In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to
and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their
feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that
Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now
go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which
now led them to his tomb.
But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4).
Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily,
Reflection – Happy Easter everyone! Don’t forget – it is still Easter Day, the great eight days that are one day only, that are the one great feast of Easter. Don’t fall into our terrible post-modern trap of moving on too quickly from things (Easter? That’s so four days ago!) – it is still Easter, just as much as it was on Easter Sunday.
And so we have this truly luminous homily by our new Pope Francis, and his first appearance on this blog. I have been thinking much about him and his papacy in this past week. Some of you may have heard that there has been some fuss about his decision to wash the feet of two women in the Holy Thursday Mass at the youth prison. Yes, the rubrics do call explicitly for men, but he is the Pope, the Supreme Legislator of the Church, and in his papal authority he is not bound by those rubrics. I am; you are; Fr. Experimento Liturgico at St. Vatican III parish is, but the Pope is not. Them’s the Catholic rules, and there is really no great ambiguity about the matter. I do realize that there is deep confusion of thought on all sides (the Pope is going to ordain women! The Pope is destroying tradition!), and perhaps a pastoral need for clarification here, but the thing itself is not complicated.
Meanwhile, clearly Pope Francis is a new pope with a new approach to matters. His own life (let’s not forget the human being Jorge Bergoglio here) has taken a radical new turn that he could not have expected, and he is preaching to himself as much as to us. But there is a new tone, a new wind blowing in
a new chapter in the life of the Church. Rome
It is unsettling, but the point is, that’s a good thing. Not because Popes Benedict and John Paul and so forth were wrong about anything—I am the last blogger in the world who would take that position—but because God is always turning pages, starting new chapters, shaking things up.