In his last set of catechesis on mercy, Pope Francis focused on the works of praying for the living and the dead, as well as burying the dead, insisting that since we are all part of one family in Christ, we must remember to pray constantly for one another.
When we say “I believe in the communion of Saints” while reciting the Nicene Creed, “it’s a mystery that expresses the beauty of the mercy that Jesus revealed to us…all, living and dead, we are in communion.”
This communion is “like a union: united in the community of the many who have received baptism,” he said, noting that since all of us by virtue of our same baptism “are the same family, united,” we must “pray for each other.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for his general audience, concluding his catechesis on mercy. He began the series last fall as a lead-in to the Jubilee of Mercy, which closed Nov. 20.
In his address, the Pope noted that while his weekly lessons on mercy, which culminated with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, might be over, “mercy must continue! Let us thank the Lord for this and conserve it in our heart as a comfort and consolation.”
Turning to the final spiritual work of mercy, which is to pray for the living and the dead, he said it is a natural complement for the last corporal work of mercy, which is to bury the dead.
Burying the dead might seem like “a strange request,” he said, but noted that in conflict zones and areas “where they live under the scourge of war, with bombs that every day and night sow fear and innocent victims,” this work “is sadly present.”
“There are those who risk their lives to bury the poor victims of war,” he said, and because of this, to bury the dead is a work of mercy which “is not far from our daily existence.”
This work, Francis said, points to the burial of Jesus on Good Friday. He noted how after Jesus’ death, a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea came and offered his own new tomb.
“He went personally to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus: a true work of mercy done with great courage,” the Pope said, explaining that for Christians, “the burial is an act of piety, but also an act of great faith.”
When it comes to praying for the dead, Francis said this work is above all a recognition of the witness the deceased left for us, and of “the good that they did. It is a thanksgiving to the Lord for having given them and for their love and friendship.”
Pope Francis pointed to how during each Mass, the Church pauses for a moment to remember those who have gone before us, noting that this prayer is a “simple” yet efficient and meaningful reminder, because in it we entrust our loved ones to God’s mercy.
“We pray with Christian hope that they are with Him in paradise, in the expectation of being together again in that mystery of love that we don’t understand, but which we know is true because it is a promise that Jesus made,” he said.
However, the Pope said that while it is good and necessary to remember the faithful departed, this shouldn’t make us forget “to also pray for the living, who together with us every day confront the trials of life.”
There are many ways to pray for others, he said, noting how many mothers and fathers bless their children in the morning and at night.
Francis also recalled a young business owner present at yesterday’s daily Mass in the chapel of the Saint Martha guesthouse. This man, he said, had to close his company because they couldn’t sustain it anymore.
This man, the Pope said, “cried saying: ‘I don’t feel that I can leave more than 50 families without work. I could declare the company’s bankruptcy: I go home with my money, but my heart will cry me entire life for those 50 families.'”
“This is a good Christian who prays with the works: he came to Mass to pray so that the Lord would give him a way out, not only for him, but for the 50 families,” Francis said, pointing to him as a clear example of what it means to pray for one’s neighbor.
Pope Francis closed his address by repeating that while his catechesis on mercy is over, we must pray “so that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy become increasingly the style of our life.”
The catechesis “ends here. We made this path of the 14 works of mercy, but mercy must continue and we must practice it in these 14 ways,” he said.
After the audience, the Pope noted how this Thursday, Dec. 1, marks World AIDS Day, which is an initiative promoted by the United Nations.
“millions of people live with this illness and only half of them have access to life-saving therapies,” he said, and invited those present to pray for all those suffering from AIDS and their families, and to promote greater solidarity so “the poor can benefit from adequate diagnosis and treatment.”
By Elise Harris