Pope’s Homily at Mass for Cardinals, Bishops Who’ve Died This Year

“One who serves, saves”


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At 11:30 this morning, Pope Francis presided over a Eucharistic Celebration at the Altar of the Chair of the Vatican Basilica, in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops deceased during the course of the year.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s homily.

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Today we remember the Brother Cardinals and Bishops deceased in the last year. On this earth they loved the Church, their Bride, and we pray that they might enjoy full joy in God in the Communion of Saints.

We also think again with gratitude of the vocation of these sacred Ministers: as the word indicates, it is first of all to minister or to serve. While we ask for them the reward promised to “good and faithful servants” (cf. Matthew 25:14-30), we are called to renew the choice to serve in the Church. The Lord asks this of us, who, like a servant, washed the feet of His closest disciples, so that we would also do as He did (cf. John 13:14-15). God was the first to serve us. Jesus’ minister, who comes to serve and not to be served (cf. Mark 10:45), cannot but be in turn a Pastor ready to give his life for his sheep. One who serves and gives, seems to be a loser in the eyes of the world. In reality, by losing one’s life one finds it again. Because a life that is despoiled of itself, losing itself in love, imitates Christ, overcomes death and gives life to the world. One who serves, saves. On the contrary, one who does not live to serve, is of no use to live.

The Gospel reminds us of this. “God so loved the world,” says Jesus (v. 16). It is, truly, about concrete love, so concrete that He took our death upon himself. To save us, He reached us where we had ended, alienating ourselves from God giver of life: in death, in a sepulcher without exit. This is the abasement that the Son of God underwent, bending down as a servant to us to assume all that is ours, to the point of opening wide the doors of life.

In the Gospel Christ compares himself to the “raised serpent.” The image refers to the episode of the poisonous serpents, which attacked the pilgrimaging people in the desert (cf. Numbers 21:4-9). The Israelites that were bitten by the serpents, did not die but stayed alive if they looked at the bronze serpent that Moses, by order of God, had raised on a pole. A serpent saved from serpents. The same logic is present in the cross, to which Christ refers speaking to Nicodemus. His death saves us from our death. In the desert serpents inflicted a painful death, preceded by fear and caused by venomous bites. In our eyes death also always seems dark and anguishing. As we experience it, it entered the world because of the devil’s envy, Scripture tells us (cf. Wisdom 2:24) Jesus, however, did not flee from it but took it fully upon himself with all its contradictions. Now we, looking at Him, believing in Him, are saved by Him. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life,” Jesus repeats twice in the brief passage of today’s Gospel (cf. VV. 15.16).

This style of God, which saves us by serving us and annihilating himself, has much to teach us. We would expect a triumphant divine victory; instead, Jesus shows us an extremely humble victory. Raised on the cross, he allows evil and death to rage against Him while He continues to love. It is difficult for us to accept this reality. It is a mystery, but the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility is altogether in the strength of love. In Jesus’ Easter we see at the same time death and the remedy to death, and this is possible because of the great love with which God has loved us, because of the humble love that abases itself, because of the service that is able to assume the condition of the servant. Thus Jesus not only took away evil, but He transformed it into good, not in appearance, but in essence, not on the surface, but at the root. He made of the cross a bridge to life. We can also conquer with Him, if we choose helpful and humble love, which remains victorious for eternity. It is a love that does not cry out and does not impose itself, but is able to wait with trust and patience because — as the Book of Lamentations reminded us — “it is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (3:26).

“God so loved the world.” We are led to love what we feel we are in need of and desire. God, instead, loves the world to the end, namely us, as we are. In this Eucharist He also comes to serve us, to give us the life that saves from death and fills with hope. While we offer this Mass for our dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops, we ask for ourselves what the Apostle Paul exhorts us: “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2); love of God and of our neighbor, more than of our needs. We must not be concerned about what we are lacking down here, but about the treasure up there; not for what is useful to us but what is really useful. May the Lord’s Easter be sufficient for us, to be free of the anxiety for ephemeral things, which pass and vanish into nothing. May He be enough, in whom are life, salvation, resurrection and joy. Then we will be servants according to His heart: not functionaries that serve, but loved children that give their life for the world.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

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