The Pope’s homily for Vespers at the Vatican basilica follows below. He sets out a very clear direction for Christian living and pastoral activity. Are we going to listen? The Pope preached:
I thank all of
you who have chosen to participate in this liturgy of the last hour of the year
of the Lord 2012. This “hour” bears a particular intensity and becomes, in a
sense, a synthesis of all the hours of the year that is about to come to an
end. I cordially greet the Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, consecrated persons and
lay faithful, and especially the many people from the ecclesial community of
Rome. In a special way I greet the Authorities present, beginning with the
Mayor of the City, and thank them for choosing to share with us this moment of prayer
and thanksgiving to God.
The “Te Deum” that we raise to the Lord this evening, at the end of a calendar year, is a hymn of thanksgiving that opens with the praise – “We praise you, O God, we proclaim you to be the Lord” – and ends with a profession of faith – “You are our hope, we will not be confounded forever.” For all that came to pass over the course of the year, whether easy or difficult, barren or fruitful, we give thanks to God. The Te Deum, in fact, contains a profound wisdom, the wisdom that makes us say that, despite everything, there is good in the world, and this good is destined to triumph, thanks God, the God of Jesus Christ, who became incarnate, died, and rose again. Certainly, it is difficult, sometimes, to accept this profound reality, since evil makes more noise than the good: a brutal murder, the spread of violence, serious injustices make the news. Gestures of love and service, on the contrary, daily struggles endured with patience and fidelity are often left in the shadows. And this is why we cannot rely solely on the news if we want to understand the world and life. We must be able to remain in silence, in meditation, in calm and prolonged reflection; we must know how to stop and think. In this way, our mind can find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life, can go deeper into the events that occur in our lives and in the world, and come to the knowledge that allows us to evaluate things with new eyes. Especially in the recollection of conscience, where God speaks to us, we learn to look truthfully at our own actions, even at the evil within us and around us, to begin a journey of conversion that makes us wiser and better, more capable of creating solidarity and communion, of overcoming evil with good. The Christian is a man of hope, even and especially in the face of the darkness that often exists in the world, not as a consequence of God’s plans, but because of the wrong choices of man, because the Christian knows that the power of faith can move mountains ( cf. Mt 17:20): the Lord can brighten even the deepest darkness.
The Year of Faith, which the Church is living, should arouse in the heart of each believer a greater awareness that the encounter with Christ is the source of true life and a solid hope. Faith in Jesus allows a constant renewal of goodness and of the ability to rise from the quicksand of sin and to begin anew. In the Word made flesh is possible, to rediscover the true identity of man, who finds himself destined for the infinite love of God and called to a personal communion with Him. This truth, that Jesus Christ came to reveal, is the certainty that drives us to face with confidence the year we are about to begin.
The Church, which has received from her Lord the mission to evangelize, knows well that the Gospel is for all people, especially the younger generations, to quench that thirst for truth that everyone carries in his heart and that is often obscured by all those things that occupy life. This apostolic commitment is all the more necessary when the faith risks being obscured in cultural contexts which hinder its personal roots and its social presence. Rome, too, is a city where the Christian faith must be proclaimed again and again and witnessed in a credible manner. On the one hand, there is the growing number of believers of other religions, the difficulties parish communities have in attracting young people, the spread of lifestyles marked by individualism and moral relativism; on the other, the quest, in so many people, for a sense of their own existence and for a hope that will not disappoint, that cannot leave us indifferent. Like the Apostle Paul (cf. Rom 1:14-15) all the faithful of this city should consider themselves under obligation of the Gospel towards the other inhabitants!
For this reason, for several years now, our Diocese has been committed to highlighting the missionary dimension of ordinary pastoral care, so that the faithful, supported especially by the Sunday Eucharist, can become disciples and coherent witnesses of Jesus Christ. Christian parents, who are for their children the primary educators in the faith, are called in a special way to this coherence in their lives. The complexity of life in a great city like Rome and in a culture that often seems indifferent to God, demands that we not leave fathers and mothers alone in so crucial a task, but rather that we support and accompany them in their spiritual life. In this regard, I encourage those who work in family ministry to implement the pastoral activities that emerged from the last Diocesan Convention, dedicated to baptismal and post-baptismal pastoral care. It requires a generous commitment to develop the paths of spiritual formation that after the baptism of children will go with the parents in order to keep the flame of faith alive, offering concrete suggestions so that, from an early age, the Gospel of Jesus will be announced. The emergence of groups of families, in which the Word of God is heard and the experiences of Christian life are shared helps to strengthen the sense of belonging to the ecclesial community and to grow in friendship with the Lord. It is also important to build a relationship of cordial friendship with those of the faithful who, after having baptized their child, distracted by the demands of everyday life, do not show great interest in living this experience: they will be able to experience the love of the Church, as a caring mother, stands by them to promote their spiritual life.
In order to proclaim the Gospel and to allow those who still do not know Jesus, or have abandoned Him, to cross again the threshold of faith and live in communion with God, it is essential to know in depth the meaning of the truths cont
ained in the Profession of Faith. The commitment to a systematic training of pastoral workers, which for some years now has taken place in the various prefectures of the Diocese of Rome, is a valuable tool that must be pursued with commitment in the future, in order to form lay people who know how to echo the Gospel in every house and in every room, even in those listening centres that have brought so much fruit since the time of the city Missions. In this respect, the “Dialogues in the Cathedral,” which have been held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran for some years, constitute a particularly appropriate experience to encounter the City and to dialogue with those who seek God and truth, and who are inquiring into the into the great questions of human existence.
As in the past, so today the Church of Rome is called to announce and to tirelessly witness to the riches of the Gospel of Christ. It must do so also by supporting the many people living in situations of poverty and marginalization, as well as families in need, especially when they have to assist sick and disabled people. I hope very much that the Institutions at various levels will not allow their activities to cease, so that all citizens might have access to what is essential to a dignified life.
Dear friends, on the last night of the year that is coming to an end, and at the threshold of the new, let us praise the Lord! Let us show to “He who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8) repentance and asking for forgiveness for their offenses, as well as the sincere thanks for the countless benefits granted by the divine goodness. In particular, we give thanks for the grace and truth that have come to us through Jesus Christ. In Him the fullness of all human time is placed. The future of every human being is kept safe in him. In Him, the fulfilment of the hopes of the Church and of the world comes true. Amen.