Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Just over two weeks ago, we witnessed the election of a new Chief Shepherd – Pope Francis. The Chair of Peter is once more filled. Now on Easter Sunday, with joy and exaltation, the entire Church throughout the world proclaims once again, as it has done for two millennia, “Christ is Risen!” You and I are able to confidently proclaim this because of the unbroken line from Peter, who witnessed the events of the first Easter Sunday, through the centuries to John Paul II to Benedict XVI and now to Francis.
The story of Jesus should have ended when he was placed in the tomb. But it was only the beginning. He was dead, truly dead, but Christ – the Word made flesh – destroyed death so that we might live in him. We come together as a people on this day so that we might, once again, see the signs – the empty tomb, the progress of Christ’s living Church through 20 centuries, and all of the works of love and charity lived out by that Church over 2,000 years – and also to hear the witnesses, Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, the other apostles and disciples who saw Jesus alive, as well as the testimony of the martyrs and saints, all of those witnesses year after year after year.
The Gospel tells us of the empty tomb, of the first witnesses, and of the need for us to believe. We are part of a faith family, a living tradition, a connectedness through the Church to the Apostles. So we can say we are his witnesses! We are called to see the signs, to hear those who have gone before us, to believe, and then testify to all the world: Christ is Risen! We cannot keep this Good News to ourselves. We must share it and invite others to rejoice in it.
We must share the Good News of the Risen Lord and by his grace, we must allow him and his love and truth to shine through us to others, so that we might provide the face of Christ to them. We are meant to be signs and instruments of salvation in the work of Christ, the light of the world and salt of the earth for the redemption of all. This is the mission that Jesus himself has given to us, to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, to make disciples of all nations – “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8).
In his meeting with the College of Cardinals after the conclave, Pope Francis told us that it was his desire that, inspired by the celebration of the Year of Faith, all of the faithful would “strive to respond faithfully to the Church’s perennial mission: to bring Jesus Christ to mankind and to lead mankind to an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and also in every person. This meeting leads us to become new men in the mystery of Grace, kindling in the spirit that Christian joy that is the hundredfold given by Christ to those who welcome him into their lives.”
But in sending us, in giving us this mission to proclaim the truth of the Resurrection and the invitation to share in this eternal life, Jesus does not leave us to fend for ourselves. Our Holy Father reminded us that we can be “quite certain that the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church, with his powerful breath, the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, so as to bring the Gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the profound need of human life, proclaiming convincingly that Christ is the one Savior of the whole man and of all men. This proclamation remains as valid today as it was at the origin of Christianity, when the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel took place.”
After seeing the empty tomb and encountering the Risen Lord, Peter went out and gave witness to this Good News, a truth which brightens and transforms lives, instilling hope, courage, and perseverance in every age. He continues to do so, now bearing the name Francis.
This Easter season, let us simply take on our own responsibility as witnesses to bear testimony so as to renew the world – Christ died and rose, never to die again. This is our faith, this is our great hope, life everlasting in the fullness of love that is Jesus Christ. May you carry in your hearts today and every day, the splendor and joy of the simple proclamation of those on that first Easter, of Peter and of every believer since, “Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen, Alleluia!”