VATICAN CITY — As the Church celebrates the Easter Octave, Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a reflection on Christ’s resurrection and the start of Christianity, saying it’s not about us and what we do, but what the Lord has done for us.
“(Christianity) is not so much our search for God, but, rather, God’s search for us. How beautiful to think that Christianity, essentially, is this!”
Jesus, the Pope said April 19, “has taken us, has seized us, has conquered us, in order to not leave us anymore.”
In his catechesis for his first general audience of the Easter season, Francis spoke about the “grace” and “surprise” found in our Christian faith, saying we need hearts able to wonder, because hearts that are closed off cannot understand the truth of what Christianity is.
Even though we are sinners and might look at our lives realizing how many times we have failed to live out our good intentions, we can follow the example of the men and women in the Gospel on Easter morning, he said.
“We can do as those people spoken of in the Gospel: Go to the tomb of Christ, see the large upturned stone and reflect that God is building for me, for all of us, an unforeseen future.”
And we can all go into the tomb of our hearts, he said, and see how God is able to transform death into life.
“Here is happiness, here is joy and life, where everyone thought there was only sadness, defeat and darkness,” Francis said, adding that “God raises his most beautiful flowers in the midst of the most arid stones.”
Pope Francis then reflected on the start of Christianity following Christ’s death and resurrection, emphasizing that these events aren’t just an “ideology” or a “philosophical” belief, but real events witnessed by Jesus’ disciples.
These, he said, are the facts: “He died, was buried, is risen and has appeared. That is — Jesus is alive! This is the core of the Christian message.”
If facts had been different and Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, but only died for us, we would perhaps have an example of heroism or supreme dedication, but it could not be the source of our faith, he said.
Instead, our faith is born out of Christ’s resurrection, the Pope said, noting that this is true even for the faith of St. Paul, who was no “altar boy,” but actually persecuted Christians and the Church.
“And the persecutor becomes an apostle because?” he asked, explaining that the reason was he saw the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
“This is the foundation of Paul’s faith, like the faith of the other apostles, like the faith of the Church, of our faith,” he said. “Because I have seen Jesus alive! I have seen the risen Jesus Christ!”
Francis closed his audience saying that Christianity comes not from death, but from God’s love for us in defeating our “bitter enemy.”
“God is bigger than anything, and you only need one lit candle to overcome the darkest of nights,” he said. “Paul cries, echoing the prophets: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”
“In these days of Easter, let us carry this cry in our hearts, and if they ask us for the reason for our smile and our patient sharing, then we can respond that Jesus is still here — he continues to live in the midst of us. Jesus is alive!”