Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
At this hour before sunset, we gather in this cemetery and think about our future, we think of all those who have departed, preceded us in life and are in the Lord.
The vision of Heaven we just have heard described in the First Reading is very beautiful: the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, love in its fullness. All of this awaits us. Those who have gone before us and who have died in the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not through their own works, though good works they surely did, but that they have been saved by the Lord: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10). It is he who save us, it is he who at the end of our lives takes us by the hand like a father, precisely to that Heaven where our ancestors are. One of the elders asks: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” (v. 13). Who are these righteous ones, these saints who are in Heaven? The reply is: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14).
We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the Lamb, thanks to the blood of Christ. Christ’s own blood has justified us, which has opened for us the gates of heaven. And if today we remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in life and are in Heaven, it is because they have been washed in the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of Christ's blood! It is a hope that does not disappoint. If we walk with the Lord in life, he will never disappoint us!
In the Second Reading, we heard what the Apostle John said to his disciples: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason the world does not know us.... We are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:1-2). To see God, to be like God: this is our hope. And today, on All Saints’ Day and the first day that we commemorate the faithful departed, we need to think a little about this hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope with an anchor, as though life were an anchor cast on Heaven’s shores and all of us journeying to that shore, clinging to the anchor’s rope. This is a beautiful image of hope: to have our hearts anchored there, where our beloved predecessors are, where the Saints are, where Jesus is, where God is. This is the hope that does not disappoint; today and tomorrow are days of hope.
Hope is a little like leaven that expands our souls. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul goes forward and looks ahead to what awaits us. Today is a day of hope. Our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God and we shall also be there, through the pure grace of the Lord, if we walk along the way of Jesus. The Apostle John concludes: “every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v. 3). Hope also purifies us, it lightens us; this purification in hope in Jesus Christ makes us go in haste, readily. Today before evening falls each one of us can think of the twilight of life: “What will my passing away be like?”. All of us will experience sundown, all of us! Do we look at it with hope? Do we look with that joy at being welcomed by the Lord? This is a Christian thought that gives us hope. Today is a day of joy; however it is serene and tranquil joy, a peaceful joy. Let us think about the passing away of so many of our brothers and sisters who have preceded us, let us think about the evening of our life, when it will come. And let us think about our hearts and ask ourselves: “Where is my heart anchored?”. If it is not firmly anchored, let us anchor it beyond, on that shore, knowing that hope does not disappoint because the Lord Jesus does not disappoint.
At the conclusion of the celebration, following the prayers for the faithful departed, the Holy Father added the following words:
I would also like to pray in a special way for our brothers and sisters who died recently while seeking freedom and a more dignified life. We have seen the images, the cruelty of the desert, we have seen the sea where so many drowned. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for those who survived, and who at this time are crowded in reception places, hoping that legal procedures will be carried out speedily so that they might be able to go elsewhere, somewhere more comfortable, to other centres where they will be welcomed.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning, and compliments on your courage in coming out to the Square in this cold. Many compliments.
I wish to complete the catechesis on the Creed delivered during the Year of Faith, which concluded last Sunday. In this catechesis and in the next, I would like to consider the subject of the resurrection of the body, by seeking to grasp a deeper understanding of two of its aspects as they are presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; i.e. our dying and our rising in Jesus Christ. Today I shall consider the first aspect, “dying in Christ”.
1. Among us there is commonly a mistaken way of looking at death. Death affects us all, and it questions us in a profound way, especially when it touches us closely, or when it takes the little ones, the defenceless in such a way that it seems “scandalous”. I have always been struck by the question: why do children suffer? why do children die? If it is understood as the end of everything, death frightens us, it terrifies us, it becomes a threat that shatters every dream, every promise, it severs every relationship and interrupts every journey. This happens when we consider our lives as a span of time between two poles: birth and death; when we fail to believe in a horizon that extends beyond that of the present life; when we live as though God did not exist. This concept of death is typical of atheistic thought, which interprets life as a random existence in the world and as a journey toward nothingness. But there is also a practical atheism, which consists in living for one’s own interests alone and living only for earthly things. If we give ourselves over to this mistaken vision of death, we have no other choice than to conceal death, to deny it, or to trivialize it so that it does not make us afraid.
2. However, the “heart” of man, with its desire for the infinite, which we all have, its longing for eternity, which we all have, rebels against this false solution. And so what is the Christian meaning of death? If we look at the most painful moments of our lives, when we have lost a loved one — our parents, a brother, a sister, a spouse, a child, a friend — we realize that even amid the tragedy of loss, even when torn by separation, the conviction arises in the heart that everything cannot be over, that the good given and received has not been pointless. There is a powerful instinct within us which tells us that our lives do not end with death.
This thirst for life found its true and reliable answer in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ Resurrection does not only give us the certainty of life after death, it also illumines the very mystery of the death of each one of us. If we live united to Jesus, faithful to him, we will also be able to face the passage of death with hope and serenity. In fact, the Church prays: “If the certainty of having to die saddens us, the promise of future immortality consoles us”. This is a beautiful prayer of the Church! A person tends to die as he has lived. If my life has been a journey with the Lord, a journey of trust in his immense mercy, I will be prepared to accept the final moment of my earthly life as the definitive, confident abandonment into his welcoming hands, awaiting the face to face contemplation of his Face. This is the most beautiful thing that can happen to us: to contemplate face to face the marvellous countenance of the Lord, to see Him as he is, beautiful, full of light, full of love, full of tenderness. This is our point of arrival: to see the Lord.
3. Against this horizon we understand Jesus’ invitation to be ever ready, watchful, knowing that life in this world is given to us also in order to prepare us for the afterlife, for life with the heavenly Father. And for this there is a sure path: preparing oneself well for death, staying close to Jesus. This is surety: I prepare myself for death by staying close to Jesus. And how do we stay close to Jesus? Through prayer, in the Sacraments and also in the exercise of charity. Let us remember that he is present in the weakest and the most needy. He identified himself with them, in the well known parable of the Last Judgment, in which he says: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me... ‘as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’” (Mt 25:35-36, 40).
Therefore, a sure path comes by recovering the meaning of Christian charity and fraternal sharing, by caring for the bodily and spiritual wounds of our neighbour. Solidarity in sharing sorrow and infusing hope is a premise and condition for receiving as an inheritance that Kingdom which has been prepared for us. The one who practices mercy does not fear death. Think well on this: the one who practices mercy does not fear death! Do you agree? Shall we say it together so as not to forget it? The one who practices mercy does not fear death. And why does he not fear it? Because he looks death in the face in the wounds of his brothers and sisters, and he overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ.
If we will open the door of our lives and hearts to our littlest brothers and sisters, then even our own death will become a door that introduces us to heaven, to the blessed homeland, toward which we are directed, longing to dwell forever with God our Father, with Jesus, with Our Lady and with the Saints.
02.11.14 Angelus, St Peter's Square
All Souls - Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today the liturgy invites us to commemorate the faithful departed. These two recurrences are intimately linked to each other, just as joy and tears find a synthesis in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of our faith and our hope. On the one hand, in fact, the Church, a pilgrim in history, rejoices through the intercession of the Saints and the Blessed who support her in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel; on the other, she, like Jesus, shares the tears of those who suffer separation from loved ones, and like Him and through Him echoes the thanksgiving to the Father who has delivered us from the dominion of sin and death.
Yesterday and today, many have been visiting cemeteries, which, as the word itself implies, is the “place of rest”, as we wait for the final awakening. It is lovely to think that it will be Jesus himself to awaken us. Jesus himself revealed that the death of the body is like a sleep from which He awakens us. With this faith we pause — even spiritually — at the graves of our loved ones, of those who loved us and did us good. But today we are called to remember everyone, even those who no one remembers. We remember the victims of war and violence; the many “little ones” of the world, crushed by hunger and poverty; we remember the anonymous who rest in the communal ossuary. We remember our brothers and sisters killed because they were Christian; and those who sacrificed their lives to serve others. We especially entrust to the Lord, those who have left us during the past year.
Church Tradition has always urged prayer for the deceased, in particular by offering the Eucharistic Celebration for them: it is the best spiritual help that we can give to their souls, particularly to those who are the most forsaken. The foundation of prayer in suffrage lies in the communion of the Mystical Body.
As the Second Vatican Council repeats, “fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead” (Lumen Gentium, n. 50).
Remembering the dead, caring for their graves and prayers of suffrage, are the testimony of confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death does not have the last word on human existence, for man is destined to a life without limits, which has its roots and its fulfilment in God. Let us raise this prayer to God: “God of infinite mercy, we entrust to your immense goodness all those who have left this world for eternity, where you wait for all humanity, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ your Son, who died as a ransom for our sins. Look not, O Lord, on our poverty, our suffering, our human weakness, when we appear before you to be judged for joy or for condemnation. Look upon us with mercy, born of the tenderness of your heart, and help us to walk in the ways of complete purification. Let none of your children be lost in the eternal fire, where there can be no repentance. We entrust to you, O Lord, the souls of our beloved dead, of those who have died without the comfort of the sacraments, or who have not had an opportunity to repent, even at the end of their lives. May none of them be afraid to meet You, after their earthly pilgrimage, but may they always hope to be welcomed in the embrace of your infinite mercy. May our Sister, corporal death find us always vigilant in prayer and filled with the goodness done in the course of our short or long lives. Lord, may no earthly thing ever separate us from You, but may everyone and everything support us with a burning desire to rest peacefully and eternally in You. Amen” (Fr Antonio Rungi, Passionist, Prayer for the Dead).
With this faith in man’s supreme destiny, we now turn to Our Lady, who suffered the tragedy of Christ’s death beneath the Cross and took part in the joy of his Resurrection. May She, the Gate of Heaven, help us to understand more and more the value of prayer in suffrage for the souls of the dead. They are close to us! May She support us on our daily pilgrimage on earth and help us to never lose sight of life’s ultimate goal which is Heaven. And may we go forth with this hope that never disappoints!
29.11.19 Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)
Friday of Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time Year C
In this last week of the liturgical year the Church invites us to reflect on the end: the end of the world and the end of each of us. This theme is echoed in the Gospel reading (Luke 21: 29-33) in which Luke repeats Jesus’s words: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
This is how it is "everything will end" but "He will remain". I invite everyone to reflect on the moment of the end, that is, death. None of us knows exactly when it will happen; indeed, we often tend to put off that thought believing ourselves eternal, but it is not so.
We all have this weakness, this vulnerability. Yesterday I was thinking about this with a article just published in the Jesuit publication Civiltà Cattolica that tells us that what we all have in common is that vulnerability. We are all vulnerable, and at some point this vulnerability leads us to death. That's why we go to the doctor or to psychologists in search of healing for our bodies or for our minds.
Vulnerability therefore unites us and no illusion protects us. In my country, there was a fashion for people paying for their own funerals in advance with the illusion of saving money for the family. But when it came to light that some funeral companies were scamming people, that trend ended. How many times are we cheated by an illusion? Like the illusion of being eternal. The certainty of death is written in the Bible and in the Gospel, but the Lord always presents it to us as an encounter with Him and accompanies it with the word hope.
The Lord tells us to be prepared for the encounter, death is an encounter: it is He who comes to visit us, it is He who comes to take us by the hand and take us with Him. I wouldn't want this simple sermon to be a funeral notice! It is simply Gospel, it is simply life, it is simply saying to one another: "we are all vulnerable and we all have a door on which one day the Lord will knock."
Therefore, it is necessary to prepare well for that moment when the bell will ring, the moment when the Lord will knock on our door: let us pray for each other.
My invitation, is to be ready to open the door with trust and confidence to the Lord who comes. All of the things that we have collected, that we have saved, even good, we will not bring anything.. But, yes, we will bring the Lord's embrace. Think of one's own death: I will die, when? It is not marked on the calendar but he Lord knows it. And pray to the Lord: " Lord, prepare my heart to die well, to die in peace, to die with hope." This is the word that must always accompany our lives, the hope of living with the Lord here and then living with the Lord somewhere else. Let us pray for one another for this.
30.01.20 Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time - Lectionary Cycle II
"The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you”. All of us come to terms with our lives, we do it in the present and above all, we will do it at the end of our existence, and this phrase of Jesus "tells us just what that moment will be like", that is, what judgment will be like. Because if the passage of the Beatitudes and the similar chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew show us "the things we have to do" - how to do them, the "style with which we will have to live" - the "measure", is what the Lord says here.
By what extent do I measure others? By what measure do I measure myself? Is it a generous measure, full of God's love? Or is it a low level measure? And by this measure I will be judged, it will not be another: that, just the one I do. What is the level at which I put my bar? At a high level? We have to think about this. And we see this not only, not so much in the good things we do or in the bad things we do but in our daily lifestyle.
Each of us has a style, "a way of measuring ourselves, things and others" and it will be the same that the Lord will use with us. So those who judge with selfishness, will be judged in the same way; those who have no mercy and, in order to climb in life, "are capable of trampling on everyone's heads", will be judged in the same way, that is, "without mercy".
And as a Christian I wonder what is the reference stone, the touchstone to know if I am on a Christian level, a level that Jesus wants? It is the ability to be humble, it is the ability to suffer humiliation. A Christian who is not able to carry with him the humiliations of life, lacks something. He is a Christian of "make-up" or out of interest. "But why father this?" Because Jesus did it, He humbled himself, says Paul: "He humbled himself until the death on the cross." He was God but He did not cling to that: He humbled Himself. This is the model.
And as an example of a lifestyle defined as "worldly" and unable to follow the model of Jesus; bishops report complaints to me when they have difficulty transferring priests to parishes because they are considered "lower category" and not as they would like and therefore see the transfer as a punishment. This is how to recognize "my style", "my way of judging" by the behaviour I take in the face of humiliation: "A way of judging the worldly, a way of judging the sinner, an entrepreneurial way of judging, a way of judging Christian Christians."
"By the measure by which you measure it will be measured to you," the same measure. If it is a Christian measure, which follows Jesus, in His way, I will be judged the same way, with much, much, much pity, with much compassion, with much mercy. But if my measure is worldly and I only use the Christian faith - yes, I do, I go to mass, but I live as a worldly person - I will be measured by that measure.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to live Christianly and above all not to be afraid of the cross, of humiliation, because this is the path he has chosen to save us and this is what guarantees that my measure is Christian: the ability to carry the cross , the ability to suffer some humiliation.
08.05.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)
Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Today is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Let us pray for the people who work in these worthy institutions: that the Lord bless their work that does so much good.
This conversation of Jesus with the disciples takes place at the table, again at the last supper (John 14: 1-6). Jesus is sad and everyone is sad: Jesus said that he would be betrayed by one of them ( John 13:21) and everyone senses that something bad would happen. Jesus begins to console them: because one of the offices, "of the works" of the Lord is consoling. The Lord consoles his disciples and here we see what Jesus' way of consoling is. We have many ways of comforting, from the most authentic, to the those that are more formal, such as those telegrams of condolences: "Deeply saddened for...". It doesn't console anyone, it's a sham, it's the consolation of formality. But how does the Lord console ? This is important to know, because we too, when we have to go through moments of sadness in our lives, learn to perceive what the true consolation of the Lord is.
And in this passage of the Gospel we see that the Lord always consoles in closeness, with truth and hope. These are the three features of the Lord's consolation. In close proximity, never distant. The beautiful words: "I am here." "I am here, with you." And so often in silence. But we know he's there. He's always there. That closeness that is the style of God, even in the Incarnation, to be close to us. The Lord consoles in closeness. And he does not use empty words, indeed: he prefers silence. The power of closeness, of presence. And he speaks little. But he's close.
A second feature of Jesus' closeness, of Jesus' way of consoling, is the truth: Jesus is truthful. He doesn't say formal things that are lies: "No, don't worry, everything will pass, nothing will happen, it will pass, things pass...".No. He says the truth. He doesn't hide the truth. Because he himself in this passage says: "I am the truth" (John 14:6). And the truth is, "I'm going to go," that is, "I'm going to die" (14: 2-3). We are facing death. It's the truth. And he says it simply and he also says it gently, without hurting: we are facing death. He doesn't hide the truth.
And this is the third feature: Jesus consoles through hope. Yes, it's a bad time. But "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith also in me" (14: 1). I going to tell you something Jesus says, "There are many rooms in my Father's house. I'm going to prepare a place for you" (14: 2). He goes first to open the doors, the doors of that place through which we will all pass, so I hope: "I will come back again and take you with me, so that where I am you may be too" (14: 3). The Lord returns whenever any of us are on our way out of this world. "I will come and I will take you": hope. He will come and take us by the hand and take us. He doesn't say: "No, you will not suffer: it is nothing...". No. He tells the truth: "I am close to you, this is the truth: it is a bad moment, of danger, of death. But do not let your heart be troubled, remain in peace, that peace that is the basis of all consolation, because I will come and take you by the hand to where I will be."
It is not easy to be consoled by the Lord. Many times, in bad times, we get angry with the Lord and do not let him come and speak to us like this, with this tenderness, with this closeness, with this gentleness, with this truth and with this hope.
Let us ask for the grace to learn to allow ourselves be consoled by the Lord. The Lord's consolation is truthful, not deceiving. It's not anaesthesia, no. But it is close, it is truthful and he opens the doors of hope for us.
02.11.20 Holy Mass, Chapel in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery
All Souls - Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Job 19: 23-27, Romans 5: 5-11,
Job is defeated, indeed his life is ended, by illness, with his skin torn away, almost on the verge of dying, almost without flesh, Job is certain of one thing and says: "I know that my Redeemer lives and that, in the end, He will stand on Earth(Job 19:25). When Job is sunk, at his worst, there is a embrace of light and warmth that assures him : I will see the Redeemer. With these eyes I will see him. "I will see him myself, my eyes will gaze on him and not another"(Job 19:27).
This certainty, very near to the final moment of life, is Christian hope. A hope that is a gift: we cannot have it ourselves. It is a gift that we must ask for: "Lord, give me hope". There are so many bad things that lead us to despair, to believe that everything is over, that there will be a final defeat, that after death there is nothing... And Job's voice returns, it returns: "I know that my Redeemer is alive and that he ,the last, will take his stand on earth! I will see him, myself, " with my eyes.
"Hope does not disappoint"(Rm 5:5), Paul told us. Hope attracts us and makes sense of our lives. I cannot see the afterlife, but hope is God's gift that draws us to life, to eternal joy. Hope is an anchor that we have on the other side, and we, clinging to the rope, are sustained (cf. Heb 6:18-20). "I know my Redeemer lives and I will see him." We need to repeat this in moments of joy and bad moments, in moments of death, let's put it that way.
This certainty is a gift from God, because we can never have hope with our own strength. We have to ask for it. Hope is a free gift that we never deserve: it is given, it is given. It's grace.
And then the Lord confirms this, this hope that does not disappoint: "Everything that the Father gives me, will come to me"(Jn 6:37). This is the purpose of hope: to go to Jesus. And "he who comes to me, I will not turn him away because I have descended from heaven not to do my will, but the will of the one who sent me"(Jn 6:37-38). The Lord receives us there, where the anchor is. Life in hope is living like this: clinging, with the rope in your hand, strongly, knowing that the anchor is up there. And this anchor does not disappoint, it does not disappoint.
Today, thinking of so many brothers and sisters who have passed away, it will be good for us to visit cemeteries and look up. And repeat, as Job: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and I will see him, myself, my eyes will gaze upon him and not another." And this is the strength that gives us hope, this free gift that is the virtue of hope. May the Lord give it to each one of us.
Holy Mass for the repose of the souls of the Cardinals and Bishops who died over the course of the year
Wisdom 4: 7-15, 2 Corinthians 5: 1, 6-10,
In the Gospel passage we have just heard (Jn 11:17-27), Jesus says solemnly of himself: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (vv. 25-26). The radiance of these words dispels the darkness of the profound grief caused by the death of Lazarus. Martha accepts those words and, with a firm profession of faith, declares: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (v. 27). Jesus’ words make Martha’s hope pass from the distant future into the present: the resurrection is already close to her, present in the person of Christ.
Today, Jesus’ revelation also challenges us: we too are called to believe in the resurrection, not as a kind of distant mirage but as an event already present and even now mysteriously at work in our lives. Yet our faith in the resurrection neither ignores nor masks the very human bewilderment we feel in the face of death. The Lord Jesus himself, seeing the tears of Lazarus’s sisters and those around them, did not hide his own emotion, but, as the evangelist John adds, himself “began to weep” (Jn 11:35). Except for sin, he is fully one of us: he too experienced the drama of grief, the bitterness of tears shed for the loss of a loved one. Yet this does not obscure the light of truth radiating from his revelation, of which the resurrection of Lazarus was a great sign.
Today, then, the Lord repeats to us: “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). He summons us to take once more the great leap of faith and to enter, even now, into the light of the resurrection. “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (v. 26). Once we have made this leap, our way of thinking and seeing things is changed. The eyes of faith, transcending things visible, see in a certain way invisible realities (cf. Heb 11:27). Everything that happens is then assessed in the light of another dimension, the dimension of eternity.
We find this in the passage of the Book of Wisdom. The untimely death of the just is viewed in a different light. “There were some who pleased God and were loved by him, and while living among sinners were taken up… so that evil might not change their understanding or guile deceive their souls” (4:10-11). Seen through the eyes of faith, their death does not appear as misfortune but as a providential act of the Lord, whose thoughts are not like ours. For example, the sacred author himself points out that in God’s eyes, “old age is not honoured for length of time, or measured by number of years; but understanding is grey hair for anyone, and a blameless life is ripe old age” (4:8-9). God’s loving plans for his chosen ones are completely overlooked by those whose only horizon are the things of this world. Consequently, as far as they are concerned, it is said that “they will see the end of the wise, and will not understand what the Lord purposed for them” (4:17).
As we pray for the Cardinals and Bishops deceased in the course of this last year, we ask the Lord to help us consider aright the parable of their lives. We ask him to dispel that unholy grief which we occasionally feel, thinking that death is the end of everything. A feeling far from faith, yet part of that human fear of death felt by everyone. For this reason, before the riddle of death, believers too must be constantly converted. We are called daily to leave behind our instinctive image of death as the total destruction of a person. We are called to leave behind the visible world we take for granted, our usual, commonplace ways of thinking, and to entrust ourselves entirely to the Lord who tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26).
These words, brothers and sisters, accepted in faith, make our prayer for our deceased brothers and sisters truly Christian. They enable us to have a truly realistic vision of the lives they lived, to understand the meaning and the value of the good they accomplished, their strength, their commitment and their generous and unselfish love. And to understand the meaning of a life that aspires not to an earthly homeland, but to a better, heavenly homeland (cf. Heb 11:16). Prayers for the faithful departed, offered in confident trust that they now live with God, also greatly benefit ourselves on this, our earthly pilgrimage. They instil in us a true vision of life; they reveal to us the meaning of the trials we must endure to enter the kingdom of God; they open our hearts to true freedom and inspire us unceasingly to seek eternal riches.
In the words of the Apostle, we too “have confidence, and… whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor 5:8-9). The life of a servant of the Gospel is shaped by the desire to be pleasing to the Lord in all things. This is the criterion of our every decision, of every step we take. And so we remember with gratitude the witness of the deceased Cardinals and Bishops, given in fidelity to God’s will. We pray for them and we strive to follow their example. May the Lord continue to pour forth upon us his Spirit of wisdom, especially during these times of trial. Especially when the journey becomes more difficult. He does not abandon us, but remains in our midst, ever faithful to his promise: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
04.11.21 Holy Mass for the repose of the Cardinals and Bishops deceased during the course of the year
St Peter’s Basilica, Altar of the Chair
In the first Reading we heard this invitation: “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3: 26). This attitude is not a starting point, but rather a destination. Indeed, the author reaches it at the end of a journey, a troubled journey, that enabled him to grow. He arrives at the comprehension of the beauty of trusting in the Lord, who never fails to keep his promises. But trusting in God is not born of a momentary enthusiasm; it is not an emotion, nor is it a sentiment. On the contrary, it comes from experience and matures with patience, as in the case of Job, who passes from a knowledge of God “by hearsay” to a living, experiential knowledge. And for this to happen, it takes a long inner transformation that, through the crucible of suffering, leads to knowing how to wait in silence, that is, with confident patience, with a meek soul. This patience is not resignation, because it is nurtured by the expectation of the Lord, whose coming is sure and does not disappoint.
Dear brothers and sisters, how important it is to learn the art of waiting for the Lord! To wait for him meekly, confidently, chasing away phantoms, fanaticism and clamour; preserving, especially in times of trial, a silence filled with hope. This is how we prepare for life’s last and greatest trial, death. But first there are the trials of the moment, there is the cross we have now, and for which we ask the Lord for the grace to know how to wait here, right here, for his coming salvation.
Each one of us needs to mature in this regard. Faced with life's difficulties and problems, it is difficult to have patience and remain calm. Irritation sets in and despair often comes. And so it can happen that we are strongly tempted by pessimism and resignation, we see everything as black, and we get used to disheartened and complaining tones, similar to those of the sacred author who says at the beginning: “Gone is my glory, and my expectation from the Lord” (v. 18). In adversity, not even the beautiful memories of the past can console us, because our affliction leads the mind to dwell on the difficult moments. And this increases bitterness; it seems that life is a continuous chain of misfortunes, as the author admits: “[I] remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall” (v. 19).
At this point, however, the Lord makes a turning point, at the very moment when, while continuing to dialogue with Him, it seems as if we are at rock bottom. In the abyss, in the anguish of nonmeaning, God draws near to save us. And when bitterness reaches its peak, hope suddenly flourishes again. It is a bad thing to reach old age with a bitter heart, with a disappointed heart, with a heart critical of new things, it is very hard. “But this I call to mind”, says the praying man in the Book of Lamentations, “and therefore I have hope”. Resuming hope in the moment of bitterness. In the midst of sorrow, those who are close to the Lord see that he unlocks suffering, opens it, transforms it into a door through which hope enters. It is a paschal experience, a painful passage that opens to life, a kind of spiritual labour that in the darkness makes us come to the light again.
This turning point is not because the problems have disappeared, no, but because crisis has become a mysterious opportunity for inner purification. Prosperity, in fact, often makes us blind, superficial, proud. This is the road to which prosperity leads us. On the other hand, the passage through trials, if lived in the warmth of faith, despite its hardness and tears, allows us to be reborn, and we find ourselves different from the past. A Church father wrote that “nothing, more than suffering, leads to the discovery of new things” (Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. 34). Trial renews us, because it removes many of the waste and teaches us to look beyond, beyond the darkness, to see for ourselves that the Lord really does save and that He has the power to transform everything, even death. He lets us pass through bottlenecks and does not abandon us, but accompanies us. Yes, because God accompanies us, especially in pain, like a father who helps his son to grow up well by being close to him in difficulties without taking his place. And before the tears appear on our faces, the emotion has already reddened the eyes of God the Father. He weeps first, I would say. Grief remains a mystery, but in this mystery, we can discover in a new way the paternity of God who visits us in our difficulties, and go so far as to say, with the author of Lamentations: “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him” (v. 25).
Today, before the mystery of redeemed death, let us ask for the grace to look at adversity with different eyes. Let us ask for the strength to know how to live in the meek and trusting silence that awaits the salvation of the Lord, without complaining, without grumbling, without allowing ourselves to be saddened. What seems like a punishment will turn out to be a grace, a new demonstration of God’s love for us. Knowing how to wait in silence - without grumbling, in silence - for the salvation of the Lord is an art, on the road to holiness. Let us cultivate it. It is precious in the time in which we are living: now more than ever there is no need to shout, to make a fuss, to become bitter; what is needed is for each of us is to witness with our lives our faith, which is a docile and hopeful expectation. Faith is this: docile and hopeful expectation. Christians do not diminish the seriousness of suffering, no, but they raise their eyes to the Lord and under the blows of adversity they trust in Him and pray: they pray for those who suffer. The Christian keeps his eyes on Heaven, but his hands are always outstretched towards to earth, to serve his neighbour concretely. Even in times of sadness, of darkness: service.
In this spirit, let us pray for the Cardinals and Bishops who have left us in the past year. Some of them died as a result of Covid-19, in difficult situations that compounded their suffering. May these brothers of ours now savour the joy of the Gospel invitation that the Lord addresses to his faithful servants: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).
09.02.22 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall
Catechesis on Saint Joseph: 11. Saint Joseph, patron of the good death
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In last week’s catechesis, again inspired by Saint Joseph, we reflected on the meaning of the communion of saints. And leading on from this, today I would like to explore the special devotion the Christian people have always had for Saint Joseph as the patron saint of the good death. A devotion born of the thought that Joseph died cared for by the Virgin Mary and Jesus, before leaving the house of Nazareth. There are no historical data, but since we no longer see Joseph in public life, it is thought that he died there in Nazareth, with his family. And Jesus and Mary accompanied him up to his death.
A century ago, Pope Benedict XV wrote “through Joseph we go directly to Mary, and through Mary to the origin of all holiness, who is Jesus”. Both Joseph and Mary help us to go to Jesus. And encouraging pious practices in honour of Saint Joseph, he recommended one in particular, saying: “Since he is deservedly considered to be the most effective protector of the dying, having expired in the presence of Jesus and Mary, it will be the concern of the sacred Pastors to inculcate and encourage [...] those pious associations that have been established to implore Joseph on behalf of the dying, such as those ‘of the Good Death’, of the ‘Transit of Saint Joseph’ and ‘for the Dying”. (Motu proprio Bonum sane, 25 July 1920): they were the associations of the time.
Dear brothers and sisters, perhaps some people think that this language and this theme are only a legacy of the past, but in reality, our relationship with death is never about the past – it always present. Pope Benedict said, a few days ago, speaking of himself, that he “is before the dark door of death”. It is good to thank the Pope who has this clarity, at 95, to tell us this. “I am before the obscurity of death, at the dark door of death”. It is good advice that he has given us, isn’t it? The so-called “feel-good” culture tries to remove the reality of death, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought it back into focus in a dramatic way. It was terrible: death was everywhere, and so many brothers and sisters lost loved ones without being able to be near them, and this made death even harder to accept and process. A nurse told me that she was in front of a grandmother who was dying, and who said to her, “I would like to say goodbye to my family, before I leave”. And the nurse bravely took out her mobile phone and put her in touch with them. The tenderness of that farewell…
Nevertheless, we try in every way to banish the thought of our finite existence, deluding ourselves into believing we can remove the power of death and dispel fear. But the Christian faith is not a way of exorcising the fear of death; rather, it helps us to face it. Sooner or later, we will all pass through that door.
The true light that illuminates the mystery of death comes from the resurrection of Christ. This is the light. And, Saint Paul writes: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 12: 12-14). There is one certainty: Christ is resurrected, Christ is risen, Christ is living among us. And this is the light that awaits us behind that dark door of death.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is only through faith in resurrection that we can face the abyss of death without being overwhelmed by fear. Not only that: we can restore a positive role to death. Indeed, thinking about death, enlightened by the mystery of Christ, helps us to look at all of life through fresh eyes. I have never seen a removals van following a hearse! Behind a hearse: I have never seen one. We will go alone, with nothing in the pockets of our shroud: nothing. Because the shroud has no pockets. This solitude of death: it is true, I have never seen a hearse followed by a removals van. It makes no sense to accumulate if one day we will die. What we must accumulate is love, and the ability to share, the ability not to remain indifferent when faced with the needs of others. Or, what is the point of arguing with a brother, with a sister, with a friend, with a relative, or with a brother or sister in faith, if then one day we will die? What point is there in being angry, in getting angry with others? Before death, many issues are brought down to size. It is good to die reconciled, without grudges and without regrets! I would like to say one truth: we are all on our way towards that door, all of us.
The Gospel tells us that death comes like a thief. That is what Jesus tells us: it arrives like a thief, and however much we try to keep its arrival under control, perhaps even planning our own death, it remains an event that we must reckon with, and before which we must also make choices.
Two considerations stand for us Christians. The first: we cannot avoid death, and precisely for this reason, after having done everything that is humanly possible to cure the sick, it is immoral to engage in futile treatment (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2278). That phrase of the faithful people of God, of the simple people: “Let him die in peace”, “help him to die in peace”: such wisdom! The second consideration concerns the quality of death itself, the quality of pain, of suffering. Indeed, we must be grateful for all the help that medicine endeavours to give, so that through so-called “palliative care”, every person who is preparing to live the last stretch of their life can do so in the most human way possible. However, we must be careful not to confuse this help with unacceptable drifts towards killing. We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate any form of suicide. I would point out that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritised, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never discarded. Life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered. And this ethical principle applies to concerns everyone, not just Christians or believers.
I would like to underline a real social problem. That “planning” – I don’t know if it is the right word – but accelerating the death of the elderly. Very often we see in a certain social class that the elderly, since they do not have means, are given fewer medicines than they need, and this is inhuman; this is not helping them, it is driving them towards death earlier. This is neither human nor Christian. The elderly should be cared for as a treasure of humanity: they are our wisdom. And if they do not speak, or if they do not make sense, they are still the symbol of human wisdom. They are those who went before us and have left us so many good things, so many memories, so much wisdom. Please, do not isolate the elderly, do not accelerate the death of the elderly. To caress an elderly person has the same hope as caressing a child, because the beginning of life and the end are always a mystery, a mystery that should be respected, accompanied, cared for. Loved.
May Saint Joseph help us to live the mystery of death in the best possible way. For a Christian, the good death is an experience of the mercy of God, who comes close to us even in that last moment of our life. Even in the Hail Mary, we pray asking Our Lady to be close to us “at the hour of our death”. Precisely for this reason, I would like to conclude this catechesis by praying together to Our Lady for the dying, for those who are experiencing this moment of passage through the dark door, and for the relatives who are experiencing bereavement. Let us pray together: