- POPE FRANCIS: GOD’S MERCY CAN MAKE EVEN THE DRIEST LAND FLOWER
- EASTER VIGIL: DON'T BE AFRAID OF GOD'S SURPRISES. “HE ALWAYS SURPRISES US!”
- POPE'S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR APRIL
POPE FRANCIS: GOD’S MERCY CAN MAKE EVEN THE DRIEST LAND FLOWER
Vatican City, 31 March 2013 (VIS) – At 10:15 this morning, Easter Sunday, the Holy Father Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Resurrection in St. Peter's Square. Faithful from Rome and pilgrims from around the world participated in the celebration, which began with the "Resurrexit" rite—in which an icon of the Risen Lord, placed next to the papal altar, is opened and venerated to recall St. Peter's witness of the resurrection. The Pope did not give a homily since immediately after the Mass he gave his Easter message and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing (to the city and to the world).
In honour of the feast, St. Peter's Square was decorated with splendid floral arrangements. More than 40,000 flowers, donated by Dutch horticulturists, transformed the area around the altar into a magnificent garden. Yellow daffodils and white lilies highlighted, the colours of Easter and the papal flag that represent the purity of Jesus' sacrifice and the glory of his resurrection. The pink flowers—delphinium and cherry blossoms—symbolized the light of the risen Christ who destroys darkness.
At noon, from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father Francis addressed the over 250,000 people overflowing St. Peter's Square and those who were following the celebration by radio or television. He delivered his Easter proclamation—“God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden!”—and made a strong appeal for peace throughout the world. He then imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing. Following is the full text of the Pope's message:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter! Happy Easter!”
“What a joy it is to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons… Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin or of evil! Love has triumphed! Mercy has been victorious! God's mercy always triumphs!”
“We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. God's love can do this.”
“This same love out of which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell—to the abyss of separation from God—this same merciful love has flooded Jesus' dead body with light and transfigured it; has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to an earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and He entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.”
“This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from the slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and we are his glory, the living person.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all time and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passing from the slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when are lacking love for God and neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).”
“So this is the invitation that I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy! Let us be loved by Jesus! Let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”
“And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.”
“Peace for the Middle East, in particular between Israelis and Palestinians who struggle to find the road of agreement: that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq: that every act of violence may end. And above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?”
“Peace for Africa, still the scene of bloody conflicts. In Mali: may unity and stability be restored. In Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Central African Republic where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.”
“Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.”
“Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Human trafficking is precisely the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: 'Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel say: “His mercy endures forever”.' (Ps 118:1-2).”
“Dear brothers and sisters who have come from all over the world to this Square, the heart of Christianity and to all of you joining us via the media, I repeat my wishes for a happy Easter! Bring to your families and your nations the message of joy, of hope, and of peace that every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed. May the Risen Lord, who defeated sin and death, sustain us all especially the weakest and those most in need. Thank you for your presence and the witness of your faith. A thought and special thanks for the gift of these beautiful flowers that come from the Netherlands. I affectionately repeat to all of you: May the Risen Christ guide all of you and all of humanity on the paths of justice, love, and peace!”
Then, in Latin, Pope Francis imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.
EASTER VIGIL: DON'T BE AFRAID OF GOD'S SURPRISES. “HE ALWAYS SURPRISES US!”
Vatican City, 31 March 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday at 8:30 in the evening, the Holy Father presided at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica. The liturgy began in the church atrium with a blessing of the new fire and the preparation of the Paschal candle. After processing to the altar with the lit candle and the singing of the “Exsultet”, the celebration continued with the Liturgy of the Word, the Baptismal Liturgy, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
During the Vigil, the Pope administered the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) to four catechumens: one from Italy, one from Albania, one from Russia, and one from the United States. After the Gospel was read, the Holy Father dedicated his homily to discussing the holy women who went to the tomb and found it empty. “We are afraid of God's surprises! He always surprises us!” Following is the full text of his homily:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel of this luminous night of the Easter Vigil, we are the first to meet the women who went to Jesus' tomb with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, of affection, of love. It is a traditional gesture for a beloved person who has died, just as we would do too. They had followed Jesus, listened to him, felt themselves to be understood in their dignity, and they had accompanied him to the end, on Calvary, an at the moment he was taken down from the cross.”
“We can imagine how they felt as they made their way to his tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow because Jesus had left them and was dead, his story was over. Now they would go back to their previous lives. But the women continued to feel love and their love for Jesus compelled them to go to his tomb. At this point, however, something completely unexpected happens, something new, which upsets their hearts and their plans and which will upset their whole lives: They see the stone rolled away from the tomb. They draw near and they do not find the Lord's body. It is a reality that leaves them perplexed, doubtful, full of questions: 'What is happening?', What does this all mean?' (cf. Lk 24:4).”
“Isn't that also what happens to us when something truly new occurs in our everyday lives? We stop, don't understand, don't know how to handle it. New things often frighten us, even the newness that God brings us, the newness that God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: we often prefer to hold on to our sureties, to stop at the tomb, to stop at just thinking about the departed one who, in the end, lives only in our memory like great persons of the past. We're afraid of God's surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, in our lives we are afraid of God's surprises! He always surprises us! That is how the Lord is!”
“Brothers and sisters, let's not close ourselves to the newness that God wants to bring to our lives! Often we are tired, disheartened, sad; We feel the weight of our sins and think we're not going to make it. Let's not get locked up in ourselves. Let's not lose our confidence. Let us never give up. There are no situations that God cannot change; There is no sin that He won't forgive if we open ourselves to him.”
“But let's go back to the Gospel, to the women, and take a step forward. They find the tomb empty. Jesus' body is not there. Something new has happened but this still doesn't tell them anything certain. It raises questions and leaves them perplexed without offering an answer. And then, two men in dazzling garments who say: 'Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He has been raised.' (Lk 24:5-6). What had been a simple gesture, an act certainly undertaken in love—going to the tomb—now transforms into an occurrence, a truly life-changing event.”
“Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our lives and in our story of humanity. Jesus isn't someone who has died. He is risen. He is the Living One! He has not simply come back to life but is life itself because He is the Son of God who is the Living God. Jesus is no longer in the past but lives in the present and is projected toward the future. Jesus is God's eternal 'today'.This is how God's newness presents itself to the eyes of the women, of the disciples, of all of us: victory over sin, over evil, over death, over everything that oppresses our lives and gives them a less human face.”
“This is a message that is addressed to me, to you, dear sister, to you, dear brother. How many times do we need Love to tell us: Why do you seek the living one among the dead? Our problems and our everyday worries tend to wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death lies. Let's not look there for He who is alive!”
“Accept the Risen Jesus into your life, then. Welcome him as a friend, with confidence. He is life! If up to now you have been distant from him, take a small step: He will welcome you with open arms. If you are indifferent, take the risk: You will not be disappointed. If following him seems difficult to you, don't be afraid: entrust yourself to him and rest assured that He is close to you. He is with you and will give you the peace you are seeking and the strength to live as He wants you to.”
“There is one last, simple element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel of this luminous Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus is risen, He is the Living One. But, faced with the empty tomb and the two men in dazzling garments, their first reaction is one of fear: They 'bowed their faces to the ground', St. Luke notes. They didn't even have the courage to look. But, when they hear the announcement of the Resurrection, they accept it with faith. And the two men in dazzling garments introduce a fundamental word: remember. 'Remember what He said to you while He was still in Galilee … And they remembered his words.' (Lk 24:6,8).”
“This is a call to remember their encounter with Jesus, with his words, his deeds, his life. It is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that leads the women to overcome every fear and to take the announcement of the Resurrection to the Apostles and to all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). Remembering what God has done and continues to do for me, for us; remembering the path we have travelled—this opens wide our hearts to hope for the future. Let's learn to remember what God has done in our lives!”
“On this radiant night, calling upon the intercession of the Virgin Mary who keeps all things in her heart (Lk 2:19,51), let us ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May He open us to the newness that transforms, to God's surprises that are so beautiful. May He make us men and women who are capable of remembering what He does in our personal lives and in the history of the world. May He make us capable of hearing him as the Living One, who lives and is at work amongst us. May He teach us every day, dear brothers and sisters, to not seek among the dead for He who is living. Amen.”
POPE'S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR APRIL
Vatican City, 30 March 2013 (VIS) – The Pope's general prayer intention for April is: "That the public, prayerful celebration of faith may give life to the faithful."
His mission intention is: "That mission churches may be signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.”
Vatican City, 31 March 2013 (VIS) – Although there is usually no VIS bulletin during the Easter holidays, this year the Vatican Information Service has transmitted all the acts of the new Pope during the Easter Triduum. With the conclusion of those holy days, however, tomorrow and the following day—Monday 1 April and Tuesday 2 April, which are still holidays in the Vatican—there will be no VIS bulletin. The service will resume on Wednesday, 3 April.
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