FIRST VESPERS OF THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (Image from last year's Vespers)
AND TE DEUM OF THANKSGIVING FOR THE LAST YEAR
FULL TEXT HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
St. Peter's Basilica
Thursday, 31 December 2020
[ Homily of the Holy Father, read by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re ]
Cardinal Re read the text that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, had prepared for this occasion. Due to his sciatica the Holy Father was unable to preside at the Vespers but provided the homily.
Dearest brothers and sisters!
This evening celebration always has a double aspect: with the liturgy we enter the solemn feast of Mary Most Holy Mother of God; and at the same time we conclude the solar year with the great hymn of praise.
The first aspect will be discussed in the homily tomorrow morning . Tonight we give space to thanks for the year that is drawing to a close.
« Te Deum laudamus », «We praise you, God, we proclaim you Lord…». It might seem forced to thank God at the end of a year like this, marked by the pandemic. My thoughts go to families who have lost one or more members; let us think of those who have been sick, those who have suffered loneliness, those who have lost their jobs ...
Sometimes someone asks: what is the point of a drama like this? We must not be in a hurry to answer this question. Not even God responds to our most distressing “whys” by resorting to “superior reasons”. God's response follows the path of the incarnation, as the Antiphon at the Magnificat will soon sing : "For the great love with which he loved us, God sent his Son in the flesh of sin".
A God who sacrificed human beings for a great design, even if it were the best possible, is certainly not the God who revealed Jesus Christ to us. God is father, "eternal Father", and if his Son became man, it is through the immense compassion of the Father's heart. God is Father and shepherd, and which shepherd would give even one sheep lost, thinking that in the meantime he has many left? No, this cynical and ruthless god does not exist. This is not the God whom we "praise" and "proclaim Lord".
The good Samaritan, when he met that poor half-dead man on the side of the road, did not give him a speech to explain the meaning of what had happened to him, perhaps to convince him that it was really good for him. The Samaritan, moved by compassion , bent over that stranger, treating him as a brother and took care of him doing everything in his power ( cf.Lk 10 : 25-37).
Here, yes, perhaps we can find a "sense" of this drama that is the pandemic, as of other scourges that affect humanity: that of arousing in us compassion and provoking attitudes and gestures of closeness, care, solidarity, of affection.
This is what has happened and is also happening in Rome in recent months; and above all for this, tonight, we give thanks to God. We give thanks to God for the good things that happened in our city during the lockdown and, in general, in the time of the pandemic, which unfortunately is not over yet. There are many people who, without making any noise, have tried to make the weight of the test more bearable. With their daily commitment, animated by love for their neighbor, they realized those words of the hymn Te Deum : "Every day we bless you, we praise your name forever". Because the blessing and praise that God most pleases is brotherly love.
Health care workers - doctors, nurses, nurses, volunteers - are at the forefront, and for this they are particularly in our prayers and deserve our gratitude; as well as many priests, male and female religious, who did their utmost with generosity and dedication. But tonight our thanks extend to all those who strive every day to keep their families going in the best possible way and to those who are committed to their service to the common good. Let us think of school administrators and teachers, who play an essential role in social life and who have to face a very complex situation. We also think with gratitude of the public administrators who know how to enhance all the good resources present in the city and in the territory, who are detached from private interests and also from those of their party. Because? Because they truly seek the good of all, the common good, the good starting from the most disadvantaged.
All this cannot happen without grace, without God's mercy. We - we know this well from experience - in difficult moments we are led to defend ourselves - it is natural - we are led to protect ourselves and our loved ones, to protect our interests … How is it possible then that so many people, with no other reward than that of doing good, find the strength to worry about others? What drives them to give up something of themselves, of their own comfort, of their time, of their possessions, to give it to others? After all, even if they themselves do not think about it, the force of God pushes them, which is more powerful than our egoisms. For this reason, this evening we give praise to him, because we believe and know that all the good that is done day by day on earth comes, in the end, from him, comes from God. And looking to the future that awaits us, we again implore: "May your mercy always be with us, in you we have hoped". In you is our trust and our hope.