As this year comes to an end, Pope Francis has encouraged faithful to look back at the events of 2015, telling them to be attentive to both the presence of God, and the signs he is giving.
“Retracing the days of the past year can be done either as a memory of facts and events which bring moments of joy and sorrow, or by trying to understand if we have perceived the presence of God, who makes all things new and sustains them with his help,” the Pope said on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31.
He gave a brief homily during his celebration of Vespers on the eve of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, and the start of the new year.
We are challenged, he said, to see if the world’s events have been done according to God’s will, or “if we have primarily harkened to the projects of men, which are often characterized by private interests, of unquenchable thirst for power and of senseless violence.”
Francis also urged attendees to focus in a special way on the “the signs” that God has given us, saying they are a means of touching “with our own hands” the strength of his merciful love.
Many days of the past year, he noted, were marked by “violence, death, the unspeakable suffering of many innocent people, of refugees forced to leave their homeland (and) of men, women and children without a stable home, food or sustenance.”
However, the Pope also pointed to the many acts of love and solidarity that were shown and which filled each day, “even if they didn’t make the news!”
Such acts of love and goodness “cannot and must not be obscured by the arrogance of evil. Good always wins, even if in some moments it appears weak and hidden,” he said.
In addition to the praying of Vespers, the celebrations were also marked by the chanting of the Te Deum, an ancient prayer of praise which grants the one who recites it publicly on New Year’s Eve a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions. Francis also presided over exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
In his reflections, Francis said that the Church often feels the joy and duty of praising God with the words of the hymn, which, through “the joy of thanksgiving,” allows one to recognize the loving presence of God throughout history.
He also stressed the importance of community, saying that this individual prayer of praise and thanksgiving must also be “reinforced” by the company of the entire people of God, “who in unison make their song of thanksgiving heard.”
Francis then pointed to the Jubilee of Mercy, which began Dec. 8, 2015, and closes Nov. 20, 2016.
The Holy Year, he said, provides the opportunity to overcome the difficulties of the present time, adding that the “companionship of mercy is a light to understand better how much we have lived, and is a hope that accompanies us at the beginning of the new year.”
He closed his homily by noting how Rome is not immune to the present challenges of the world, and encouraged the city’s inhabitants to go beyond the difficulties of the present moment and to recover the essential values of service, honesty and solidarity.
Following the celebration of Vespers and the benediction of the Eucharist, Pope Francis made a brief visit to the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.