And then I catch myself.
What is that?
I mean, get a grip, Laura! Yes, it’s an historic moment, a big change, and yes, he’s admirable figure, and a superb teacher but come on!
I mean, it’s natural to have respect for the Pope, and I’m a huge fan of his writing, his theology and his unending service to the people of God, but it’s more than that.
I think it’s because the Pope is more than that. He’s more than just a leader, minister, teacher, administrator, prophetic voice, or a priest with a big hat and a big audience. He is a picture of something – someone – far, far greater.
In a way, he is a picture of the fatherhood of God. And we are never more aware that we are brothers and sisters, members of a global family, than when we all, as one family, turn to this one, small, grandfatherly figure in Rome.
It strikes at something deep within us, our God-given need for a Father.
The perfect Father is our Heavenly Father, who gave us life and who loves us, provides for us, and protects us always; “for his steadfast love endures for ever.” (Ps 136:1) In Jesus, the Son of God, the fullness of that divine fatherhood is revealed, for if we know Jesus, we know the Father (Jn 14:7). And this is a father who gives good gifts to His children (Mt 7:9-11), most of all the Holy Spirit, the “spirit of sonship” by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15)
All fatherhoods, including the Holy Father’s, are an image of the Fatherhood of God. And so what I feel isn’t just about this Pope, although a great deal of it is, it’s also about His papa-ness. Because that images and points me to my true papa, the Eternal Father who is my daddy.
It feels weird to write about it this way but I think it’s what Benedict wants – for us all to be focused not on him but on the love of God. It is so much bigger than anyone, even a pope, even this pope, can comprehend.
I don’t know Pope Benedict as well as some do, I haven’t read as many books as others, and I can’t tell any lovely stories about this Pope but I can see something of the Fatherhood of God, and the love of God our Father, in him.
And for that, I love him.
And I will miss him.
And I will pray, bowing “my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” for him and for us all.
I think he’d like that.