In his Easter Vigil homily tonight at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Pope Francis once again emphasized the theme of amazement that has characterized Holy Week this year. He describes the amazement of the women who discovered the empty tomb as “a fear mingled with joy that took their hearts by surprise when they saw the great stone before the tomb rolled away and inside a young man in a white robe.”
A fear mingled with joy. How many of us have had this feeling before? Those of us who are parents have had that feeling, certainly. This description reminds me of good friends who struggled for many years with infertility and multiple disappointments throughout the process of becoming adoptive parents. Then, unexpectedly, they received a phone call from the agency telling them that they would become parents to a little baby. Suddenly, the deep sadness about not having children disappeared, and was replaced with the fear mingled with joy of having to raise a child.
This is the amazement Pope Francis spoke about. When we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, “we learn to be amazed by the Lord’s infinite love, which opens new trails along the path of our defeats.” And isn’t this where many of us are—filling with joy and fear—as we begin to think about the future now that we can see the light at the end of the sickness and sadness and polarization of the past year?
The entire thing is well worth reading, but, briefly, Francis offers three messages this Easter, as we slowly emerge from this pandemic.
The first message is “it is always possible to begin anew.” He explains:
“There is a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures. From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn.”
His second message is “Jesus is not outdated.” Francis explains:
“He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams. He opens new doors when you least expect it, he urges you not to indulge in nostalgia for the past or cynicism about the present. Even if you feel that all is lost, let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: he will surely surprise you.”
Finally, Pope Francis reminds us, “Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives.” Not only is he here, Pope Francis says, but he is calling out to us:
“He invites us to overcome barriers, banish prejudices and draw near to those around us every day in order to rediscover the grace of everyday life. Let us recognize him here in our Galilees, in everyday life. With him, life will change. For beyond all defeats, evil and violence, beyond all suffering and death, the Risen One lives and guides history.”
Pope Francis closes with these words of promise:
“Dear brother, dear sister: if on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed or a dream shattered, open your heart with amazement to the message of Easter: “Do not be afraid, he has risen! He awaits you in Galilee”. Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord goes ahead of you, he walks before you. And, with him, life begins anew.”
Happy Easter to all!
Image: Vatican News.