On this most unusual Holy Saturday, I’ve been at home all day. The birds are out, the flowers are blooming and the trees are leafing out. The world, as it always does, keeps it’s rhythms. For people all over the world, however, life isn’t the same. A worldwide pandemic has altered our normal rhythms. I was supposed to be on a Triduum retreat this weekend, but it was canceled. I was hoping to replicate my time there last year, where the quiet and peace of those days were such a respite for me.
Like believers all over the world, the Triduum liturgies will be seen online, since our churches are closed as a precaution against the virus. To be honest, I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience, and have watched priests, bishops and the pope do their best to help us feel connected. God bless them for their efforts. In his Easter Vigil Homily, Pope Francis talked about the importance of planting seeds of hope. Jesus, the premiant Sower of hope, gives us an example to follow. The world is in much need of hope right now. Everywhere, right down to our own houses and friends. Instead of despair and worry, let’s plant seeds of hope during this Easter Season. Let’s start with ourselves and our own hearts.
Here is the Holy Father’s Easter Vigil homily for your reflection and encouragement:
The women bring spices to the tomb, but they fear that their journey is in vain, since a large stone bars the entrance to the sepulcher. The journey of those women is also our own journey; it resembles the journey of salvation that we have made this evening.
At times, it seems that everything comes up against a stone: the beauty of
creation against the tragedy of sin; liberation from slavery against infidelity
to the covenant; the promises of the prophets against the listless indifference
of the people. So too, in the history of the Church and in our own
personal history. It seems that the steps we take never take us to the
goal. We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of
Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that
everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones?
Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of
tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the
hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin,
fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because
today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen
Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow
disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he
comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment. Each
of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls
back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What
is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?
Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that
everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and
come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative
and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to
our own dissatisfaction: the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a
succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb
psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging
alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of
Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be
found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him
where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living
(cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!
There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin
seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then
leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the
dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you
seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon
that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s
light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9),
to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the
empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord
Let us return to the women who went to Jesus’ tomb. They halted in amazement before the stone that was taken away. Seeing the angels, they stood there, the Gospel
tells us, “frightened, and bowed their faces to the ground” (Lk 24:5).
They did not have the courage to look up. How often do we do the same
thing? We prefer to remain huddled within our shortcomings, cowering in our
fears. It is odd, but why do we do this? Not infrequently
because, glum and closed up within ourselves, we feel in control, for it is
easier to remain alone in the darkness of our heart than to open ourselves to
the Lord. Yet only he can raise us up. A poet once wrote: “We never
know how high we are. Till we are called to rise” (E. Dickinson).
The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize
that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not
for the depths of death: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
God asks us to view life as he views it, for in each of us he never ceases to see an
irrepressible kernel of beauty. In sin, he sees sons and daughters to be
restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to
be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you
are afraid to look at it and take it in hand. In Easter he shows you how
much he loves that life: even to the point of living it completely,
experiencing anguish, abandonment, death and hell, in order to emerge
triumphant to tell you: “You are not alone; put your trust in me!”.
Jesus is a specialist at turning our deaths into life, our mourning into dancing (cf. Ps 30:11). With him, we too can experience a Pasch, that is, a Passover– from self-centeredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence.
Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to
the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us that we are
loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love
remains unchanged. This is the one, non-negotiable certitude we have in
life: his love does not change. Let us ask ourselves: In my life,
where am I looking? Am I gazing at graveyards, or looking for the Living
Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women hear the words of the angels, who go on to say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6).
Those woman had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus,
his call that took place in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of
Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to
Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him,
to turn back to him with all our mind and all our heart. To return
to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum”
faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is
a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter
him in life. Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he
overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts
with his word.
The women, remembering Jesus, left the tomb. Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards, for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One. Let
us ask ourselves: In my life, where am I going? Sometimes we go
only in the direction of our problems, of which there are plenty, and go to the
Lord only for help. But then, it is our own needs, not Jesus, to guide
our steps. We keep seeking the Living One among the dead. Or again,
how many times, once we have encountered the Lord, do we return to the dead,
digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions, without letting the
Risen One change us?
Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the center of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the
grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of
discouragement and fear. Let us seek him in all things and above all
things. With him, we will rise again.