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BY Jim Cosgrove
The core of the Jubilee's legacy is contemplation of the face of Christ, said Pope John Paul II at his weekly audience, April 18.
In the glory of the Easter season, this means beholding the face of Christ as the One who is risen and now alive in the Church and the world, he told 20,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Recalling Christ's Resurrection encounters with Mary Magdalene and the other holy women, with Peter and Paul, and with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Holy Father emphasized that Jesus still wants to draw near every man and woman in order to renew their sense of hope.
"After recognizing and contemplating the face of the risen Christ,” he said, “we too, like the … disciples, are invited to run to our brothers and sisters, to bring the great message to them all: ‘We have seen the Lord!‘”
Today the usual Wednesday audience is flooded with the luminous joy of Easter. During these days, the Church exultantly celebrates the great mystery of the Resurrection. This is a deep and inextinguishable joy, based on the risen Christ's gift of the new and eternal Covenant, which remains forever because he will never die again. Our joy lasts not only through the Octave of Easter, which the liturgy regards as a single day, but extends for fifty days up to Pentecost. Or better yet, it reaches out to embrace all times and all places. During this period, the Christian community is invited to a new and more thorough experience of the risen Christ, who is alive and active in the Church and the world.
In this splendid setting of the light and joy that characterize the Easter season, we now want our gaze to linger in contemplation together on the face of the Risen One, recapturing and focusing our attention on what I did not hesitate to point out as the “essential core” of the great heritage left to us by the Jubilee of the Year 2000. In fact, as I emphasized in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte (At the Beginning of the New Millenium), “if we ask what is the core of the great legacy that the Jubilee experience leaves us, I would not hesitate to describe it as the contemplation of the face of Christ … known through his manifold presence in the Church and in the world, and confessed as the meaning of history and the light of life's journey” (No. 15).
From Sorrow to Joy
Just as on Good Friday and Holy Saturday we contemplated Christ's sorrowful face, we now turn our eyes, full of faith and grateful love, toward the face of the Risen One. The Church looks toward him during these days, following in the footsteps of Peter, who professed his love to Christ (see John 21:15-17), and in the steps of Paul, who was thunderstruck by the risen Jesus on the Damascus road (see Acts 9:3-5).
The Easter liturgy offers us various encounters with the risen Christ. These constitute an invitation to study his message in depth, and they spur us to imitate the faith journey of all those who recognized him in those first hours after the resurrection. Like the holy women and Mary Magdalene, we are impelled to urgently carry the message of the Risen One to the disciples (see Luke 24:8-10; John 20:18). The beloved disciple testifies in his own unique way that it's love that succeeds in seeing the reality signified by the signs of the Resurrection: the empty tomb, the absence of the corpse, the folded burial cloths. Love sees and believes, and it urges us to walk toward the One who bears in himself the full significance of all things — Jesus, living throughout all ages.
Our Own Emmaus Journey
In today's liturgy, the Church contemplates the face of the Risen One, by joining the journey of the two disciples of Emmaus. At the beginning of our meeting, we heard a passage from this well-known page of the Evangelist Luke.
However exhausting, the road to Emmaus leads from the sense of distress and bewilderment to the fullness of Easter faith. As we retrace this path, we too are joined by the mysterious traveling Companion. Jesus draws near to us on the road, taking us wherever we are, and asking us the essential questions that will once again open our hearts to hope. He has many things to explain concerning his destiny and ours. Above all, he reveals that every human life must pass through his Cross in order to enter into glory. But Christ accomplishes something more — he breaks the bread of fellowship for us, offering us the eucharistic table where the Scriptures acquire their full significance and reveal the unique and shining features of the face of the Redeemer.
‘We Have Seen the Lord’
After recognizing and contemplating the face of the risen Christ, we too, like the two disciples, are invited to run to our brothers and sisters to bring the great message to them all: “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25). “His resurrection is our rising to life” (Easter Preface II) — this is the good news that Christ's disciples never tire of bringing to the world, above all through the witness of their own lives. This is the most beautiful gift our brothers and sisters are expecting from us during this Easter season.
Let us, then, allow ourselves to be overcome by the fascination of Christ's resurrection. May the Virgin Mary help us fully savor the joy of Easter — a joy that, according to the promise of the Risen One, no one can take from us and that will never end (see John 16:23).