VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For every Christian,
but especially for those called to ministry, God's gift of life is a
call to serve others, Pope Francis said at a memorial Mass for bishops
and cardinals who have died in the past year.
"The meaning of life is found in our response to God's offer of love.
And that response is made up of true love, self-giving and service,"
the pope said Nov. 3 during the Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St.
The memorial Mass is an annual fixture on the pope's calendar for
November, the month the Catholic Church dedicates particularly to
remembering the dead. The Vatican said that in the past year 154 bishops
and nine cardinals, including U.S. Cardinal Bernard F. Law, died.
"As we pray for the cardinals and bishops who have passed away in
this last year," the pope said in his homily, "let us beg the
intercession of all those who lived unassuming lives, content to prepare
daily to meet the Lord."
The Gospel reading for the Mass was the parable of the 10 bridesmaids
and their oil lamps from Matthew 25. Pope Francis said the parable is
valid for every Christian, who is called to go out to meet Christ, the
bridegroom, and always to be prepared for that meeting.
"For ministers of the Gospel, too," he said, "life is in constant
movement, as we go forth from our family home to wherever the church
sends us, from one variety of service to another. We are always on the
move, until we make our final journey."
"The encounter with Jesus, the bridegroom who 'loved the church and
gave himself up for her,' gives meaning and direction to our lives,"
Pope Francis said. "That and nothing more."
The parable emphasizes the need to have oil ready, but oil gives
light only when it is burned, he noted. "Our lives are like that: they
radiate light only if they are consumed, if they spend themselves in
"Whatever will remain of life, at the threshold of eternity, is not
what we gained but what we gave away," he said. Serving means giving of
oneself, and "those who hold on too tightly to their lives will lose
Another characteristic of the oil in the lamps, he said, is that the light is seen, but the oil is not.
"What does this suggest to us?" he asked. "That in the Lord's eyes
what matters is not appearances but the heart. Everything that the world
runs after and then shows off -- honors, power, appearances, glory --
passes away and leaves nothing behind."
"Instead of our outward appearance, which passes away, we should purify
and keep custody of our heart, our inner self, which is precious in the
eyes of God," the pope said.
Like the bridesmaids in the parable, he said, those called to
eternity with God "cannot be content with a sedentary, flat and humdrum
life that plods on without enthusiasm, seeking petty satisfactions and
pursuing fleeting rewards. A dreary and predictable life, content to
carry out its duties without giving of itself, is unworthy of the
As Catholics remember their beloved dead, Pope Francis prayed that
they also would keep their eyes on how they, too, are preparing for
their ultimate destination, which is with God. "A life burning with
desire for God and trained by love will be prepared to enter the chamber
of the Bridegroom for all eternity."