By Christopher Wells
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in suffrage for the souls of Cardinals and Bishops who have died over the course of the past year. The liturgy was celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica with only a small number of faithful present due to health and safety measures taken in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Resurrection and life
In his homily, Pope Francis recalled the words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life,” from the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead; as well as Martha’s profession of faith in Him: “’Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world’.”
Jesus’ words, the Pope said, bring Martha’s hope in a future resurrection into the present, and challenge us “to believe in the resurrection” as a reality that is “even now mysteriously at work in our lives.” In the face of death, we experience sorrow and confusion. But with Jesus’ revelation, we are able to perceive invisible realities, and to see things in light of eternity.
Those who see things only from an earthly perspective cannot understand God’s plan for those He loves, the Pope said. When we see things from God’s perspective, however, death is no longer understood as a “misfortune,” but rather as “a providential act of the Lord, whose thoughts are not like ours.”
Praying for the dead
Pope Francis said, “As we pray for the Cardinals and Bishops deceased in the course of this last year, we ask the Lord to help us to consider aright the parable of their lives.”
He prayed, too, that God might “dispel the unholy grief that we occasionally fear, that death is the end of everything.” All people, he said, have felt the fear of death; and even believers must be constantly converted to faith in the resurrection. Death is not “the total destruction of the person,” the Pope insisted. Rather, we must always trust in the Lord, who tells us, “I am the Resurrection and the life.” These words of Jesus, “accepted in faith, make our prayer for our deceased brothers and sisters truly Christian,” he explained.
A true vision of life
This point of view gives us a true, “realistic” understanding of the lives of those who have gone before us, and helps us “to understand the meaning of a life that aspires not to an earthly homeland, but to a better, heavenly homeland.”
Praying for the dead, then, is also beneficial for those who remain in this earthly life, Pope Francis said. “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.”
Remembering the witness of those who have died
The life of those who follow the Lord is shaped by the desire to do what is pleasing to God, the Pope continued. “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.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily with a prayer that the Lord might continue “to pour forth upon us His Spirit of wisdom, especially during these times of trial.”
The Lord “does not abandon us,” the Pope said, “but remains in our midst, ever faithful to His promise: ‘Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.”