Pope Francis’s Homily for Easter Vigil: “Be Opened!”

PopeFrancisPapalCoatOfArms1 By: Pope Francis
Easter Vigil
March 30, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. 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 Calvary 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; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!

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.

2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you, dear sister, dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!

Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.

On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites

March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday
On that first Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning and sees that the stone had been removed from the tomb. She runs to get Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and tells them what she saw. Simon Peter and the other disciple enter the tomb to find burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered the head of Jesus. The beloved disciple sees and believes. The gospel passage continues, reaching its climax in subsequent verses with the appearance of the Risen Lord to Mary Magdalene after the two other disciples had gone home.
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Easter: The Cross and the Candle
A large cross covered with a red cloth is held up at the entrance of the nave.  A third of the cloth is removed.  “This is the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the world,” the priest sings.  The cross is brought to the center of the church.  The second third is removed.  Again the priest sings, “This is the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the world.”  The same is repeated in the front.  And the people come up to venerate the cross that brought us salvation.  They come up to give their burdens to the One who hung on the cross for them.
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The Meaning of Easter
The Meaning of Easter is more than springtime and dyed eggs.  The significance of Easter is that not only sin but death has been conquered by the one who foretold his own resurrection before he gave his life for us on Good Friday.

The serpent’s bite was a deadly one.  The venom had worked its way deep into the heart of humanity, doing its gruesome work.  The anti-venom was unavailable till He appeared.  One drop was all that was needed, so potent was this antidote.  Yet it was not like Him to be stingy. The sacrifice of His entire life poured out to the last drop at the foot of the cross – This was the Son’s answer to the Problem of Sin.
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Hearing God’s Voice: A Guide to Prayer and Discernment
Last year, I helped teach high school students at my parish’s faith formation program in St. Ignace, Michigan. We took the students to exposition, and afterward, one of them asked me how to tell when she is hearing God’s voice. This is an edited version of the letter I wrote her.
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Being Faithful in Small Things
One of the frequent attacks against traditionalists has always been that we are scrupulous Pharisees, who try to make a camel pass through the eye of the needle.  (Mark 10:25)  While we get offended when we hear this, at times I think
we should acknowledge it.  Sometimes traditionalists do make an idol out of  liturgical discipline, and we are like the Pharisee in the temple.  We thank God  that we have
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Miracle: The Pope & The Heart of The Lord
Read this amazing story of a modern Eucharistic miracle in which Pope Francis played a key role. (ht SpiritDaily)

At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candleholder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. Since he was unable to consume it, he placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
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The Passion
O most charitable Jesus, you desired to enrich us, and so you first gave us your blood to wash us so that, having been purified, we might be able to receive the gifts you offer. O my dear Savior, you go out to the garden of Olives, to the house of Caiaphas, to the praetorium of the Roman governor, and, at last, you go up to Mount Calvary. Everywhere you go you pour out the blood of your new covenant, the blood by which our crimes are expiated and abolished.
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The Crucifixion of Our Lord
Timeline of Jesus’ Final Hours

Preceding Events

The Last Supper 
(Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-38; John 13:21-30)

In the Garden of Gethsemane 
(Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-45)

Jesus is Betrayed and Arrested 
(Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11)

The Religious Leaders Condemn Jesus 
(Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71)
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Following Jesus is Learning to Go Out of Ourselves
“I am happy to welcome you to this, my first general audience,” Pope Francis said to the thousands of faithful who filled St. Peter’s Square to participate in the Bishop of Rome’s first catechesis. “With gratitude and veneration,” he continued, “I take up this ‘witness’ from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. After Easter we will return to the catechesis of the Year of Faith. Today I want to focus on Holy Week. We began this week—the heart of the entire liturgical year—during which we accompany Jesus in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, with Palm Sunday.
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The Interior Passion of Our Lord
In the Liturgical Year, we’ve reached the day which our sanctification was bought by the price of God’s blood. We often dwell upon the physical download (2)6side of Our Lord’s Passion, but I thought maybe we could go into the thoughts and pains which Jesus suffered for us that sometimes go unnoticed. Let us then go back into the events of this holy day, and see the truths which are revealed.
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The Supernatural Case for Catholicism
I think that one mistake that we Catholics fall into is attempting to prove the faith without referencing the supernatural. We’ll use Scripture and reason to show the truth of Catholicism (which is great, of course), but we tend to get awkward about using miracles, particularly to non-believers. We’re quick to talk about John 6 or the Five Ways. But many of us are slower to talk about, say, Lourdes, Padre Pio, or the Shroud of Turin.
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The Winning Strategy
To win any war, the three most necessary things to know are: (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him.

You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.
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The Church of Surprises
One of the most ridiculous misrepresentations of the Catholic Church is that it is an old fashioned, stuck in time, unchanging and inflexible institution.

From the wordling’s point of view, it seems a no brainer. Here is a two thousand year old institution run by old white guys. They have guards with halberds for goodness’ sake–standing around in renaissance costumes. Speaking of costumes, the clergy all wear outlandish gear and wild old time hats. They maintain ancient traditions and customs and operate a closed shop inside a secretive walled city.
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Baptism: Entry Into Church Family as a Child of God
“I don’t think my feet touched the floor at the Easter vigil of 1994,” recalls Jennifer Pixler of Maryland. “I felt such love, knowing that God was wiping out all my sins when I was baptized.”

“Baptism is the heart of being Catholic,” says Jeannine Marino, assistant director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis. “It is our initiation into the Church and our call to holiness.”
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Son Rise (John 20:1-10)
John 20:1-10: It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’ So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was
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Fathers and Sons
I’m a member of St. Joseph’s Parish in a suburban community in New York. We have a lovely church with several thousand parishioners, which is why we have six resident priests, a deacon, and seven Sunday Masses, at least four of which are often SRO.

There is a statue of St. Joseph behind the altar. He holds the infant Jesus – in this depiction, the Savior is about six-to-ten-months-old. And the apse is filled with angels, because as our pastor told me: “I love angels.”

Angels played an important role in the life of Joseph. They were the link between his previously quotidian existence and the miracles to come.
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Praying for People You Can’t Pray For
A couple of years ago, a spiritual director gave me a hard assignment. I had just finished railing at him about someone with whom I was very angry. After marveling at the amazing odds that I, of all people, would just so happen to encounter the worst human being on the face of the planet, as well as rehashing the part of the story about my own innocence and the utterly unprovoked nature of the bad person’s evildoing, I asked the priest how I should handle the situation.
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The “Truth” Problem
People today often lament the lack of rational discussion in the political sphere. Or any sphere for that matter. Somewhere along the line as a society we forgot how to construct ideas in a logical progression, from basic assumptions to derived conclusions.

I do not know if there was a time when people exchanged ideas rationally. I think it may be a cyclical thing. We start out with lofty ideas that our reasoning combined with a trust in human beings that over time we will convert the world to our opinion.

I think the problem begins when we set out with a particular mindset. I think it goes something like this:
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Some Thoughts on Marriage
It is impossible to ignore the ongoing and hotly contested debate in our country about the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.  The partisans on both sides of the issue have well-articulated arguments defending their positions and the issue is now before the Supreme Court to determine the future of marriage in California and possibly other states.  What Christ gave us as a sacrament will have its “civil” future determined by a man-made institution.  How did we arrive at this sad juncture in history?
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The Anointing
As his time came near, Jesus came forth from his retreat at Ephraim and returned to Bethany, to the neighborhood of Jerusalem, just six days before the Passover. He came for a feast at the house of his friend Lazarus. Martha was serving, as was her habit, and Mary, in accord with hers, observed the custom of the Jews and “took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair,” with the result that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment” (John 12:3).
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Praying in Our Lord’s Native Tongue
During his recent visit to the Dominican House of Studies, the Student Brothers were privileged to speak at length with patristic scholar Fr. Nageeb Michael, O.P., Director of the Digital Center for Eastern Manuscripts. Fr. Nageeb explained his current work which focuses on the preservation of ancient Christian manuscripts in the Middle East.  In this, the first of three interviews with Fr. Nageeb produced by Dominicana, he discusses the beauty of praying in his native language, and then prays the Our Father and Hail Mary in Aramaic.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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