Pope Francis on Tuesday celebrated Mass in St Peter’s Basilica for all the cardinals and bishops who have died over the past year. Recalling with gratitude the vocation of those Church leaders, the Pope noted that the principle task of all ordained ministers is that of service to others.
Pope Francis said just as Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his closest disciples, so he calls all his ministers today to renew their commitment to service in his Church. Just as Jesus came to serve and not to be served, the Pope insisted, so his ministers are called in turn to be pastors, ready to give their lives for their flock. In the eyes of this world, he said, those who serve are seen as losers: but in reality it is those who give their lives and lose themselves in the love of Christ who will overcome death and give life to the world.
Pope Francis recalled the words of Jesus that “God so loved the world” that he sent his Son as a servant to take on our sins and to save us from death by dying for us. Just as the Israelites were saved from death, after being bitten by poisonous snakes, by looking at the bronze snake that Moses held up on a pole, so Christ saves us from death through his death on the Cross.
To our eyes, death seems dark and fearful, just as those who died from snake bites in the desert were full of fear and suffering. Yet Jesus took fully upon himself all these contradictions, the Pope said, so that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”.
This style of service and humility, he continued, has much to teach us. Though we find it hard to accept this mystery, he said, the secret lies in the strength of God’s love for us. Through the mystery of Easter, Jesus not only conquered death but transformed evil into good – not through words, but deeds, not on the surface but at the root. He has transformed the Cross into a bridge towards life and we can do the same if we choose to follow his example of service and humility.