By Alessandro Di Bussolo
In his homily at Mass for the commemoration of the deceased faithful, in the Church of the Teutonic Cemetery in the Vatican, Pope Francis made the prophet Job's words his own, and explained that Christian hope is a free gift of the Lord that we must ask for, an "anchor that we have on the other side, where Jesus awaits us".
In moments of joy as well as in moments of trial, even when death is approaching, "let us repeat, as Job did: I know that my Redeemer lives, and I will see Him with my own eyes". This is Christian hope, the Pope said, a gift that only the Lord can give us, if we ask Him for it. Today, "in the thought of so many brothers and sisters who have died, it will do us good to look up".
This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis' homily during Mass for the deceased faithful, celebrated on Monday afternoon, All Souls' Day, in the church of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Camposanto. The Pope then prayed at the tombs of the Vatican cemetery and in the Vatican Grottoes, at the tombs of the deceased Pontiffs.
The certainty of Christian hope
He commented on the passage from the First Reading of today's liturgy, taken from the Book of the Prophet Job, who though "defeated", expresses a certainty: "I know that my Redeemer lives and that, in the end, He will stand on Earth". Pope Francis explained that Job is feeling "lower, lower, and lower", but that at that moment "there is that embrace of light and warmth that reassures him: "I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another."
The Pope underlined that this certainty, that arrives almost at the moment of the end of life "is Christian hope". This hope is a gift, and "we cannot have it", we must ask for it: "Lord, give me hope". There are many ugly things that lead us to despair, to believe that everything will be a final defeat, that after death there is nothing, said the Pope, "but the voice of Job returns."
Pope Francis went on to explain that Paul told us that hope does not disappoint. Hope attracts us and gives meaning to life. Hope is God's gift that draws us towards life, towards eternal joy. Hope is an anchor that we have on the other side: we sustain ourselves by clinging onto its rope. I know that my Redeemer is alive and I will see him, and this must be repeated it in moments of joy and in moments of trial, in moments of death.
Hope, adds the Pope, "is a free gift that we never deserve: it is given, it is given. It is grace". And in the passage from John's Gospel, Jesus confirms "this hope that does not disappoint: 'All that the Father gives me will come to me. This is the purpose of hope: to go to Jesus". The Lord, concluded the Pontiff, is He "who receives us there, where there is an anchor. Life in hope is living like this: clinging, with the rope in your hand, strong, knowing that the anchor is there".
Today, thinking of so many brothers and sisters who have died, it will do us good to look at the cemeteries and look up and repeat, as Job did: "I know that my Redeemer lives and I will see him, myself; my eyes will contemplate him, and not another". And this is the strength that gives us hope, this free gift that is the virtue of hope. May the Lord give it to us all.
The rector's address
In his greeting, at the beginning of the celebration, the rector of the Teutonic college, Monsignor Hans-Peter Fischer, pointed out that the participants attending the celebration in the small church are "in communion with all those who have gone before us and who sleep the sleep of peace here, our holy neighbours next door who remind us every day that we 'drink' the time of life, we still live it".
The rector told the Pope that in the college, the guest priests, scholars of Christian archaeology and Church history, come "from different cultures and peoples," and explained that they all "speak different languages." the differences, he continued, are many, but nothing "has prevented us from meeting and being happy to be together", because "we know that Someone makes us brothers and sisters". In expressing his joy and gratitude for the presence of the Pope, "pilgrim among pilgrims." He concluded expressing the will of all those present to be in tune with the Pope and his teaching, "welcoming the great gift of his tenderness as a father and friend".
The prayers of the faithful
During the prayers of the faithful, the assembly turnede to the Lord in prayer for the Pope, so that "His instinct, the Holy Spirit" and the love of the Christian people, "may continue to support and guide him" in "his work of purification of the Church". For the migrants, "so that with their lives torn apart, fleeing wars, natural disasters and persecutions, they may be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated because something can be learned from everyone and no one is useless". And then for all of us, "so that the pain, uncertainty, fear and awareness of our own limits" brought by the pandemic may lead us "to rethink our lifestyles, our relationships, the organization of our societies and above all the meaning of our existence".
The final prayer was for the people of God, that "they may experience a Church that is more human and closer, a family style community that inhabits the labours of people and families, so that it may be a presence that knows how to unite love to truth and love to every man and woman", and for all the dead, "for the dead without voice and without name, so that God the Father may welcome them into eternal peace, where there is neither anxiety nor pain".