All Souls


Pope Francis     02.11.19  Catacombs of Priscilla, Via Salaria         Wisdom 3: 1-9,     Revelation 21: 1-7,     Matthew 5: 1-12 
All Souls - Commemoration of all the faithful departed

Pope Francis  02.11.19  All Souls

The celebration of the feast of All Souls in the catacombs – for me it is the first time in my life that I entered a catacomb, it is a surprise – they tells us many things. We can think of the lives of these people who had to hide, who had this culture of burying the dead and celebrating the Eucharist in here... It is a bad moment in history, but one that has not been overcome: even today there are. There are many. So many catacombs in other countries, where they even have to pretend to have a party or a birthday to celebrate the Eucharist, because in that place it is forbidden to do so. Even today there are persecuted Christians, more than in the first centuries, more. This – the catacombs, the persecution, the Christians – and these Readings, make me think of three words: identity, place and hope.

The identity of these people who gathered here to celebrate the Eucharist and to praise the Lord, is the same as our brothers and sisters today in so many, many countries where being a Christian is a crime, it is forbidden, they have no right. It's the same. Their identity is what we heard: it's the Beatitudes. The identity of a Christian is this: the Beatitudes. There's no other. If you do this, if you live like this, you're a Christian. "No, but look, I belong to that association, to that other..., I am of this movement...". Yes, yes, all beautiful things; but these are fantasy before this reality. Your ID card is this "it indicates the Gospel", and if you don't have this, you don't need movements or other affiliations. Either you live like this, or you're not a Christian. Simply. The Lord said so. "Yes, but it's not easy, I don't know how to live like this...". There is another passage of the gospel that helps us better understand this, and that passage of the Gospel will also be the "great protocol" according to which we will be judged. It's Matthew 25. With these two passages of the Gospel, the Beatitudes and the great protocol, we will show, living this, our identity as Christians. Without this there is no identity. There is the pretence of being Christian, but we don't have an identity.

This is the identity of the Christian. The second word: the place. Those people who came here to hide, to be safe, even to bury the dead; and people who celebrate the Eucharist today secretly, in those countries where it is forbidden... I think of that nun in Albania who was in a re-education camp, at the time of the communists, and it was forbidden for priests to give the sacraments, and this nun, there, she baptized in secret. The people, the Christians knew that this nun would baptized and the mothers went to her with their babies; but she didn't even have a glass, something to put water in... So she did it with her shoes: she took the water from the river and baptized with her shoes. The place of the Christian is a bit everywhere, we have no privileged place in life. Some want to have it, they are "qualified" Christians. But they run the risk of remaining with the "qualified" and the "Christian" part falls away. Christians, what is their place? "The souls of the just are in God's hands"(Wis 3:1): the Christian's place is in God's hands, where he wants. The hands of God, which are wounded, which are the hands of his Son who wanted to bear the wounds to show them to his Father and intercede for us. The Christian's place is in the intercession of Jesus before the Father. In God's hands. And there we are safe, let happen what happens, even the cross. Our identity indicates the gospel says that we will be blessed if they persecute us, if they say anything against us; but if we are in God's hands wounded by love, we are safe. This is our place. And today we can ask ourselves: but me, where do I feel most secure? In the hands of God or with other things, with other certainties that we trust ourselves to but that will eventually fall, that are not substantial?

These Christians, with this identity card, who lived and live in god's hands, are men and women of hope. And this is the third word that comes to me today: hope. We heard it in the second Reading: that final vision where everything was re-made, where everything was re-created, that homeland where we all will go. And to get in there you don't need strange things, you don't need a little sophisticated attitudes: you only need to show your ID card: "It's fine, go ahead". Our hope is in Heaven, our hope is anchored there and we, with the rope in hand, we support ourselves looking at that other shore that river that we have to cross.

Identity: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. Place: the safest place, in God's hands, wounded by love. Hope, future: the anchor, there, on the other shore, but I well cling to the rope. This is important, always clinging to the rope! So often we can only look at the rope, not even the anchor, not even the other shore; but as long as you are clinging to the rope you will get their securely.