On the day of the commemoration of the dead, Pope Francis offers a mass by suffrage for the bishops and cardinals who have died during the year. But for the Holy Father it is an occasion to remember even the most suffering and needy and that is why his thoughts return to tormented Ukraine.
On November 2, on the occasion of the Commemoration of the Dead, in the papal chapel of Saint Peter, Pope Francis celebrated a mass in memory of all the deceased and in particular of the brother bishops and cardinals who died during this year. But, as is clear from the homily delivered by the Holy Father, this Eucharistic celebration was an opportunity to remember all the needy in the world.
Based on today’s Gospel taken from chapter 25 of Matthew, the Pontiff recalls how much the Lord is present in the smallest and most fragile. The whole essence is contained in the words of the Holy Father: “He who dwells in Heaven is the most insignificant for the world”. And speaking of the most distressed, Pope Francis admits to having been moved to read a letter from a chaplain who lives in Ukraine.
Pope Francis’ homily
In the opening words of his homily, Pope Francis focuses on two key words: expectation and surprise. The expectation which is the meaning of life: “Because we live in expectation of the encounter”. Because, as the Holy Father suggests, it is as if in earthly life we find ourselves: “In the waiting room of the world to enter Heaven”. And in any case, we are all waiting for someone who will know how to wipe the tears from our faces, who will bring us consolation and above all eternal joy. “It’s beautiful when the Lord comes to dry the tears! But it’s so bad when you hope that it’s someone else, and not the Lord, who wipes them away. And even worse, having no tears”. What the Pontiff insists on is the hope of having desires for fulfillment that are not earthly, because one could continually yearn for things that pass away, confusing desires and needs.
“But losing sight of what counts to chase the wind would be life’s greatest mistake. We look up, because we’re on our way up, when things down here won’t go up there”. Even the greatest successes in work, titles, awards, every milestone and material and earthly gain will not pass through the gate of Heaven. “Yet how much time, how much effort and energy do we spend worrying and saddening for these things, letting the tension towards home fade away, losing sight of the meaning of the journey, the purpose of the journey, the infinity we strive for, the joy for which we breathe! “. And it is from this concept that Pope Francis exhorts us to live in expectation of that greatest and absolute joy, which all the faithful proclaim in the profession of faith: “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”.
A moving thought for Ukraine
And after explaining the meaning of expectation, Pope Francis focuses on the second word presented: surprise. Here the reference to today’s Gospel is immediate. Jesus, addressing the people, affirms that all those who gave him food, drink, who visited him and cared for him, will see the Kingdom of Heaven. The astonishment and surprise of the righteous lead to the answer: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we ever see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothed? When have we ever seen you sick or in prison and come to visit you?” and Jesus’ answer is clear: “All that you have done to one of these least of my brothers, ‘you did it to me’.
And it is on this passage that the Holy Father invites us to reflect, on this “When ever? which expresses the surprise of the just and the consternation of the unjust. “In the divine tribunal, the only piece of merit and accusation is mercy to the poor and the rejected”. With this hypothesis, the Holy Father reveals that he received a letter from a Protestant Lutheran chaplain in a children’s home in Ukraine. In this house live orphans of war, children alone, abandoned. The Pontiff admits to being moved when, reading the words of the chaplain, the man said: “This is my service. Accompanying these abandoned, because they lost their parents, the cruel war made them remain alone”. This is the example of what Jesus asks. To be close to all those who are in need, who are suffering, who are asking “to drink”, “to eat”, for comfort, for mercy, for love.
The Gospel does not accept “compromises”
Pope Francis asks not to “compromise with the Gospel”. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by trivial things or think that your contribution cannot be essential. “From simple disciples of the Master we become masters of complexity, who argue a lot and do little, who seek answers more in front of the computer than in front of the Crucifix. On the Internet rather than in the eyes of siblings. Christians who comment, debate and theorize, but don’t even know a poor man by name, haven’t visited a sick person in months, never fed or clothed anyone, never bonded of friendship with a needy, forgetting that ‘the program of the Christian is a heart that sees’ – as Benedict XVI writes in Deus caritas est’.
And before concluding his homily on the occasion of the Mass of the commemoration of the dead, Pope Francis reveals that the answer to this “When ever? it is now, today. “On the day of our farewell, the surprise will be happy if now we allow ourselves to be surprised by the presence of God who awaits us among the poor and the wounded of the world. We are not afraid of this surprise. We go forward in the things the gospel tells us, to be judged righteous in the end. God expects to be touched not with words, but with deeds”.
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