VATICAN CITY — At a special Mass honoring all of the bishops and cardinals who have died during the past year, Pope Francis said that nothing can separate Christians from the love of the merciful God.
“It is not by chance that Jesus wanted to preserve the wounds on his hands to make us feel his mercy. This is our strength and our hope,” the Pope said during his homily at a Nov. 4 Mass at the Altar of the Chair inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
In the month of November, “which is marked by the memory of the faithful departed,” said the Pope, “we remember our brother cardinals and bishops from around the world who have returned to the Father's house during the past year.”
Turning to the day’s readings, Pope Francis centered his homily on the words of St. Paul to the Romans, in which the apostle says that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell, can separate us from God's love, which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
St. Paul, the Holy Father said, refers to the love of God as “the deepest, most invincible motive for our trust in Christian hope,” especially in listing those things which can oppose and threaten one’s faith.
However, Pope Francis said, the apostle “states with confidence that, even if our entire existence is surrounded by threats, nothing will ever separate us from the love that Christ himself gained for us, giving of himself completely.”
“Even evil powers that are hostile to man are powerless in the face of the intimate union of love between Jesus and those who welcome him with faith,” he added.
The reality of God’s faithful love for each of his children helps Christians to face their daily lives, which are often “slow and tiring,” with “serenity and strength,” the Pope said.
He pointed out that the only thing capable of breaking this bond is a person’s sin, but that, “even in this case, God will always go in search for him to restore that union that lasts even after death.”
This certainty of God’s love, Pope Francis explained, gives “a new and full meaning to earthly life and opens us to hope for life beyond death.”
Each time that Christians face the death of a loved one, they naturally ask what will become of their life, work and service to the Church, noted the Holy Father. But he told those in attendance that Scripture assures them “that they are in God's hands.”
He said these pastors, “who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and to their brothers, are in the hands of God. They are well looked after, and they will not be corroded by death.”
“All their days, interwoven with joys and sufferings, hopes and labors, fidelity to the Gospel and passion for the spiritual and material salvation of their flocks, are in the hands of God,” said the Pope, reflecting that even a person’s sins are in the hands of God, “those merciful hands, with their wounds of love.”
“This reality, which is full of hope,” said the Holy Father, “is the prospect of final resurrection, of eternal life, to which the ‘righteous,’ those who accept the word of God and are obedient to his Spirit, are destined.”
With this hope, Pope Francis called to mind “our brother” bishops and cardinals who are deceased as “men who were devoted to their vocations and to their service to the Church, which they loved as one loves a bride.”
“In prayer, we entrust them to the mercy of the Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady and of St. Joseph, so they be welcomed into his Kingdom of light and peace, where the just and those who have been faithful witnesses to the Gospel live eternally,” he said.
Pope Francis ended his homily by praying that the Lord prepare every one for this encounter, saying, “We do not know the date, but that encounter will take place.”