Pope Francis on Monday spoke of a series of events and situations that shed shadows on our lives and lead us to ask difficult questions.
Speaking during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, the pope remembered a homeless man who recently died of the cold here in Rome; he recalled the Sisters of Charity who were killed in an attack in Yemen; and his thoughts flew to the many people who continue to fall ill in the so-called “triangle of death” in the southern Italian region of Campania where the illegal burning of toxic waste causes cancer and despair.
As we are forced to face these "dark valleys" of our time, he said, the only answer is to trust in God.
“Even when we do not understand—such as before the illness of a child—let us put ourselves in the hands of the Lord who never abandons his people,” he said.
Reflecting on the reading of the day that tells of Susanna, a just woman who is “soiled” by the “evil desire” of two judges, but chooses to trust in God rather than succumb to their wish, Pope Francis said that that even when we find ourselves walking in a “valley of darkness,” we need not fear evil.
The Lord, the pope said, always walks with us, loves us and does not abandon us. And he turned his attention to some of the many “dark valleys” of our time:
"When we look at the many dark valleys, at the many misfortunes, at the fact there are so many people dying of hunger, there is war, there are so many children with disabilities… and asking their parents we discover they suffer from something called a ‘rare disease’… And the things we create ourselves: think of the cancers caused by the ‘triangleof death’ … When you look at all this you ask: ‘Where is the Lord?’ ‘Where are you?’ ‘Are you walking with me?’ This was Susanna’s sentiment. And it is ours too. Look at those four slain sisters of ours: they were serving with love; they ended up murdered in hatred! When you see that doors are being closed to refugees who are left out in the cold… you say: ‘Lord, where are You?’”
“How can I entrust myself to God when I see all these things? And when things happen to me, each of us may say: how can I entrust myself to You?” There is an answer to this question, he continued, “but it cannot be explained”
“Why does a child suffer? I do not know: it is a mystery to me,” he said.
And recalling Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the pope pointed out that although he is suffering he trusts in the Father and knows that all will not end with death, with the cross.
Pope Francis pointed out that Jesus’ last words before dying on the cross were ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’ and said: “To trust in God who walks with me, walks with his people, walks with the church: this is an act of faith. To entrust myself. I cannot explain it, but I place myself in your hands. You know why.”
And this, he said, is the teaching of Jesus: “he who entrusts himself to the Lord our Shepherd, shall lack nothing.”
Even if he finds himself going through the darkest of valleys, Pope Francis said, “he knows that the suffering is only of the moment and that the Lord is with him: ‘Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.’” This—Pope Francis said—is a grace that we must ask for: “Lord, teach me to place myself in your hands, to trust in your guidance, even in bad times, in the darkest moments, in the moment of death”
Pope Francis said that “We would do well, today, to think about our lives, about the problems we have, and ask for the grace to place ourselves into the hands of the Lord.”
And he invited the faithful to think of the many men and women who do not even receive a last caress before dying.
“Three days ago a homeless person died here, on the street: he died of cold. In the middle of Rome, a city that has all the possibilities of providing assistance. Why, Lord? Not even a caress... But I entrust myself to you because you never let me down.”
“Lord,” he concluded, “I do not understandyou. This is a beautiful prayer. Without understanding, I place myself in your hands.”