This morning, Pope Francis delivered his first Easter sermon during Mass at St. Peter's Square, his message going out to a quarter million people in the Vatican itself and many more around the globe. Although I'm not Catholic, I was encouraged by how His Holiness spoke clearly and directly to the pressing crises of our day, both to those in the grip of suffering and oppression and to those who are in the throes of war and dissension.
I've provided the English translation of Francis' sermon below. The line I find most memorable is "the power of the Resurrection, this Passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives." In other words, the raising of Jesus Christ from death to life crushed the guilt of sin and means its power will be fully overcome. However, the degree to which that resurrection reality of victory over sin pervades the world, the depth to which it brings in shalom--God's dream for this world--also hinges on our living out the life of Christ.
On the first Easter morning, the angels asked the women at the empty tomb, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Many times people today see deadness among Christians who have the most reason to be alive, to work out their faith in winsome, shalom-building ways. This should not be. Think it over. At the very least, read through what Francis said today.
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy
Easter! Happy Easter!
What a joy it is for me 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, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been
victorious! The mercy of God always triumphs!
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. The
love God can do this!
This same love for 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 with light the dead body of Jesus,
has transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not
return to his former life, to 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 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 man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses,
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died
and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the
Resurrection, this passover from 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 we have no love for
God or 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 which 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
Peace for the Middle East, and particularly
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 violent 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.
in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be
overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
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 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 steadfast
love endures for ever. Let Israel say: 'His steadfast love endures for
ever'" (Ps 117:1-2).
Brothers and Sisters, to you who have come from all over the world to
this Square at the heart of Christianity, and to you linked by modern
technology, I repeat my greeting: Happy Easter!
in your families and in your countries the message of joy, hope and
peace which every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed.
May the risen Lord, the conqueror of sin and death, be a support
to you all, especially to the weakest and neediest. Thank you for your
presence and for the witness of your faith. A thought and a special
thank-you for the beautiful flowers, which come from the Netherlands. To
all of you I affectionately say again: may the risen Christ guide all
of you and the whole of humanity on the paths of justice, love and