Easter Sunday 2021
Jerusalem, 4 April 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
Christ is risen, alleluia!
Here we are once again gathered to conclude this Week of Prayer and Celebration. We have again reached the Sepulcher to announce emphatically and joyfully that Christ is risen, that death no longer has power over him and each of us.
The celebration began with the singing of the antiphon: “I rose, and I am still with you, alleluia.” That is the Church’s cry of joy following days of the grief and suffering of the Lord’s passion, death, and burial. These words, taken from Psalm 139, are placed on the lips of Jesus, who emerged gloriously from this tomb after the Father raised him from death. But they are also words that each of us can repeat gathered in this Most Holy of Places, because in the risen Christ we are reborn from sin and death to grace and life, and because we know that Christ is risen by the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has power over him (Rom 6:9). On this day made by the Lord (Ps 118:24), the first day of the week that will always remain with us, we gather to witness the Resurrection event and proclaim that the Risen Christ.
The Easter Gospel is rich in meaningful verbs, but one prevails over all others: seeing. It’s all a seeing at Easter ... Mary saw the stone removed (20:1), Peter saw the burial cloths (20:5), John saw the empty tomb ... (20:4). They don’t find the body, but they see ... and the seeing deepens more and more until the cry: “We saw the Lord!” (20:25).
“And he saw and believed ....” (20:8). Believed: believing is a way of seeing in-depth, recognizing that the absence of Jesus’ body does not speak of theft, but of a new life that has happened; “the other disciple” sees a void and believes that this emptiness is a fullness.
And, today, that’s what each of us is called to do: to enter the places of death and stay there, on the edge of the tomb, to see and to believe that even though death continues to generate fear, in reality, it has no more power.
We are people called to live on the threshold of the tomb, as if to keep a border open, a passage, to live this movement continuously from death to life.
To see that the signs of death are still present, in us and outside us, but to believe this great and absolute novelty, of a “stronger” who came into the world to defeat that enemy that man, alone, would never have been able to face.
Here, I believe that Easter is this, especially this: not bodies found but eyes that open ... Easter is a look more than a find; it is a new seeing more than finding former things, things as usual.
In this past year, in much of the world, we have especially counted the infections, the sick, the dead, and, probably, we are all a bit like Mary of Magdala: tempted to run backward, to find the bodies we lost, the missed opportunities, the postponed feasts, the life that seemed to escape us. We all, however, dream of returning to the normality that could resemble very much wanting to find a body, a world, and a sick life, marked by death.
In this place, right here, instead, the mysterious voice of the Risen One resounds that directs our search and reopens our eyes, making them able to see in emptiness. And so, we would like to find what was lost. We rediscover ourselves capable of seeing the great novelty of Easter if we listen to that Voice, which speaks to us of the unknown but possible future. It’s a voice that does not send us back, but to the Father and the brothers (cf Mt 28:10), that urges us to go not to go back.
Easter is betting on the impossible of God rather than the possible of men. Easter is to see the empty, to look at the signs of the Passion. It is to “see” the premise and the promise of a new and extraordinary life, not because they are dreamers but because they believe in God, Lord of the impossible.
I believe that this world, tired and wounded, and exhausted by the pandemic and the many situations of fear, death, and pain, worn out by too much vain research, finds less and less what it seeks. It is a world increasingly needing a Church with open eyes, by the Easter look, which knows how to see the traces of life even among the signs of death. Here, together with Christ, a Church called by name by the Lord can and must rise again; a Church that runs to joyfully proclaim it has seen the Lord in many faces and stories of beauty, goodness, and holiness that have consoled and support its journey.
From Easter, a Church that can and must share, humbly proud of the victory of its Lord, and dare to propose the joy of the Gospel to everyone, to redesign a world and a history of new relationships of justice and fraternity. Christ is not a corpse; His Word is not a dead letter, His reign is not a broken dream, His commandment is not overcome: He is life, our life, the life of the Church and the world. He is the truth, our truth, the truth of the Church often discarded by the powerful, but the cornerstone of every construction that wants to defy storms. He is the Way, our Way, the Way of the Church, which passes certainly from Calvary but infallibly reaches the fullness of joy. With the whole Church, we want here to live this life, proclaim this truth, to walk this Way. We should have the courage to be disciples of the impossible, capable of seeing the world with a glance redeemed by the encounter with the Risen One, and believe with the solid faith of those who have experienced the encounter with life. Nothing is impossible for those who have faith.
That is what I would like to say to our Church: Courage! Nothing is impossible. Let us stop falling back on our wounds, looking for the living among the dead, looking back to our past, to what we were, to what we have lost. We will not find the Risen One there. It’s not our Easter!
Today and after, we will hear the typical greeting on our streets these days: Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
It is not only a greeting but our people’s proclamation, the proclamation of a Church that knows how to bear witness with conviction and certainty that every death, every pain, every effort, every tear can be transformed into life. And that there is hope. There is always hope.
I, therefore, wish to each one, our Church, and our city to always live in the light of the Risen One, Who gives joy and life to anyone who wants to receive it.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem