Sunday, March 31, 2013

Holy Father Francis Presides At Easter Vigil

From The Vatican:

Yesterday at 8:30 in the evening, the Holy Father presided at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica. The liturgy began in the church atrium with a blessing of the new fire and the preparation of the Paschal candle. After processing to the altar with the lit candle and the singing of the “Exsultet”, the celebration continued with the Liturgy of the Word, the Baptismal Liturgy, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

During the Vigil, the Pope administered the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) to four catechumens: one from Italy, one from Albania, one from Russia, and one from the United States. After the Gospel was read, the Holy Father dedicated his homily to discussing the holy women who went to the tomb and found it empty. “We are afraid of God's surprises! He always surprises us!” Following is the full text of his homily:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Gospel of this luminous night of the Easter Vigil, we are the first to meet the women who went to Jesus' tomb with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, of affection, of love. It is a traditional gesture for a beloved person who has died, just as we would do too. They had followed Jesus, listened to him, felt themselves to be understood in their dignity, and they had accompanied him to the end, on Calvary, an at the moment he was taken down from the cross.”

“We can imagine how they felt as they made their way to his tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow because Jesus had left them and was dead, his story was over. Now they would go back to their previous lives. But the women continued to feel love and their love for Jesus compelled them to go to his tomb. At this point, however, something completely unexpected happens, something new, which upsets their hearts and their plans and which will upset their whole lives: They see the stone rolled away from the tomb. They draw near and they do not find the Lord's body. It is a reality that leaves them perplexed, doubtful, full of questions: 'What is happening?', What does this all mean?' (cf. Lk 24:4).”

“Isn't that also what happens to us when something truly new occurs in our everyday lives? We stop, don't understand, don't know how to handle it. New things often frighten us, even the newness that God brings us, the newness that God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: we often prefer to hold on to our sureties, to stop at the tomb, to stop at just thinking about the departed one who, in the end, lives only in our memory like great persons of the past. We're afraid of God's surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, in our lives we are afraid of God's surprises! He always surprises us! That is how the Lord is!”

“Brothers and sisters, let's not close ourselves to the newness that God wants to bring to our lives! Often we are tired, disheartened, sad; We feel the weight of our sins and think we're not going to make it. Let's not get locked up in ourselves. Let's not lose our confidence. Let us never give up. There are no situations that God cannot change; There is no sin that He won't forgive if we open ourselves to him.”

“But let's go back to the Gospel, to the women, and take a step forward. They find the tomb empty. Jesus' body is not there. Something new has happened but this still doesn't tell them anything certain. It raises questions and leaves them perplexed without offering an answer. And then, two men in dazzling garments who say: 'Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He has been raised.' (Lk 24:5-6). What had been a simple gesture, an act certainly undertaken in love—going to the tomb—now transforms into an occurrence, a truly life-changing event.”

“Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our lives and in our story of humanity. Jesus isn't someone who has died. He is risen. He is the Living One! He has not simply come back to life but is life itself because He is the Son of God who is the Living God. Jesus is no longer in the past but lives in the present and is projected toward the future. Jesus is God's eternal 'today'.This is how God's newness presents itself to the eyes of the women, of the disciples, of all of us: victory over sin, over evil, over death, over everything that oppresses our lives and gives them a less human face.”

“This is a message that is addressed to me, to you, dear sister, to you, dear brother. How many times do we need Love to tell us: Why do you seek the living one among the dead? Our problems and our everyday worries tend to wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death lies. Let's not look there for He who is alive!”

“Accept the Risen Jesus into your life, then. Welcome him as a friend, with confidence. He is life! If up to now you have been distant from him, take a small step: He will welcome you with open arms. If you are indifferent, take the risk: You will not be disappointed. If following him seems difficult to you, don't be afraid: entrust yourself to him and rest assured that He is close to you. He is with you and will give you the peace you are seeking and the strength to live as He wants you to.”

“There is one last, simple element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel of this luminous Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus is risen, He is the Living One. But, faced with the empty tomb and the two men in dazzling garments, their first reaction is one of fear: They 'bowed their faces to the ground', St. Luke notes. They didn't even have the courage to look. But, when they hear the announcement of the Resurrection, they accept it with faith. And the two men in dazzling garments introduce a fundamental word: remember. 'Remember what He said to you while He was still in Galilee … And they remembered his words.' (Lk 24:6,8).”

“This is a call to remember their encounter with Jesus, with his words, his deeds, his life. It is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that leads the women to overcome every fear and to take the announcement of the Resurrection to the Apostles and to all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). Remembering what God has done and continues to do for me, for us; remembering the path we have travelled—this opens wide our hearts to hope for the future. Let's learn to remember what God has done in our lives!”

“On this radiant night, calling upon the intercession of the Virgin Mary who keeps all things in her heart (Lk 2:19,51), let us ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May He open us to the newness that transforms, to God's surprises that are so beautiful. May He make us men and women who are capable of remembering what He does in our personal lives and in the history of the world. May He make us capable of hearing him as the Living One, who lives and is at work amongst us. May He teach us every day, dear brothers and sisters, to not seek among the dead for He who is living. Amen.”

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