Pope: Benedict XVI was a great master of catechesis

At the beginning of the general audience Francis refelcted on the Pope Emeritus, who faithful continue to render homage in St Peter's. A reflection on spiritual accompaniment concluded the cycle of catechesis on the theme of discernment. "He or she who accompanies does not replace the Lord, but walks at alongside".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI was "a great master of catechesis". This was Pope Francis' reflection recalling his predecessor this morning in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican at the beginning of the Wednesday general audience, an appointment also dear to Joseph Ratzinger.

"Before beginning this catechesis," said the pontiff, "I would like us to join with those who, here beside me, are paying homage to Benedict XVI and address my thoughts to him. His sharp and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us to an encounter with Jesus. Jesus, the Risen Crucified, the Living One and the Lord, was the goal to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand. May he help us to rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living".

In today's general audience, Pope Francis concluded the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the theme of discernment, which began on 31 August last. In his concluding reflection, he dwelt on spiritual accompaniment, another of the precious aids for living this dimension of Christian life.

"It is important," Francis explained, "to make oneself known, without fear of sharing the more fragile aspects, where we discover ourselves to be more sensitive, weak or afraid of being judged. Woe to people who do not feel fragile, they are harsh, dictatorial, instead people who with humility recognise their own fragility are more understanding with others. Fragility is, in reality, our true wealth, which we must learn to respect and welcome, because when it is offered to God, it makes us capable of tenderness, of mercy, of love". 

The pontiff cited as examples some of Jesus' clarifying and liberating conversations recounted by the Gospels: with the Samaritan woman, with Zacchaeus, with the sinful woman, with Nicodemus, with the disciples of Emmaus.

"Speaking to another about what we have experienced or what we are seeking," Francis commented, "first of all helps to bring clarity within ourselves. It brings to light false and poisonous thoughts, which confrontation with the other helps to unmask, so that we can feel loved and esteemed by the Lord for who we are, capable of doing good things for Him".

And 'he or she who accompanies,' the pope added, 'does not replace the Lord, does not do the work in the place of the person accompanied, but walks at his or her side, encourages him or her to read what is moving in his or her heart, the place par excellence where the Lord speaks.

Spiritual accompaniment is rooted in discovering one another as brothers, children of the same Father. "We do not go to the Lord alone. As in the Gospel story of the paralytic, we are often sustained and healed thanks to the faith of someone else; at other times it is we who make that commitment on behalf of a brother or sister'.

Pointing to the Virgin Mary as the "teacher of discernment" who "speaks little, listens much and keeps in her heart", Francis invited us to be guided in the art of discernment by Our Lady's words at Cana: "Do whatever she tells you" (Jn 2:5). "If we trust her word," he concluded, "we will play the game of life well, and we will be able to help others".

Finally, in his greetings to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the Pope recalled the upcoming solemnity of the Epiphany: "Like the Magi," he said, "know how to seek with an open heart Christ, light of the world and Saviour of humanity". He also urged everyone once again to "persevere in affectionate closeness and solidarity with the tormented Ukrainian people who suffer so much, invoking for them the gift of peace".