Sunday Vigil

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Memorial of Saint Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John, bishop and martyr (†155).


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Hebrews 11,1-7

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 is by faith that we understand that the ages were created by a word from God, so that from the invisible the visible world came to be. It was because of his faith that Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain, and for that he was acknowledged as upright when God himself made acknowledgement of his offerings. Though he is dead, he still speaks by faith. It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not experience death: he was no more, because God took him; because before his assumption he was acknowledged to have pleased God. Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him. It was through his faith that Noah, when he had been warned by God of something that had never been seen before, took care to build an ark to save his family. His faith was a judgement on the world, and he was able to claim the uprightness which comes from faith.

 

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 readers in the long history of faith, which begun since ancient times, so that they may feel part of it. The long list helps readers to grasp the richness of this story and not to 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 having from now on that "best homeland" (11:13.16) towards which we are directed. Furthermore, faith allows us to possess to such an extent that is hoped that it is itself the proof of what we do not see. Moreover, 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. 3). The visible things, creation and the vicissitudes of this world, are created by the Word that, although invisible, has the power to create. The history of believers was initiated by faith, starting from that of Abel, who offered to God a more precious sacrifice than that of Cain, to then enumerate Enoch, Noah, and thus reach Abraham, on whom the Letter dwells with greater amplitude. In fact, he is the believer, indeed the father of believers: indeed he promptly obeyed the call of God and left his land to go to that promised by God. It was not a choice with closed eyes but rather it was founded on the Word of God. What better foundation than this word can guarantee a future to those who rely on it? And when Abraham came there he did not settle down, 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," that is the host of believers who trust God and who await the homeland he promised but that they are already foretasting. All of them, in fact, "died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth" (11:13). The Lord has prepared a strong city for them. We are all "strangers and pilgrims", because we all tend towards the "city that descends from heaven", the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21). This is why Christians, as the Letter to Diognetus says, "live in their homeland but as foreigners; they participate in everything as citizens and from everything they are detached as strangers. Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland is foreign."