In the homily prepared for New Year’s Eve Vespers, Pope Francis asked how we can give thanks to God after such a difficult year. God, he says, always has compassion for us, and we are thankful for the acts of closeness, care, and solidarity that we have seen throughout 2020.
Pope Francis, suffering from an attack of sciatica, was absent from the celebration of Vespers and the recitation of the Te Deum – the Church’s solemn chant of Thanksgiving for the past year – but nonetheless offered a reflection on how we can give thanks for the year that is drawing to a close.
The liturgy was presided over by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who pronounced the homily prepared by Pope Francis for the occasion.
In his homily, Pope Francis wrote that giving thanks “at the end of a year like this” might seem “forced,” or even jarring, especially when we think of families who have lost loved ones, of the sick, of those who have suffered alone, or who have lost their jobs.
“What sense does a tragedy as this have,” he asked. In the face of our questions, he responded, God does not appeal to “higher reasons,” as if He would sacrifice individuals for some higher good. Instead, His response is the Incarnation, sending His Only Son to become man to save each and every one.
Like the good Samaritan, God is moved with compassion, helping those who are suffering. And in this attitude, the Pope said, we can perhaps “find the ‘meaning’ meaning of this tragedy, of this pandemic, as well as other scourges that afflict humanity: that of arousing compassion in us and provoking attitudes and gestures of closeness, care, of solidarity, of affection.”
We see this happening around the world, and even in Rome, Pope Francis wrote, and “it is above all for this that we give thanks to God this evening: for the good things that have taken place in our cities during the lockdown and, in general, throughout the pandemic, which unfortunately is not yet over.”
Pope Francis praised the “many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of the trial more bearable.” He singled out not only healthcare workers, and priests and religious on the front lines, but also “all those who strive every day in the best way possible to carry on their service to their families and to those who are committed in their service to the common good.” He singled out especially teachers and school administrators, as well as civic leaders who put the good of others, especially the most disadvantaged, ahead of their own private interests.
“All this cannot happen without the grace, without the mercy of God,” Pope Francis said. “How is it possible… that so many people, without any other reward than of doing good, found the strength to be concerned about others?” he asked. “In the end, even if they themselves are not aware of it, what fortifies them is God’s strength which is more powerful than our selfishness.” And so, the Pope said, “For this reason, this evening we give praise to Him, because we believe and we know that all the good that is accomplished day after day on earth, in the end, comes from Him, comes from God.”
The Pope concluded his prepared remarks by looking toward the future that awaits us, with the prayer, “May your mercy always be with us, Lord, for we have hoped in You.”
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.