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Pope: Our hope has a name! (full text of Easter Vigil homily)

POPE-FRANCIS-VIGIL-EASTER

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

April 16,2022: Pope Francis during Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 04/16/22

"He entered the tomb of our sin; he descended to those depths where we feel most lost; he wove his way through the tangles of our fears, bore the weight of our burdens and from the dark abyss of death restored us to life and turned our mourning into joy. Let us celebrate Easter with Christ!"

Pope Francis focused his homily at the Easter Vigil on April 16 on the women who went to the tomb, and three of their actions: They saw; they heard; they proclaimed.

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, as the Pope’s inflamed knee continues to make it visibly difficult for him to stand and walk.

The Holy Father, however, went to a seat behind the altar to give the homily. He also performed the baptism of seven people, catechumens from Italy, the United States, Albania and Cuba.

Words of support for Ukraine

Pope Francis concluded his homily going off script with a few words of encouragement addressed to a Ukrainian delegation, with whom he had met before the Mass.

The Pope told them that in their darkness, the darkness “of war, of cruelty,” we can only “give you our company, and our prayer, and say to you, ‘Courage! We accompany you!'”

But also, he assured them, with an affirmation in Ukrainian, “We can tell you the greatest thing that is celebrated today: Christòs voskrés! [Christ is risen!]”

The delegation included the young mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, 33, who had been abducted and tortured by Russian troops from March 11 to 16, 2022, before his release in a prisoner exchange.

These Ukrainian representatives, who are currently on a tour of Western Europe, were received during the day by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s Secretary of State. In a tweet, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See expressed his satisfaction with this meeting and with the modification of the prayer of the 13th Station of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at the Colosseum, which was replaced by a time of silence.

~

Full text of homily:

Many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights. The nights of war, however, are riven  by streams of light that portend death. On this night, brothers and sisters, let us allow the women of  the Gospel to lead us by the hand, so that, with them, we may glimpse the first rays of the dawn of  God’s life rising in the darkness of our world. As the shadows of night were dispelled before the  quiet coming of the light, the women set out for the tomb, to anoint the body of Jesus. There they  had a disconcerting experience. First, they discovered that the tomb was empty; then they saw two figures in dazzling garments who told them that Jesus was risen. Immediately they ran back to  proclaim the news to the other disciples (cf. Lk 24:1-10). They saw, they heard, they proclaimed.  With these three verbs, may we too enter into the passover of the Lord from death to life.  

The women saw. The first proclamation of the resurrection was not a statement to be  unpacked, but a sign to be contemplated. In a burial ground, near a grave, in a place where  everything should be orderly and peaceful, the women “found the stone rolled away from the tomb;  but when they went in, they did not find the body” (vv. 2-3). Easter begins by upsetting our  expectations. It comes with the gift of a hope that surprises and amazes us. Yet it is not easy to  welcome that gift. At times – we must admit – this hope does not find a place in our hearts. Like  the women in the Gospel, we are overtaken by questions and doubts, and our first reaction before the  unexpected sign is one of fear: “They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground” (v. 5).  

All too often we look at life and reality with downcast eyes; we fix our gaze only on this  passing day, disenchanted by the future, concerned only with ourselves and our needs, settled into the  prison of our apathy, even as we keep complaining that things will never change. In this way, we halt before the tomb of resignation and fatalism; we bury the joy of living. Yet tonight the Lord wants to give us different eyes, alive with hope that fear, pain and death will not have the last word over us. Thanks to Jesus’ paschal mystery, we can make the leap from nothingness to life. “Death will no longer be able to rob our life” (K. RAHNER), for that life is now completely and eternally embraced by the boundless love of God. True, death can fill us with dread; it can paralyze us. But  the Lord is risen! Let us lift up our gaze, remove the veil of sadness and sorrow from our eyes, and  open our hearts to the hope that God brings!  

In the second place, the women heard. After they had seen the empty tomb, the two men in  dazzling garments said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here,  but has risen” (vv. 5-6). We do well to listen to those words and to repeat them: He is not here!  Whenever we think we have understood everything there is to know about God, and can pigeonhole  him in our own ideas and categories, let us repeat to ourselves: He is not here! Whenever we seek  him only in times of trouble and moments of need, only to set him aside and forget about him in the  rest of our daily life and decisions, let us repeat: He is not here! And whenever we think we can  imprison him in our words and our customary ways of thinking and acting, and neglect to seek him  in the darkest corners of life, where people weep, struggle, suffer and hope, let us repeat: He is not  here! 

May we too hear the question asked of the women: “Why do you look for the living among  the dead?” We cannot celebrate Easter if we continue to be dead; if we remain prisoners of the past; if in our lives we lack the courage to let ourselves be forgiven by God; if we fail to change, to break  with the works of evil, to decide for Jesus and his love. If we reduce faith to a talisman, making  God a lovely memory from times past, instead of encountering him today as the living God who  desires to change us and to change our world. A Christianity that seeks the Lord among the ruins  of the past and encloses him in the tomb of habit is a Christianity without Easter. Yet the Lord is risen! Let us not tarry among the tombs, but run to find him, the Living One! Nor may we be afraid to seek him also in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the stories of those who hope and  dream, in the pain of those who suffer: God is there!  

Finally, the women proclaimed. What did they proclaim? The joy of the resurrection.  Easter did not occur simply to console those who mourned the death of Jesus, but to open hearts to  the extraordinary message of God’s triumph over evil and death. The light of the resurrection was  not meant to let the women bask in a transport of joy, but to generate missionary disciples who “return  from the tomb” (v. 9) in order to bring to all the Gospel of the risen Christ. That is why, after seeing  and hearing, the women ran to proclaim to the disciples the joy of the resurrection. They knew that  the others might think they were mad; indeed, the Gospel says that the women’s words “seemed to  them an idle tale” (v. 11). Yet those women were not concerned for their reputation, for preserving their image; they did not contain their emotions or measure their words.  

How beautiful is a Church that can run this way through the streets of our world! Without  fear, without schemes and stratagems, but solely with the desire to lead everyone to the joy of the  Gospel. That is what we are called to do: to experience the risen Christ and to share the experience  with others; to roll away the stone from the tomb where we may have enclosed the Lord, in order to spread his joy in the world. Let us make Jesus, the Living One, rise again from all those tombs in which we have sealed him. Let us set him free from the narrow cells in which we have so often imprisoned him. Let us awaken from our peaceful slumber and let him disturb and inconvenience us. Let us bring him into our everyday lives: through gestures of peace in these days marked by the horrors of war, through acts of reconciliation amid broken relationships, acts of compassion towards  those in need, acts of justice amid situations of inequality and of truth in the midst of lies. And  above all, through works of love and fraternity.  

Brothers and sisters our hope has a name: the name of Jesus. He entered the tomb of our sin; he descended to those depths where we feel most lost; he wove his way through the tangles of our fears, bore the weight of our burdens and from the dark abyss of death restored us to life and turned our mourning into joy. Let us celebrate Easter with Christ! He is alive! Today, too, he walks in  our midst, changes us and sets us free. Thanks to him, evil has been robbed of its power; failure can no longer hold us back from starting anew; and death has become a passage to the stirrings of new  life. For with Jesus, the Risen Lord, no night will last forever; and even in the darkest night, the  morning star continues to shine. 

[Draft translation of the following:]

In this darkness that you live in, Mr. Mayor, Mr. and Mrs. Parliamentarians, the dark darkness of war, of cruelty, we all pray, we pray with you and for you, this night. We pray for so much suffering. We can only give you our company, our prayer and say to you: “Courage! We accompany you!” And also to tell you the greatest thing that is celebrated today: Christòs voskrés! [Christ is risen!]

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