“The Word of God explains to us, today especially, the meaning of time, to understand that time is not a reality estranged from God simply because He chose to reveal Himself and save us in history. The meaning of time, temporality, is the atmosphere of the epiphany of God, that is the manifestation of God and His concrete love. ‘Time is the messenger of God,’ as St. Peter Favre said. …
Today’s liturgy reminds us of this statement by the apostle John: ‘My children, the hour has come,’ and St. Paul speaking of the ‘fullness of time.’ Therefore, today it shows us how time, which has been ‘touched’ by Christ and by God, received new and surprising meanings. It has become ‘saving time,’ definitive time of saving and grace.
All this leads us to think of the end of life. There was a beginning and there will be an end. With this truth, which is as simple and fundamental as it is neglected and forgotten, the Holy Mother Church teaches us to end the year and our days with an examination of conscience. Through this, we go back to past events; we thank God for every gift we have received and for all the good we could do and, at the same time, we think of our faults and our sins. To say thanks and to ask for forgiveness. This is what we do, even today, at the end of the year. Let us praise the Lord with the Te Deum hymn, and at the same time, let us ask for forgiveness. The attitude of thanksgiving prepares us for humility, to recognise and welcome the gifts of the Lord.
The apostle Paul epitomises, in the reading of today’s Vespers, the fundamental reason for our thanksgiving to God. He has made us their children; He adopted us as children. This undeserved gift fills us with gratitude and wonder! Some might say, “but are we not their children, simply through our being human?” Certainly, because God is Father of every person who is born. But without forgetting that we are far from Him through original sin, that separated us from our Father: our filial relationship is deeply hurt.
That is why God sent his Son to redeem us at the cost of His blood. If there is redemption, that is because there is slavery. We used to be sons and daughters but we became slaves by following the voice of the Evil One. No one else redeems us from that substantial slavery if not Jesus, who became man through the Virgin Mary and died on the cross to free us from the slavery of sin and return us to our lost filial condition.
At the same time, the very gift we thank for is the reason for our examination of conscience, to review our personal and community life, and to ask; what is our way of life like? Do we live as children or as slaves? Do we live as people baptised in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, redeemed, free? Or do we live according to worldly, corrupted logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our best interest?
There always is, in our walk of life, a tendency to resist liberation; we fear freedom and, paradoxically, we unconsciously prefer slavery. Freedom scares us because it forces us to face time and our responsibility to use it well. Slavery reduces time to the moment, making us feel safer. It makes us live moments disjointed from their past and our future’. He added that ‘in other words, slavery prevents us from living fully and truthfully our present, because it makes it devoid of past and shuts it off from the future and eternity. Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly and hop’.
A few days ago a great Italian artist [Roberto Benigni and his film about the Ten Commandments] said that it was easier for the Lord to take Israelites out of Egypt than take Egypt out of the hearts of Israelites. They had been materially freed from slavery, but during the march in the desert, facing various difficulties and hunger, they began to miss Egypt, where they ‘ate… onions and garlic’; they, however, forgot that they ate at the table of slavery, because it seemed safer, safer than freedom, which is riskier. How we like being enslaved by so many fireworks that look beautiful but only last a moment! This is the rule of the moment!
Therefore, the quality of our work, our life and our presence in the city depends on this examination of conscience. Also our service for the common good, our participation to public and ecclesiastical institutions.
Because of this, being the bishop of Rome, I want to stress that, our life in Rome is a great gift, because it means we live in the eternal city. Therefore, let us thank the Lord for that. But at the same time it is also a great responsibility. So let us ask ourselves: in this city, in this ecclesiastical community, are we freemen or slaves? Are we the salt or the light? Are we the yeast? Or are we listless, dull, hostile, discouraged, irrelevant, and tired?
Without a doubt the serious episodes of corruption, which recently came to light, require a serious and aware conversion of the hearts for moral and spiritual rebirth. They also require a renewed commitment to building a fairer and more supportive city, where the poor, the weak and the marginalised are at the centre of our preoccupations and our daily actions. A great attitude of Christian freedom is necessary to defend the poor and not defend ourselves against the poor, as well as to serve the weak and not take advantage of them.
When they asked St. Lawrence to bring and show the treasures of the Church, he simply brought some poor people. When, in a city, the poor and the weak are cared for, rescued and helped to support themselves in society, they become the treasure of the Church and a treasure in society. Instead, when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them, criminalises them and forces them to become criminals; that society reaches extreme poverty, it loses freedom and prefers ‘the garlic and the onions’ of slavery, the slavery of its own selfishness, the slavery of its own cowardice, and it ceases to be a Christian society.”–Pope Francis, his 2014 homily for the New Year’s Eve Vespers and Te Deum held in the Vatican Basilica