Sunday Vigil

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Memory of Modesta, a homeless woman refused medical assistance because she was dirty and was left to die in the Termini train station in Rome. Along with her we remember all those without a home who have died.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Hebrews 11, 1-2.8-19

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.

It is for their faith that our ancestors are acknowledged.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going.

By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as though it were not his, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

He looked forward to the well-founded city, designed and built by God.

It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise was faithful to it.

Because of this, there came from one man, and one who already had the mark of death on him, descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore which cannot be counted.

All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth.

People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of a homeland.

If they had meant the country they came from, they would have had the opportunity to return to it;

but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though he had yet to receive what had been promised,

and he had been told: Isaac is the one through whom your name will be carried on.

He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Letter to the Hebrews immerses its readers in the long history of faith, which began in ancient times, and makes them feel a part of it. The long list helps the reader grasp the richness of this history and not abandon it. Faith - as the author defines it - is not an abstract exercise, but “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is the certainty of already possessing that “better country” (11:13, 16) towards which we are headed. Indeed, faith allows us to possess what we hope for so completely that faith itself is the proof of what we do not see. The author notes, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (v.2). Everything that is visible - creation and the events of this world - were created by the Word, which, despite being invisible, has the power to create. The history of believers began with faith, starting with the faith of Abel, who offered God a more precious sacrifice than Cain's, and then mentions the faith of Enoch and Noah, before reaching Abraham, whom the Letter treats in greater detail. Abraham, in fact, is the believer, the father of believers: he immediately obeyed God's call and left his country for the one promised by God. It was not a decision made with his eyes shut. It was based on the Word of God. What better foundation is there than this Word, which can guarantee a future to those who entrust themselves to it? And when Abraham reached that land, he did not settle there, because he “looked forward to the city that has foundations” (11:10). From Abraham's faith came descendants “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore,” the ranks for believers who trust in God and who wait for the country that he has promised to them and of which they already have a foretaste. All of them, in fact, “died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them” (11:14). For them the Lord prepared a city with firm foundations. We are all “strangers and foreigners on the earth” because we are all moving towards the “city...coming down from heaven”, the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelations 21). This is why, as the Letter to Diognetus writes about Christians: “They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth is a foreign land.”