Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass of the Easter Vigil

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“Peter ran to the tomb” (Lk 24:12). What thoughts crossed Peter’s mind and stirred his heart as he ran to the tomb? The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women, their Easter proclamation. Quite the contrary, “these words seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Thus there was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion.

There is, however, something which signals a change in him: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “Peter rose” (v. 12). He did not remain sedentary, in thought; he did not stay at home as the others did. He did not succumb to the sombre atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts. He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere. He was looking for Jesus, not himself. He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed” (v. 12). This marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart. Without giving in to sadness or darkness, he made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.

The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the perfumed ointments to the tomb, had the same experience. They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5).

We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope. Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord so that he may enter and grant us life. Let us give him the stones of our rancour and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls. Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish. This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.

We see and will continue to see problems both within and without. They will always be there. But tonight it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6). He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.

This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous. Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him. This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing. He does not remove evil with a magic wand. But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, death and fear. Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).

The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living. After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. There is so necessary today. However, we must not proclaim ourselves. Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs.

How can we strengthen our hope? The liturgy of this night offers some guidance. It teaches us to remember the works of God. The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us. The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy. The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6). Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope. Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us. Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! Let us open our hearts to hope and go forth. May the memory of his works and his words be the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith towards the Easter that will have no end.

good friday

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Good Friday isn’t a day I will say much about, it is the beginning of a great contemplative silence. It leaves one speechless, exhausted, and on ones knees. A very powerful day indeed. Today at the stations of the cross a collection was taken up for the holy lands. Its a tradition. This year those same lands have dominated the press. The announcement of this collection took on a bit more relevance. The violence of contemporary today can be viewed in the light of the day today commemorates. Certainly there is the Christian persecution that is the object of so many prayers and petitions. Today it seems thoughts drifted into another direction, to all of the residents of that troubled land. I thought of Christians persecuted for their faith, and the Jews who experience the same. I also thought of the Muslims who did not subscribe to their fundamentalist brethren’s agenda. Those that quietly live out their faith in harmony with other faith traditions. I view their mockery, and scourging even though an evil word never passed through their lips or entered their hearts. I think of their suffering and anguish and tears for a hatred they never possessed. They have suffered the bombs, they fled as refugees , and they were ridiculed for the opinions of others that look and dress like them. A prayer for people while contemplating a cross and crucifixion. A prayer for the people of the lands where that sacred cross once stood.

Holy week with Mary & Judas

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Spy Wednesday, the day Judas Iscariot sells the Lord for a few pieces of silver. The day is also often related to the anointment of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and her brother Lazarus. Two acts that move in opposite direction. Contrast, polar opposites. The woman spends a costly amount anointing Jesus with Spikenard, Judas profits a few coins by selling something priceless. Mary humble and thankful for God’s love and mercy, ignorant Judas blind to all that he had and greedy for more. The honest emotion of a penitent woman contrasts against a deceitful act of trickery. The anointing act of Mary easily leads into Holy Thursday , famous for the washing of the feet during the Lords supper. Judas defiles that meal and instead anoints the bloody acts of Good Friday. Judas and the woman Mary, key actors in the Passion of the Lord. The Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lords Supper.  The gift of the Mass and  its Priests. The culmination of the bread o life. From “I am the bread of life”, to “this my body.” It is Christ’s teaching explained, His Word,  but this is only half the Mass. The other half unfolds a day later on a cross. His sacrifice for our salvation. Good Friday and the Mass. Table and Altar. Meal and Sacrifice. Not either but both. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The paschal lamb, meal and sacrifice.

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”

The woman Mary with the aromatic nard, Jesus says you anoint me for my burial. She is their or that event, but she also is present for the resurrection too. Devoted and devout, she hung onto His words. She anoints Him with costly perfume, and look at how she does so! Anointed as King, anointed as Savior. In her King she witnesses her salvation and is ever so humbled by His mercy. Judas, what does he see? How does he anoint a King. He pays the price for a slave, his King is crowned with thorns. Ridiculed, mocked, and hung on a tree. And for Judas? His is the same fate, he too hangs in a tree never to see the salvation that the woman had experienced. Reap what you sow? What a contrast, for one life ends on Good Friday. For the other death is conquered on the very same day.

 

palm sunday on a monday

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It is the start of Holy Week, and this is a big Sunday.So much is written of it I would rather read than write! But still, I am typing. Palm Sunday marks Jesus procession into Jerusalem and it is the beginning of His passion; His crucifixion , death, and resurrection. The question becomes, how does someone approach this day? Should I view this day, from today’s perspective with full knowledge of the events to unfold? Should I view it from the perspective of the attendees of this event on the first Palm Sunday? There are a lot of ways to approach this narrative.

Today we understand this day as the beginning of Holy Week and the conclusion of Lent. Two thousand plus years ago, people threw those palms in front of Jesus the Christ entering into a city. They were but one of the groups of people present on that day. Historians of the day suggest they were large in number, but they were not the only ones present. Jerusalem was a complicated city. It was the seat of Judaism, the city of the Jewish Temple, a destination for faithful pilgrims who came from throughout the diaspora. Some of these knew the Christ and others have yet to be introduced to Him. The city was also an occupied city under Roman rule, and that was a powerful empire with a large military and forceful government. They were dominant. Aside from being a religious hub the Temple was also an economic engine, its economy contributed to the Empire through taxes and also to the temple priests. The temple priests , the local element. When Jesus enters that city, He is not only welcomed by the Disciples, He is also watched by the others. That is the complex narrative reenacted during the Mass of Palm Sunday. The Roman authority, the nervous and angry Sanhedrin, the angry crowd, and the disciples. The disciple’s.

This is Palm Sunday, Jesus entry into the city. Think back to another season where Jesus makes another entry, He enters into our world at the Nativity. At that Nativity the crowds were there too. There was the anger of Herod, the census of Rome, the Holy Family. Then there is he procession of the Shepherds to the crèche, and the Magi’s make their appearance. Contrast the slaughter of the Holy innocents with Christ’s crucifixion. Both are days of adoration, and of violence. Both contain those that welcome the Christ, and those that are violently opposed to Him. The purpose of the Nativity is the Resurrection. Easter is the Nativities grand finale. One can look back at the First Palm Sunday and see the Joy of those first Christians that welcomed Jesus into the city. It is the same joy that sang Joy to the World the Lord Has Come. Their joy is important when examining this Palm Sunday. The joy of this day influences how one approaches the days to come. Throughout the week there are going to be challenges to joy. The greatest of course occurs on Good Friday. The thing though is in Christians that emotion does not die. It is challenged, it is suppressed, and it is hated. It does not die, and I think that is the historical lesson of the first Palm Sunday. Their joy punctuates the essence of Christ’s resurrection. Joy triumphs despair. The lesson of Christ. The disciples journey joyfully continues.