Vatican City, 1 November 2013 (VIS) – This afternoon, at 4 p.m., the Holy Father celebrated Mass at the entrance to the monumental cemetery of Verano in Rome. The concelebrants were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Archbishop Filippo Iannone, vice-regent of the diocese of Rome, the auxiliary bishops and Fr. Armando Ambrosi, priest of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (St Lawrence outside the Walls) parish church, where the cemetery is located.
“At this time, before sunset”, said the Pope in his homily, “we are gathered in this cemetery to think about our future and about all those who are no more, those who have gone before us in life and are now in the Lord … in the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, full love. All this awaits us. Those who have preceded us and are departed to the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not only for their works – they have also done good works – but that they have been saved by the Lord. … It is He Who saves us, it is He Who at the end of our life leads us by the hand like a father, to the Heaven where our ancestors await us”.
“We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ … that has justified us, that has opened the doors to Heaven to us. And if today we recall these brothers and sisters of ours who have preceded us in life and are now in Heaven, it is because they have been washed by the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of the blood of Christ! A hope that does not disappoint. If we walk the path of life with the Lord, He never disappoints us”.
Francis went on to cite the passage in the Gospel of St. John: “'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him'. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. To see God is “to be similar to God: this is our hope. And today, precisely on the day of All Saints and before the day of All Souls, it is necessary to think a little about hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope as an anchor, as if life was the anchor thrown to the shores of Heaven and all of us set forth towards that shore, grasping the rope of the anchor. It is a beautiful image of hope: to anchor our hearts where our dearly departed await us, where the saints, Jesus and God are. It is the hope that does not disappoint us. Today and tomorrow are days of hope”.
Hope, he continued, “is like leaven, that enlarges the soul; there are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul forges ahead and looks to what awaits us. … Hope also purifies us, and lightens us: this purification in hope in Jesus Christ allows us to go on swiftly. As the sun starts to set today, each one of us can think of the sunset of our own lives”. And if we look forward with joy to being welcomed by the Lord, “this is a Christian thought, that brings peace to us. Today is a day of joy, but it is a serene and tranquil joy, the joy of peace. Let us think of the sunsets of the many brothers and sisters who have preceded us, and let us think of our own sunset, when it arrives. And let us think of our hearts, and ask ourselves, 'Where is my heart anchored?' If it is not anchored well, let us anchor it there, on that shore, in the knowledge that hope never disappoints, because the Lord Jesus never disappoints”.
At the end of the Mass, the Pope blessed the tombs and concluded, “I would like to pray especially for our brothers and sisters who have died seeking freedom, a more worthwhile life. We have seen the photographs depicting the cruelty of the desert; we have seen the sea where many have drowned. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for the survivors, who now languish in shelters, in the hope that the necessary legal procedures will be completed swiftly so that they might move on to other more comfortable places, in other centres”.