By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis presided over the most solemn and noblest of all solemnities, the Easter Vigil, on Saturday evening in a near empty St Peter’s Basilica. Millions around the globe, however, joined the Vicar of Christ through television, radio, and other digital platforms, to hear the Easter proclamation resound once again in their hearts, in their homes, and in the entire world.
His homily focused on two gifts that the Risen Christ offers to every disciple of every age: hope and courage.
First Holy Saturday
It was women who were active on the first Holy Saturday, Pope Francis noted. And we can relate to them in a particular way this year, he continued.
But the situation they had lived did not paralyze these women. Rather, they did something “simple yet extraordinary” — they prepared “at home the spices to anoint” Jesus’ body.
Another woman, Our Lady, spent the day in prayer. That day, the Pope reminded us, would one day be dedicated to her honour.
With dawn comes hope
With dawn comes hope, in the person of Jesus, whom the women meet.
Hope is our right, Pope Francis declared. It is a hope that comes from God. It’s not optimism, he clarified, but a “gift from heaven” that we have not “earned on our own”. “All will be well”, has been our chant in the past weeks, he acknowledged. But with the passing of the weeks, “the boldest hope can dissipate”.
Our hope is in a person who emerged from a place where no one else has ever emerged – a grave.
The Lord’s gift of courage can only be received by rolling away even the slightest stone we may have placed before our hearts. The light of the Risen Lord can thus penetrate our deepest fears. Just as Jesus preceded His disciples to Galilee, so “the Lord goes before us”, Pope Francis reminded us.
Galilee also signifies the place furthest from the “sacredness of the Holy City”. It was where heathens lived. That is where Jesus sent His disciples right after His resurrection. The Pope interprets this as a sign that His “message of hope should not be confined” only to holy places. It is meant for everyone, no matter where they live. We, Christians, need to “bring the song of life” wherever a Galilee exists around us, the Pope said. For if we “who have touched the Word of Life” don’t sing that song, he asked, who will?
Embracing Jesus’ feet
The women embraced those feet that had entered and emerged from the tomb, the feet that had “trampled death and opened the way of hope”.