Due to a “painful sciatica” Francis did not celebrate Vespers nor recite the end-of-year thanksgiving Te Deum. Cardinal Re read the Pope’s homily, which highlights the acts of “closeness” of many people working for the common good in healthcare, education and public service.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis was not present today at the celebration of Vespers and the recitation of the end-of-year Te Deum because of a “painful sciatica”, this according to Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office. Nevertheless, the pontiff offered his thoughts, read by Card Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals. Tomorrow, Francis will not celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of the Mother of God and World Day of Peace, but he will recite the Angelus prayer.
In his reflection, the Holy Father said that we might find some sense in the ongoing pandemic, like other tragedies that have struck humanity, in the compassion, attitudes and acts of “closeness, care, and solidarity” of people, like doctors and nurses, as well as teachers and political leaders, who are committed to the common good.
Cardinal Re celebrated the first Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God, followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the traditional Te Deum hymn.
In the homily read by Card Re, Francis notes that “it might seem overdone, almost jarring, to thank God at the end of a year like this, marked by the pandemic. [Yet,] Let us turn our minds to the families who lost one or more members, to those who have been sick, to those who have felt loneliness, to those who lost their job.”
“Some might ask: What is the meaning of a tragedy like this?” For Francis, the answer is in God the “Shepherd”. “What shepherd would give up even a single sheep, simply because they still have many others left? No, such a 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 roadside, did not give him a speech to explain the meaning of what had happened to him, perhaps to convince him that it was basically for his own good. Moved by compassion, the Samaritan bent over that stranger, treating him like a brother and took care of him, doing everything in his power (cf. Lk 10:25-37).
“We might find here some ‘sense’ for this tragedy, the pandemic, like other tragedies that have affected humanity: arousing compassion in us and attitudes and acts of closeness, care, and solidarity. This is what is also happening and has happened in Rome in recent months. Above all, tonight let us give thanks to God for this, for the good things that have happened in our city during the lockdown and, more generally, in the time of the pandemic, which unfortunately is not over yet.”
“Without too much fuss, many people have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable. Through their daily work, moved by love for their neighbour, they have fulfilled the words of the Te Deum hymn: “Day by day we bless you. We praise your name forever.” The blessing and praise that please God the most is brotherly love. Health care workers – doctors, nurses, nurses, volunteers – are in the front line, and for this they are always in our prayers and deserve our gratitude, as do many priests, and men and women religious.”
However, “our thanks tonight also go to all those who strive every day to provide for their family and serve the common good in the best possible way. Let us consider in particular school administrators and teachers who play an essential role in social life and have to face a very complex situation. Let us also consider with gratitude public officials who know how to put to good use their city’s or territory’s resources without concern for private or partisan interests, who truly seek the good of all starting with the most disadvantaged. None of this can happen without God’s grace and mercy.”
“We know well, from experience, that in difficult moments we are naturally led to defend and protect ourselves and our loved ones, to protect our interests”. Yet, “How come so many people – with no other reward than that of doing the right thing – find the strength to worry about others? What drives them to give up something of themselves, a bit of their own comfort, time, and possessions, and give it to others?
“In fact, even if they themselves do not dwell upon it, they are pushed by God’s strength, which is more powerful than our own selfishness. For this reason, we praise him, for we believe and know that all the good that is done on earth day after day comes, in the end, from him. As we look to the future that awaits us, let us again implore [the Lord]: ‘Have mercy on us, for we put our trust in you’.”