Leading a celebration of Vespers in the Vatican Basilica on Sunday afternoon, Pope Francis spoke of his gratitude for the many ways in which Rome’s residents have worked to promote the common good of the city over the past year.
The celebration concluded with the singing of the traditional Te Deum, after which the Pope went outside and spent a few moments greeting well-wishers and praying in front of the life-sized Nativity scene in St Peter's Square.
Fullness of time
The Pope began his homily at Vespers by reflecting on the “fullness of time” when the Word was made flesh through the birth of the Christ child.
Mary, the Mother of God or Theotokos as she’s called in the Orthodox world, was the first to experience that sense of fullness, the Pope said, as her humble heart and her whole being was “saturated with the Holy Spirit”.
Sense of gratitude
From Mary, he continued, the Church inherits this inner perception of fullness which nourishes a sense of gratitude as the only human response to God’s great gift for us. In this spirit of gratitude, he said, we lift up to God our thanksgiving for the year that draws to a close.
Wasting God’s gift
As we look back over 2017, Pope Francis said, we must recognise the many ways we have wasted and wounded God’s gifts “with works of death, with lies and injustices”. Wars are the flagrant sign of this backsliding and absurd pride, he said, but so are all the small and great offenses against life, truth, and solidarity, which cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation.
Working for the common good
But the Pope also expressed his gratitude to all those living and working for the common good in the city of Rome, seeking to “do their duty”, to “respect public places”, to “point out things that are wrong” and to “pay attention to the elderly or those in difficulty”.
Teaching civic values
In particular, he praised the work of all parents, teachers and educators who try to train children and young people in a civic sense and an ethic of responsibility. Though they may not make the news, he said, they are the majority of Rome’s residents, striving to do what they can, even though many live in difficult economic conditions.
Today, in thanksgiving to God, the Pope concluded, let us all express our gratitude for all these craftsmen of the common good, who love their city not only with words but also with deeds.
Please find below the full text of the Pope’s homily for Vespers in St Peter’s Basilica
"When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son" (Gal 4:4). This celebration of Vespers breathes the atmosphere of the fullness of time. It’s not because we are on the last evening of the solar year, far from it, but because faith makes us contemplate and feel that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, gave fullness to time, both of the world and of human history.
«Born of a woman» (v.4). The first person to experience the sense of fullness given by Jesus’ presence was precisely the "woman" from whom He was "born". The Mother of the Incarnate Son, Theotokos, the Mother of God. Through her, so to speak, the fullness of time has flowed: through her humble heart, so full of faith, and through her whole flesh saturated with the Holy Spirit.
From her the Church has inherited and continuously inherits this inner perception of fullness, which nourishes a sense of gratitude, as the only human response worthy of the immense gift of God. An overflowing gratitude, which, starting from the contemplation of that Child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, extends to everything and everyone, throughout the whole world. It is a "thank you" that reflects Grace; it comes not from us but from Him; it comes not from the self, but from God, and involves both the self and the community.
In this atmosphere created by the Holy Spirit, we lift up to God our thanksgiving for the year that draws to a close, recognizing all good things are God’s gift.
Even the year 2017, which God gave us whole and healthy, we human beings have in many ways wasted and wounded it with works of death, with lies and injustices. Wars are the flagrant sign of this backsliding and absurd pride. But so are all the small and great offenses against life, truth, and solidarity, which cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation. We desire to and must assume fully, before God, our brothers and Creation, our own responsibility.
But tonight the Grace of Jesus prevails and his reflection in Mary. Therefore, gratitude prevails, which, as Bishop of Rome, I feel in my soul, thinking of people who live with an open heart in this city.
I feel a sense of warmness and gratitude for all those people who contribute every day with small but precious and concrete actions to the good of Rome: they try to do their duty as best as possible; they confront its traffic with care and prudence; they respect public places and they point out things that are wrong; they pay attention to the elderly or those in difficulty, and so on. These and a thousand other behaviours express concretely their love for the city of Rome. Without speeches, without grandiosity, but with a type of civic education practiced in everyday life. And so they silently cooperate in the common good.
I also feel a great esteem for parents, teachers and all educators who, in this same manner, try to train children and young people in a civic sense and an ethic of responsibility, educating them to belong, to take care of themselves, and to take an interest in the reality that surrounds them.
These people, even if they do not make the news, are the majority of the people who live in Rome. And among them, many are in difficult economic conditions; yet they do not cry uselessly, nor do they harbor resentment and grudges, but they strive to do their part every day to improve things a little.
Today, in thanksgiving to God, I invite you to express also gratitude for these craftsmen of the common good, who love their city not only with words but with deeds.