Pope Francis this evening brought a somber note to the New Year's Eve celebrations, recalling that God's entrance into time is a reminder that all of us had a beginning and will have an end, and encouraging an examination of conscience at the close of the year.
The Pope said this as he led Vespers in St. Peter's Basilica for Thursday's feast of the Mother of God. The liturgy ended with the singing of the Te Deum and Eucharistic adoration and benediction.
In his homily, the Pope reflected on time as a reality that is not foreign to God, but instead, his messenger. Time was touched by Christ, and became "salvific time," he said, the "definitive time of salvation and grace."
"And all this induces us to think of the end of the journey of life, the end of our journey. There was a beginning and there will be an end," the Holy Father said.
He added that with this truth, the Church "teaches us to end the year and also our days with an examination of conscience, through which we review what has happened: We thank the Lord for every good we have received and have been able to do and, at the same time, we think again of our failings and our sins -- to be grateful and to ask for forgiveness."
Reason for thanks
The Pontiff went on to speak of the "fundamental motive for our rendering thanks to God: He has made us His children, He has adopted us as His children."
We are God's children since he is the Father of every person, the Pope acknowledged, but because of sin, "our filial relationship was profoundly wounded."
"Therefore, God sent his Son to rescue us at the price of His blood. And if there is a rescue, it is because there is a slavery. We were children, but we became slaves, following the voice of the Evil One."
The Pope reflected that this gift is also a reason for the examination of conscience.
"Do we live as children or as slaves?" he asked. "Do we live as baptized persons in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, rescued and free? Or do we live according to the corrupt, worldly logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our interest?"
The Pontiff proposed that there is in fact a tendency to resist liberation and to prefer slavery.
"Liberty scares us because it puts us before time and in face of our responsibility to live it well," he explained. "Slavery reduces time to a 'moment' and thus we feel more secure, that is, it makes us live moments disconnected from their past and from our future."
Poor and weak
Pope Francis went on to say this examen of conscience should lead to care for the poor and weak.
"When the poor and the weak are looked after, aided and helped in a city to promote themselves in a society, they reveal themselves the treasure of the Church and a treasure in society," he said.
"Dear brothers and sisters, to conclude the year is to reaffirm that a 'last hour' exists and that the 'fullness of time' exists," the Pontiff stated. "In concluding this year, in giving thanks and in asking for forgiveness, it will do us good to ask for the grace to be able to walk in freedom in order to repair the many damages and to defend ourselves from the nostalgia of slavery, not to be nostalgic about slavery."
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