The Last Homily | William L. Patenaude | Catholic World Report
Benedict XVI's Ash Wednesday homily emphasized again his pastoral and pontifical priorities
Pope Benedict began his homily not with himself but with the image of the many “gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter.” In doing so he positioned his homily squarely in that particular liturgy. He spoke to those people that were facing that altar, which fittingly for the occasion stands over the tomb of the first pope. Certainly, the Successor of Peter meant to instruct his worldwide flock, but he did so by addressing the individual men, women, and prelates in his presence.
Liturgy is, after all, a great deal about the people around you.
Given that holy place and the words of scripture proclaimed, Pope Benedict could uniquely focus on topics at the center of his theological and pastoral career: the place of the human person and the Church in salvation history; the reality of sin and the need for the Cross and for grace; and the transformative, loving ministry that all who claim Christ as their Lord are called to.
The pontiff structured his final homily around the Ash Wednesday invitation from the Book of Joel: “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, with mourning” (2:12). This invitation is not a sentimental one. Pope Benedict made clear—as he has so often—that this plea by the Lord of Hosts is for a (probably painful) reorientation of one’s heart to the will, grace, and glory of God.