It’s said that when we die, our life and work are now in the hands of God. Pope Francis is inviting the faithful to remember that God’s hands are hands marked by the wounds of love, wounds that Jesus chose to preserve to “make us feel his mercy.”
This was the Holy Father’s reflection on Monday during his homily at a Mass celebrated for the cardinals and bishops who have died this year.
The Mass was a culminating celebration of a series of activities focused on the Last Things. On Friday at midday, the Holy Father led the faithful in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Angelus. In an address on that occasion, he said the day’s celebration of the saints “reminds us that the goal of our existence is not death, but Heaven.”
The saints, the Pope said, are “the friends of God,” and they assure us that his promise does not disappoint. But the Holy Father also stressed that the saints are not supermen, nor were they perfect. They were like you and me, he said. They were people who, before reaching the glory of Heaven lived a normal life, with joys and sorrows, struggles and hopes.
What changed their lives, the Holy Father explained, was the knowledge of the love of God. “To be saintly is not a privilege of a few, but a vocation for everyone.”
“We are all called to walk the path of holiness, and this pathway has a name and a face: it is Jesus Christ,” he added.
Later that afternoon, Francis celebrated Mass at the Roman cemetery of Campo Verano. The Mass commemorated a celebration by Pope John Paul II exactly 20 years ago that day.
Though a homily was prepared for the occasion, Francis did not follow his text, and instead gave his reflections extemporaneously. He focused on salvation as a gift from God, not a fruit of good works.
The Pope reminded that “we can only enter the doors of Heaven thanks to the blood of Christ.” It is he who judges us and who opens the door to Heaven. This is our hope, Francis continued, and if we walk the path of Christ, accompanied by this hope, “He will never let us down.”
Each of us in these days, he added at the cemetery, may think “about the end of our lives” and we must “look forward to it with hope and with the joy of being received by the Lord.” We must ask ourselves, “where is my heart anchored” and make sure it is well anchored in that shore.
On Saturday, the feast of All Souls, Francis went in the evening on a private visit to the Vatican Grottoes in St. Peter’s Basilica to pray by the tombs of the Roman Pontiffs who have preceded him as Successor of Peter.
Then Monday, Francis celebrated a Mass for the cardinals and bishops who have died over the last year.
He noted that St. Paul “speaks of the love of God as the deepest, most invincible motive for our trust in Christian hope.”
“Even if our entire existence is surrounded by threats, nothing will ever separate us from the love that Christ himself gained for us, giving of himself completely,” Francis said.
“This reality of faithful love that God has for each of us helps us to face our daily life — which is sometimes slow and tiring — with serenity and strength,” he continued. “Only the sin of man can break this bond, but even in this case God will always go in search for him to restore that union that lasts even after death. It is indeed a union that in the final encounter with the Father reaches its climax. This certainty gives a new and full meaning to earthly life and opens us to hope for life beyond death.”
Francis added that “our sins are also in God’s hands, those merciful hands with their ‘wounds’ of love. It is not by chance that Jesus wanted to preserve the wounds on his hands to make us feel his mercy. This is our strength and our hope!”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full translation of Friday Angelus: www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-feast-of-all-saints
Full translation of prepared text of homily at cemetery:
Full translation of homily at Mass for deceased cardinals and bishops: