Alleluia!  He is risen!  It always feels good to say that after 40 days of Lent, but that is especially true this year.  Last year we were unable to gather in person for our Easter celebration, so it feels especially good to celebrate it together (as well as with our parishioners who continue to watch the livestream Mass at home – we miss you and pray for you on this holy day).  I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you some of Pope Francis’ Easter homily from last year, written during the middle of the COVID lockdowns.  I hope this message will continue to give us hope as we try to emerge from this pandemic with a stronger faith.  God bless you all!

 

“After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb.  This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath.  It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia.  This year however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday.  We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day.  They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly.  They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts.  Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master?  Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt.  A painful memory, a hope cut short.  For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour.

 

Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed… At dawn the women went to the tomb.  There the angel says to them: “Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen” (vv. 5-6).  They hear the words of life even as they stand before a tomb… And then they meet Jesus, the giver of all  hope, who confirms the message and says: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10).  Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear:  This is the message of hope.  It is addressed to us, today.  These are the words that God repeats to us today, this very night…

 

This is the Easter message, a message of hope.  It contains a second part, the sending forth.  “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee” (Mt 28:10), Jesus says.  “He is going before you to Galilee” (v. 7), the angel says.  The Lord goes before us, he goes before us always.  It is encouraging to know that he walks ahead of us in life and in death; he goes before us to Galilee, that is, to the place which for him and his disciples evoked the idea of daily life, family and work.  Jesus wants us to bring hope there, to our everyday life.  For the disciples, Galilee was also the place of remembrance, for it was the place where they were first called.  Returning to Galilee means remembering that we have been loved and called by God.  Each one of us has our own Galilee. We need to resume the journey, reminding ourselves that we are born and reborn thanks to an invitation given gratuitously to us out of love, there, in my own Galilee.  This is always the point from which we can set out anew, especially in times of crisis and trial. With the memory of my own Galilee…

 

Those women, in the end, “took hold” of Jesus’ feet (Mt 28:9); feet that had travelled so far to meet us, to the point of entering and emerging from the tomb.  The women embraced the feet that had trampled death and opened the way of hope.  Today, as pilgrims in search of hope, we cling to you, Risen Jesus.  We turn our backs on death and open our hearts to you, for you are Life itself.