April 21, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Once again, we have come to the end of this special Holy Week which, as always in Jerusalem, is full of meaning, rich, mysterious and very fruitful.
The days of Holy Week were days when the revelation of God’s love reached its climax. Last Sunday, we saw love revealed in Jesus’ solemn entry into Jerusalem: a gentle and regal love. A non-violent love that does not use force, does not advocate the logic of power.
With the ritual of the washing of the feet and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we saw the love that is lowered and humiliated, that is sacrifice and communion.
Then, on Friday, we contemplated the love that holds nothing for itself and that, by forgiving, gives everything, even life. But we know it is thanks to that total gift of self that we participate today in His divine life.
Now we are, once again, before this empty Sepulcher. We have come here, like Mary of Magdala, and the disciples Peter and John of the Gospel just proclaimed.
Mary goes to the Sepulcher because she has no other place to go, except where there is still something of that man who restored her life. Peter and John incredulous at Mary’s words run, but they too do not find what they expect to find, namely death: the tomb is empty, and the burial cloths are there to say that death no longer holds the Lord in its power; He left death.
Mary, and then Peter and John, go to the Sepulcher, bringing with them in their hearts their expectations.
And us! What kind of spirit have we come with here, today? What do we carry in our hearts? What expectation?
Each of us brings his or her experience of Easter, of death and resurrection.
As every year, we wonder then what importance this Easter has for us. What tells us now, today, the Christ, dead and risen.
We really need to return here, to bring our expectation and desire for life to this Place, to strengthen our faith in God’s definitive ‘yes’ to man, a faith often wounded by the many experiences of death in and around us, to lead us to believe that death holds us in its power. We need to come back here to give substance to the Hope that is rooted here, in this Place.
In the tragic situation we are living, it is this hope that comes to the rescue of a faith that is at odds every day with such great violence, it really seems to us that Evil is victorious. It is this hope that every day drives us to perform charity, even if we clearly see that it is a drop in the ocean. It is the hope of a different world, according to the heart of God, which helps us to walk towards a future that, for us, is unpredictable. Hope is not awaiting an unlikely future, but the awareness of a gift that accompanies the present. It is the good soil on which faith is founded, on which charity becomes testimony; without hope, faith dies, and charity finds no strength to act.
To understand this mystery it is first necessary to enter the Sepulcher. Peter and John enter it, each at his own pace and time, because it is a personal experience, which no one can get for someone else. Each of us must see with our own eyes that death is no longer there, that death no longer reigns.
And we bring here, in front of this empty Sepulcher, not only our experience of death and resurrection, not only our personal expectations, but also those of our community, our Church, our people, and those of the pilgrims and penitents who have come here from all over the world.
Let us enter, then, and ask ourselves what we bring here today? What experiences of fear and death in us once again need to be swept away and routed by the testimony of Life that this Place has in it?
Perhaps we bring tiredness deriving from frustrated expectations, because they are wrong, linked to the final outcome; expectations interested in the success and salvaging of our pastoral, social and economic undertakings, rather than the salvation of our lives. We carry our small horizons, the never-ending retreats into ourselves, the difficulty in creating spaces for others and their needs, the fear that the life and activities of others take away something from us that must be ours alone; the fear of losing positions. We bring logic and expectations of power, of desire for important position to the detriment of others. We bring resignation to the idea that something new, something beautiful can never happen for us. We bring distrust into a possible change for our life, for our people, for our Church.
We dream of freedom, rather than get it. I speak here of the freedom that comes from one’s inner decision, even before the external conditions of life. Freedom to say yes to God every day, as if starting all over again, with the same enthusiasm, evaluating yesterday’s defeat as a departure for the commitment of today and always. Freedom to choose every day which side you are on, doing good according to the heart of God.
We struggle to make a difference, to be extraordinary: “What are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do this?” (cf. Mt 5:38-48).
In political life all this is evident and visible to everyone. But we should stop pointing fingers outside ourselves, and looking at others. We must recognize that, yes, we too, after all, are in no way different or exempt from these shadows of death and that we, like others, struggle to work together, to share and to welcome each other.
So, coming here today, we bring all of our efforts and those of our Church and we ask, we pray, we implore that even now miracles take place. Let us tell ourselves again the event that changed the life of Mary of Magdala, of Peter and John and then of all the other disciples. And, after them, the many prophets and saints of every age, whom we honor and who present us with a beautiful, noble life, where Christian joy is present in adversity or in pain.
We ask to have the joy of being startled once again and that our fears are proved wrong by the evidence of the Risen One, Who says to us once again: “Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen” (Mk 16: 6). Here we ask for the grace and the gift of a heart capable of catching sight of the signs of the Risen One, of the Living One in our midst of a concrete, consoling, tender presence. Only love can overcome death and overcome the boundaries of time. We therefore ask for the gift of knowing how to see in the life of our community that love which we celebrated in these days of Holy Week in the Liturgy, but which we know is celebrated daily even in the domestic life of our families, in our rest homes, in services to the poor and the little, in schools, in hospitals, in prisons, in the joy of so many who, here among us, continue to give their lives to others. Where someone gives part of him or herself, the Living One is celebrated. Where one lives by trust, there the Risen One triumphs. But we don’t want this miracle just for others. We want, we ask that the eyes of the Risen Lord pierce our eyes, wound our hearts and break once more our defenses.
And so, in the spirit of the Risen One we want to be the leaven that makes the entire dough ferment (1 Cor 5:6), the small difference that does not yield, does not retreat, but that with enthusiasm and courage, conquers all fear, precedes it. In Galilee, in our homes, in our churches, where a person is alone or lost, with those who rejoice or curse, we want to go, to say once again that the Lord has visited us, we have seen Him. The Risen One is still here among us, and everywhere goes before us. And He awaits us (cf. Mk 16: 7).