Pope's Homily at Memorial Mass for Deceased Cardinals and Bishops
"The Shepherds Whom We Remember Today Have, In Fact, Served the Church with Fidelity and Love"
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VATICAN CITY, Nov. 4, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of the Holy Father's homily during Mass on Saturday for the repose of the Cardinals and Bishops who have passed away this year.
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dear brothers and sisters!
The Communion of Saints and the commemoration of the faithful who have died are present and live in our hearts. The liturgy has allowed us to experience these in an intense way in the celebrations of the past few days. In particular, visiting cemeteries has helped us to renew our bond with the loved ones who have left us; death, paradoxically, preserves that which life cannot hold onto. The way our dead lived, what they loved, feared and hoped, what they rejected, we discover, in fact, in a special way precisely at their graves, which are almost a mirror of their existence, of their world: they speak to us and lead us to renew the dialogue that death brought to a crisis. Thus, the cemeteries constitute a kind of assembly in which the living meet their dead and strengthen the bonds of communion that death was unable to interrupt. And here in Rome, in these unique cemeteries that are the catacombs, we notice, as in no other place, our link to ancient Christianity, which we feel quite near to us. When we enter into the corridors of the Roman catacombs – just as when we enter the cemeteries of our own cities and towns – it is as if we have crossed over a spiritual threshold and entered into communication with them whose past, with its joys and sorrows, failures and hopes, they safeguard. This happens because death regards the man of today in the same way that it regarded the man of the past; moreover, even if many things of the past have become foreign to us, death has remained the same.
In the face of this reality, human beings of every age seek a glimmer of light that permits hope, that still speaks of life, and visiting cemeteries expresses this desire too. But how do we Christians respond to this question of death? We respond with faith in God, with a look firm with hope founded on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So death opens to life, to eternal life, which is not an infinite doubling of the present time but something completely new. Faith tells us that the true immortality to which we aspire is not an idea, a concept, but a relation of full communion with the living God: it is being in his hands, in his love, and becoming in him one with all our brothers and sisters that he has created and redeemed, with the whole of creation. Our hope, then, rests in God’s love which shines on the Cross of Christ and makes Jesus’ words to the good thief resound in our hearts: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This is life that has reached its fullness, life in God; it is a life that now we can only glimpse as one glimpses calm skies through the clouds.
In this climate of faith and prayer, dear Brothers, we are gathered about the altar to offer the eucharistic Sacrifice on behalf of cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, who over the past year have ended their earthly existence. In a particular way we recall our mourned Brother Cardinals John Patrick Foley, Anthony Bevilacqua, José Sánchez, Ignace Moussa Daoud, Luis Aponte Martínez, Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, Eugênio de Araújo Sales, Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, Carlo Maria Martini, Fortunato Baldelli. We also extend our affectionate remembrance to all of the deceased archbishops and bishops, asking the Lord, who is faithful, just and merciful (cf. Psalm 114), to will to grant them the eternal reward promised to the faithful servants of the Gospel.
Reflection once more upon the witness of these venerable Brothers of ours, we can recognize in them those “meek” disciples, the “merciful,” “pure of heart,” “peacemakers” of which the Gospel passage spoke (Matthew 5:1-12): friends of the Lord who, trusting in his promises through difficulties and even through persecutions, preserved the joy of faith, and now live forever in the Father’s house and enjoy the heavenly recompense, filled with happiness and grace. The Shepherds whom we remember today have, in fact, served the Church with fidelity and love, sometimes confronting burdensome trials to assure the flock entrusted to them their attention and care. In the variety of respective gifts and tasks, they have given an example of mindful vigilance, of wise and zealous dedication to the Kingdom of God, offering a precious contribution to the post-conciliar season, a time of renewal in the whole Church.
The eucharistic Feast that they approached first as laymen and then, daily, as ministers, anticipates in the most eloquent way that which the Lord promised in the “Sermon on the Mount”: the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the feast of the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us pray that this happens for everyone. Our prayer is nourished by this first hope that “does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5), because it is guaranteed by Christ who wished to experience death in the flesh so as to triumph over it with the wondrous event of the Resurrection. “Why do you seek among the dead he who is alive? He is not here, he is risen” (Luke 24:5-6). This announcement by the angels, proclaimed on Easter morning at the empty sepulcher has come down to us through the centuries, and it proposes, in this liturgical assembly as well, the essential reason for our hope. In fact, “if we have died in Christ,” says St. Paul, alluding to what happens in Baptism, “we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:8). It is the same Holy Spirit – through whom the love of God has been poured into our hearts – that makes it so that our hope is not in vain (cf. Romans 5:5). If God the Father, rich in mercy, handed his only begotten Son over to death while we were still sinners, how will he not grant us salvation now that we are justified through his blood? (cf. Romans 5:6-11). Our justice is based on faith in Christ. He is the “Just One,” proclaimed beforehand in all of the Scriptures; it is by his Paschal Mystery that, crossing over the threshold of death, our eyes are able to see God, to contemplate his face (cf. Job 19:27).
Alongside the singular human existence of the Son of God is that of his Most Holy Mother, who, alone among all creatures, we venerate as the Immaculate and as full of grace. Our brother cardinals and bishops, whom we remember today, were loved with predilection by the Virgin Mary and have returned her love with filial devotion. To her maternal intercession we wish to entrust their souls that they might be introduced into the eternal Kingdom of the Father, surrounded by many members of the flock for whom they gave their life. May Mary watch over with her loving gaze those who sleep in peace in expectation of the blessed resurrection. And, sustained by the hope that we will all meet again one day united forever in Paradise, we lift up our prayer for them to God. Amen.
[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]