His Easter Homily:
Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is risen! He is truly risen!
That Sunday morning the two apostles, Peter and John and before them the pious women with the Magdalene, reached this very tomb. Great was their amazement at seeing the stone rolled away form the mouth of the tomb. Even greater was their distress at not finding the Lord’s body there.Who had dared to remove that huge stone?
Perhaps the Roman soldiers? Surely not! A stunt like that would have certainly cost them their lives. The chief priests? Impossible! It was just these men who had demanded Jesus’ crucifixion. The apostles? No, since they were cowering and hidden! The pious women, then? But how could a few women lacking in physical strength move a rock that only several robust men could have handled?
For a few instants, the two apostles stood facing and wondering at the empty tomb, with its funeral cloth and wrappings. Up to then they had not yet understood the Scriptures. But there they began to remember the words that Our Lord himself had spoken to them when he was still and alive and which the very angels had communicated to the pious women: “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Mt 28:06). These words were confirmed shortly after by the numerous apparitions of Christ, who desired to show himself alive to his disciples, strengthening them in their faith in Him, who died and rose again: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself" (Lk 24:39).
We, bishops, priests and faithful, men and women, young and old from all Churches and from all peoples, have the privilege of standing today before this same empty tomb with a different emotion, with great amazement, surrounded by a cloud of so many witnesses who at that time and throughout history have witnessed to the truth of the Resurrection, giving their very lives for Christ.
Weighing in on the side of the Resurrection there is the witness of the empty tomb, the numerous apparitions of the Rison One to his disciples, and of history itself. Since it is certainly held that credible testimony comes from the dignity of the witness, we cannot but trust the testimony of the apostles and of the women who saw the Lord, who saw him alive after having gone to the tomb and who were then ready to die in order to affirm their testimony.
Science and archeology, of course, have never found the Lord’s body since he is risen! His enemies, not managing to come up with his body, spread the false rumor of it having been stolen. In reality, they were unable to find his remains because He, after having suffered, was alive, had risen. The apostles shouted out exultantly the announcement of his resurrection and we, with them, do likewise. Were we to choose to be silent, were we to decide to keep quiet, the stones before us would cry out in our place since these very stones are mum andongoing witnesses to the Resurrection of the Lord, as he himself said.
This year, then, our joy is double. All of us, the pastors and faithful of the diverse Churches, are celebrating the same Easter on the same day in the same place. It is the same voice. The Christians of all the world shout out today in a loud voice: “Christ is Risen!” Together with the Oriental Liturgy we praise Christ who “by his death has trodden death under foot and given life again to those who were in the tombs.” With the words of the Latin Liturgy we sing to the Lord of Life: “Victimae paschali laudes immolent christiani. Agnus redemit oves, Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores.”
Perhaps someone might be disturbed by the overlapping of prayers and songs that are heard at the same time and in diverse rites. Yet this seeming cacophony, lived in faith becomes instead a symphony that expresses the unity of the faith and of the joyful celebration of the Lord’s victory over evil and death, of the One who arose again on the third day precisely from this tomb. Yes, we are the Church of Cavalry, the Church of the empty Tomb, and of the glorious Resurrection!
Today more than ever we need hope and a special kind of strength in order to conquer the evil that is within us and around us. This year, 2010, has seen two terrible earthquakes, in Haiti and in Chile, with hundreds of thousands of victims. Thanks precisely to the hope that lives in the heart of every man and woman of good will, all of humanity was able to show a great deal of solidarity towards the survivors. Even our own Diocese participated: on the Fourth Sunday of Lent we collected the fruit of our abstinence and our fasting in order to offer succor to our brothers and sisters who were struck by such huge cataclysms, with the very same charity with which the world came to our aid in the suffering and privation that we witnessed not long ago.
This solidarity in our difficulties does much to strengthen the hope that is in us. We have said it and we repeat it: Today more than ever we need a lively hope in the midst of so much violence, in midst of bloody clashes and ethnic and religious divisions. The many wars, numerous conflicts and religious intolerance, besides the direct persecutions of which Christians are often victims, seem to confirm that the Prince of Darkness has conquered forever. But that is not the case! The small flock should not be afraid, as Jesus himself assures us: “Now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself" (Jn 12:31b-32).
From this sacred site that saw the most unexpected and surprising event in human history and that gives witness to the victory of Christ over death and evil, our Mother Church, united with the Church of Rome, turns to all the faithful of the Holy Land, to all the pilgrims, and even to the entire word, in order to greet them and wish them a joyful Easter. We pray for them and ask for their prayers for us so that the grace be given to all our parochial communities of our Diocese, extending over Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus, to be joyful witnesses of this event, so unique in human history.
We wish not to testify with our lips alone, but with our very lives. The Lord, himself, in fact, invites us with all the power of the Resurrection, to cast off the old man, who is a slave to sin, cast off death and impotence and to put on the new man created in His image and likeness. We will be witnesses not only by word, but by our lives, with sanctity and universal love, with our patience and our enduring in the Holy Land beside the Holy Places.
With Your strength, Risen Lord,
We hold out against the evil that is in us and around us.
Our trust does not come from ourselves,
But from You who have overcome the world.
We ask You for victory over our divisions, religious, political and familial;
Strength for our weakness, healing for our illnesses,
freedom for prisoners, return for our refugees,
peace and reconciliation for all people in conflict.
“This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps 117,24)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Posted by Matthew
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