Chapter 3

Chapter 3


Pope Francis

04.11.21 Holy Mass for the repose of the Cardinals and Bishops deceased during the course of the year

St Peter’s Basilica, Altar of the Cathedral

Lamentations 3: 17-26,

Matthew 25: 31-46

In the first Reading we heard this invitation: “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3: 26). This attitude is not a starting point, but rather a destination. Indeed, the author reaches it at the end of a journey, a troubled journey, that enabled him to grow. He arrives at the comprehension of the beauty of trusting in the Lord, who never fails to keep his promises. But trusting in God is not born of a momentary enthusiasm; it is not an emotion, nor is it a sentiment. On the contrary, it comes from experience and matures with patience, as in the case of Job, who passes from a knowledge of God “by hearsay” to a living, experiential knowledge. And for this to happen, it takes a long inner transformation that, through the crucible of suffering, leads to knowing how to wait in silence, that is, with confident patience, with a meek soul. This patience is not resignation, because it is nurtured by the expectation of the Lord, whose coming is sure and does not disappoint.

Dear brothers and sisters, how important it is to learn the art of waiting for the Lord! To wait for him meekly, confidently, chasing away phantoms, fanaticism and clamour; preserving, especially in times of trial, a silence filled with hope. This is how we prepare for life’s last and greatest trial, death. But first there are the trials of the moment, there is the cross we have now, and for which we ask the Lord for the grace to know how to wait here, right here, for his coming salvation.

Each one of us needs to mature in this regard. Faced with life's difficulties and problems, it is difficult to have patience and remain calm. Irritation sets in and despair often comes. And so it can happen that we are strongly tempted by pessimism and resignation, we see everything as black, and we get used to disheartened and complaining tones, similar to those of the sacred author who says at the beginning: “Gone is my glory, and my expectation from the Lord” (v. 18). In adversity, not even the beautiful memories of the past can console us, because our affliction leads the mind to dwell on the difficult moments. And this increases bitterness; it seems that life is a continuous chain of misfortunes, as the author admits: “[I] remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall” (v. 19).

At this point, however, the Lord makes a turning point, at the very moment when, while continuing to dialogue with Him, it seems as if we are at rock bottom. In the abyss, in the anguish of nonmeaning, God draws near to save us. And when bitterness reaches its peak, hope suddenly flourishes again. It is a bad thing to reach old age with a bitter heart, with a disappointed heart, with a heart critical of new things, it is very hard. “But this I call to mind”, says the praying man in the Book of Lamentations, “and therefore I have hope”. Resuming hope in the moment of bitterness. In the midst of sorrow, those who are close to the Lord see that he unlocks suffering, opens it, transforms it into a door through which hope enters. It is a paschal experience, a painful passage that opens to life, a kind of spiritual labour that in the darkness makes us come to the light again.

This turning point is not because the problems have disappeared, no, but because crisis has become a mysterious opportunity for inner purification. Prosperity, in fact, often makes us blind, superficial, proud. This is the road to which prosperity leads us. On the other hand, the passage through trials, if lived in the warmth of faith, despite its hardness and tears, allows us to be reborn, and we find ourselves different from the past. A Church father wrote that “nothing, more than suffering, leads to the discovery of new things” (Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. 34). Trial renews us, because it removes many of the waste and teaches us to look beyond, beyond the darkness, to see for ourselves that the Lord really does save and that He has the power to transform everything, even death. He lets us pass through bottlenecks and does not abandon us, but accompanies us. Yes, because God accompanies us, especially in pain, like a father who helps his son to grow up well by being close to him in difficulties without taking his place. And before the tears appear on our faces, the emotion has already reddened the eyes of God the Father. He weeps first, I would say. Grief remains a mystery, but in this mystery, we can discover in a new way the paternity of God who visits us in our difficulties, and go so far as to say, with the author of Lamentations: “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him” (v. 25).

Today, before the mystery of redeemed death, let us ask for the grace to look at adversity with different eyes. Let us ask for the strength to know how to live in the meek and trusting silence that awaits the salvation of the Lord, without complaining, without grumbling, without allowing ourselves to be saddened. What seems like a punishment will turn out to be a grace, a new demonstration of God’s love for us. Knowing how to wait in silence - without grumbling, in silence - for the salvation of the Lord is an art, on the road to holiness. Let us cultivate it. It is precious in the time in which we are living: now more than ever there is no need to shout, to make a fuss, to become bitter; what is needed is for each of us is to witness with our lives our faith, which is a docile and hopeful expectation. Faith is this: docile and hopeful expectation. Christians do not diminish the seriousness of suffering, no, but they raise their eyes to the Lord and under the blows of adversity they trust in Him and pray: they pray for those who suffer. The Christian keeps his eyes on Heaven, but his hands are always outstretched towards to earth, to serve his neighbour concretely. Even in times of sadness, of darkness: service.

In this spirit, let us pray for the Cardinals and Bishops who have left us in the past year. Some of them died as a result of Covid-19, in difficult situations that compounded their suffering. May these brothers of ours now savour the joy of the Gospel invitation that the Lord addresses to his faithful servants: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).