At the Easter Vigil Mass, Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace, Rome (April 15, 2006)
At the Easter Vigil Mass
in the Prelatic Church of
Our Lady of Peace, Rome
1. My dear sisters and daughters
Yesterday we assisted at the passion and death of our Lord. The Offices of Good Friday end by symbolizing the burial of Christ: the bare altar, without altar cloths or candlesticks, reminds us that Jesus is now lying in the tomb. The apostles and holy women believe that all has ended; their adventure alongside Christ, who has enkindled so much light in their souls, seems to be over. An immense darkness fills the whole world. This is symbolized by today’s ceremony, which begins with all the lights turned off.
The Paschal Vigil is the Church’s most solemn liturgical ceremony. Let us try to stay close to Mary as we take part. In her the light of faith and hope was never extinguished; never for a moment did she doubt that her Son’s promise would be fulfilled: “I shall rise on the third day.” Mary alone remembers, prays, hopes and tries to prevent the disciples from becoming discouraged and being dispersed. We know that Christ arose and that by his Resurrection he definitively defeated sin, the devil and death. God could not permit the body of his Son to see corruption, and he united it once again with his soul so as to never again die. This is the great announcement that the Church makes today to the whole world: Christ has risen! “Life has overcome death!” as St. Josemaria joyfully expressed it.
He has truly risen, and he has risen for us, to give us immortal life, of which we already have a foretaste here. Christ’s Resurrection is a pledge of our own. Everything comes from him. We saw this visibly symbolized in the procession of the paschal candle. In the darkness, the paschal candle was suddenly lit, representing Christ, the true light of the world. And this light was spread to all the others, until the Church was filled with light.
2. What we have just seen expressed symbolically in the liturgical signs, has been truly realized in each of us by our baptism. Let us meditate on St. Paul’s words: “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death…We were buried therefore with him…so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). St. Thomas says that in baptism Christ’s redemptive merits are applied to us as though each of us had been crucified and buried with him. How grateful we should be for this immense gift!
But we truly have to lead a new life, as St. Paul also reminds us. A new life that consists in showing ourselves worthy to be called Christians, that is to say, women and men who have faith in Christ and who strive to become as much like him as possible. To assist us, he has given us the sacraments, which perfect Christ’s image in us, especially the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. But on our part personal struggle is required, not only against everything that can separate us from God, but also in order to grow more and more closely identified with Jesus Christ.
3. Let us ask ourselves courageously: where do I have to say no, and where do I need to say yes, in order to fulfill the will of God the Father and become more like Jesus? Grace, which is light for the intellect and strength for the will, is not lacking to us. Besides, we can rely on the intercession of our Lady and all the saints in heaven, especially St. Josemaría, to whom we owe the initiative of these Easter gatherings: our Father will obtain these graces for us with special abundance. And we can also go to the Servant of God, John Paul II, who so strongly encouraged these Roman reunions. He sees us and is following us from the window of heaven, as the present Pope said when still a Cardinal, in the funeral Mass last year.
We can’t seek compromises, like a person trying to haggle over the price of something of infinite value. What is at stake is the sanctity to which we are all personally called. If Christ did not hold back a drop of his Blood for each of us, how can we allow room for selfish calculations?
But it is not enough that you and I look after our own spiritual life. We are all called to be other Christs, Christ himself, and the whole purpose of Christ’s life was the salvation of the world. “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). This fire is the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier of souls, who now dwells in the heart of the Church. But he dwells there so that we can transmit him to others. We have to be apostolic. A person who fails to set fire to his surroundings, ends up having his own fire die out.
4. In today’s Gospel the women, after seeing the empty sepulcher, are told by the angel to communicate the good news to the disciples. Jesus himself goes forth to meet them and tells them: “go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” They are the first to announce the good news of the Resurrection, the first link in a chain that should never be interrupted.
You and I, don’t doubt it, have received the same mission. During these days in Rome it has resounded with new force in our ears. The Vicar of Christ himself has insisted in one way or another that we are to follow Christ closely, because he has called us to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. Don’t you see what a marvelous adventure this is, even humanly speaking? It will become a reality through the power of the Holy Spirit and your apostolic zeal.
Everywhere there are thousands and thousands of people, young and old, who have never heard this announcement. They are waiting to hear it from your lips, to see it reflected in your conduct The Founder of the Work was always moved by that passage in St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus approached a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, beside the pool of Bethsaida. Our Lord asked him: Do you want to be cured? And the sick man answered: Lord, I don’t have anyone who can help me get into the pool when the waters are agitated; when I arrive, someone has gotten there before me.… “I don’t have a person at my side who can give me a push....” Perhaps because we are cowards and let ourselves be influenced by human respects; or lukewarm people without the fire of Christ in their heart. It is a great responsibility: “What a pity,” wrote St. Josemaria, “if Jesus does not find in you the man or the woman he expects” (The Forge, 168).
Think about it, and make specific resolutions. Who can you help to come closer to Jesus, when you return to your own country? Which of your companions, or friends, or relatives, can you have a personal conversation with, opening up spiritual horizons? Who can you invite to a retreat, or help to make a good confession? Surely if you go down the list of people you know, you will find someone, perhaps a number of people, for whom you could have prayed more, and to whom you have never seriously spoken about the need to be close to God.
Let us ask our Lady, Queen of Apostles, that through her intercession the resolutions from these days may yield fruit in our lives: resolutions to follow Jesus very closely, to be faithful to our Christian commitments, and to bring many other souls close to Christ. Amen.