Devastation, Tribulation, Hope

Saturday evening Pope Francis went to Verano Cemetery in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. Allied planes bombed the area in 1943, causing Pius XII to rush there to console the victims. Francis celebrated there the Mass for All Saints Day.

In his extempore homily the Pope spoke of the even greater perils confronting humanity today.

When in the First Reading we heard this voice of the Angel who cried out loud o the Four Angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, "Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees" (Rev 7:3), this brought to mind a phrase that is not here but in everyone’s heart: men are capable of doing this better than you. We are capable of devastating the Earth far better than the Angels. And this is exactly what we are doing, this is what we do: we destroy creation, we devastate lives, we devastate cultures, we devastate values, we ravage hope. How greatly we need the Lord's strength to seal us with His love and His power to stop this mad race of destruction!

Towards the end of the homily, the Pope drew from the other readings of the Mass, a promise of hope:

And what should our attitude be if we want to be part of this multitude walking to the Father, in this world of devastation, in this world of war, in this world of distress? Our attitude, as we heard in the Gospel, is the attitude of the Beatitudes. That path alone will lead us to the encounter with God. That path alone will save us from destruction, from destroying the Earth, creation, morality, history, family, everything. That path alone. But it too will bring us through bad things. It will bring us trouble. Persecution. But that path alone will take us forward. And so, these people who are suffering so much today because of the selfishness of destroyers, destroyers of our brothers and sisters, these people struggle onwards with the Beatitudes, hoping to find God, to find themselves face to face with the Lord in the hope of becoming saints, at the moment of our final encounter with Him. "

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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