Mass for Deceased Cardinals and Bishops. Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis’ Homily Depicts Death on All Souls Day as Expectation and Surprise

The Holy Father’s homily in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops that died this past year.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 02.11.2022).- At 11:00 am on Wednesday, November 2, Pope Francis presided over a Eucharistic Concelebration in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops that died this past year. The Mass was held at the Altar of the Chair, with a limited participation of faithful. 

Here is the English translation of the homily, which focused on the Readings of the day. 

* * *

The Readings we have listened to today, elicit two words in us, in me: expectation and surprise.

1st Expectation

Wating expresses the meaning of life, because we live waiting for the encounter, the encounter with God, which is the reason for our prayer of intercession today, especially for the Cardinals and Bishops who died during the past year, for whom we offer this Eucharistic sacrifice in suffrage.

We all live in expectation, with the hope of hearing one day those words of Jesus: “Come, blessed of my Father” (Matthew 25:34). We are in the waiting room of the world to enter into Heaven to take part in that “banquet for all peoples, of which the prophet Isaiah tells us (cf. 25:6). He says something that rejoices our heart because in fact it will make a reality our greatest expectations: the Lord “will swallow up death forever” and “will wipe away tears from all faces” (v. 8). It is good that the Lord will come to wipe away the tears. However, it is very bad when we hope it is another person, and not the Lord, who wipes them. And even more awful is not to have tears. Then we will be able to say: “This is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (v.9). Yes, we live waiting to receive such great and beautiful goods, which we cannot even imagine, because as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) and “we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” ( v. 23). 

Brothers and sisters, let us nourish our waiting for Heaven, let us exercise our desire for Heaven. It does us good to ask ourselves  today if our desires have something to do with Heaven. Because, we run the danger of aspiring constantly for passing things, of confusing desires with necessities, of putting the expectations of the world before those of God. However, to lose sight of what matters, to pursue the wind, would be the greatest error of life. Let us look up, because we are on the way to the Highest, whereas the things of down here will not go up there: the best careers, the greatest successes, the most prestigious titles and praises, the accumulated wealth and earthly earnings, all will vanish in a moment –  all. And all the expectations placed in them will be defrauded forever. But, how much time, how much effort and energy we spend  worrying and afflicted by these things, leaving the tension towards our home vanish, losing sight of the meaning of the journey, the goal of the journey, the infinite toward which we tend, the joy for which we breathe! Let us ask ourselves:  Am I living what I say in the Creed, do I hope in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come? And how is my waiting? Am I able to go to the essential or am I distracted by many superfluous things? Do I cultivate hope or do I continue complaining, because I value too much things that do not matter and will pass? 

2nd Surprise

While waiting for the morrow, we are helped by the Gospel of today. And the second word arises here, which I would like to share with you: surprise, because the surprise is great every time we listen to Matthew chapter 25. It is similar to that of the protagonists, who say: “Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee?” (vv. 37-39). When did we do it? Thus is expressed the surprise of all, the astonishment of the righteous  and the consternation of the unrighteous. 

When will that be? We could say the same: we hoped that the judgment on life and the world would take place under the banner of justice, before a decisive tribunal that, cribbing all the elements, would cast light on the situations and the intentions for ever. Instead, in the divine tribunal, the only head of merit and accusation is mercy toward the poor and the rejected: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,” Jesus sentences (v. 40). The Most High seems to dwell in the littlest of them. He who dwells in the Heavens dwells among the most insignificant of the world. What a surprise! But the judgment will be so because it will be Jesus, the God of humble love, the One who was born and died poor, lived as a servant. His measure is a love that goes beyond our measures, and his criterion of judgment is gratitude. Hence, to prepare ourselves, we already know what we must do: to love gratuitously and without expecting reciprocity, those that are on His list of preferences, those that cannot give us anything in return, those that do not attract us, those that are less useful. 

I received a letter this morning from a chaplain of a Children’s Home, a Protestant and Lutheran chaplain of a Children’s Home in Ukraine. Children orphaned by the War, children alone, abandoned. And he said: ‘This is my service: to accompany these rejected ones, because they have lost their parents, the cruel War has left them alone.’ This man does what Jesus asks him: he looks after the little ones in the tragedy. And when I read that letter, written with so much grief, I was moved, because I said: ‘Lord, I see that you continue inspiring the true values of the Kingdom.’

“When?” This Pastor will ask when he meets the Lord. That astonished “when,” which returns no less than four times in the questions that humanity addresses to the Lord (cf. vv,., arrives late, only “when the Son of Man comes in His glory” (v. 31). 

Brothers, sisters, we are not surprised either. Let us take great care not to sweeten the flavour of the Gospel because often, out of convenience or comfort, we tend to soften Jesus’ message, to dilute His words. Let us accept Him. We have become quite good in compromising the Gospel — always up to here, up to there – [because of] commitments. Feed the hungry, yes, but the problem of hunger is complex and, of course, I cannot solve it. Help the poor, yes, but then the injustices must be addressed in a certain way, and that is why it is better to wait, also because if you commit yourself then you risk being bothered always, and, perhaps, you realize that you could have done it better, so, it is best to wait a bit.

To be close to the sick and the imprisoned, yes, but in the newspaper headlines and social networks there are more acute problems. Why should I be interested in them? To welcome immigrants, yes, of course, but it is a complicated general question, it is about policy …  I don’t get involved in such things . . .  Always commitments: ‘Yes, Yes . . .’ but ‘no, no.’ These are the commitments we make with the Gospel. “Yes” to everything but in the end “no” to all. And so, by dint of “but” and “however” – we are so often men of women of “but” and of “however” – we make of life a commitment with the Gospel. From simple disciples of the Master we become masters of complexity, who argue a lot and do little, who look for more answers in front of a computer rather than in front of a Crucifix, on the Internet rather than in the eyes of our brothers;  Christians that comment, debate, proffer theories, but that do not even know a poor man by name, have not visited a sick person in months, have never fed or clothed anyone, have never made friends with someone in need, forgetting that “a Christian’s program is a heart that sees” (Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est, 31).

When did they do so? – The great surprise: surprise on the correct side and on the just side — When? Never? Both the righteous and the unrighteous ask themselves, surprised. The answer is only one: the when is now, today, when leaving this Eucharist – now, today. It is in our hands, in our works of mercy, not in polished points and analyses, not in individual or social justifications, but in our hands and we are responsible. The Lord reminds us today that death becomes the truth of life and eliminates all the attenuations of mercy. Brothers, sisters, we cannot say that we did not know. We cannot confuse the reality of beauty with artificial makeup. The Gospel explains how to live the waiting: we go to the encounter with God loving because He is love. And, on the day of our farewell, the surprise will be a happy one if we now allow ourselves to be surprised by the presence of God, who waits for us among the poor and wounded of the world. Let us not be afraid of this surprise: let us advance in the things the Gospel tells us, to be judged righteous at the end. God waits to be caressed not with words but with deeds. 

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