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Seek the Lord With a Simple And Sincere Heart
BY John Lilly
More than 50,000 pilgrims gathered in
St. Peter’s Square for Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience on April 11. The
Holy Father dedicated his catechesis to the Octave of Easter and spoke about
Jesus’ various appearances following his resurrection.
After our solemn celebration of
Easter, we meet again today for our customary Wednesday gathering. It is my
desire, first of all, to reiterate my best wishes to each of you. I am grateful
that so many of you are here today and I am grateful to the Lord for the
beautiful, sunny day he has given us!
“The Lord has truly risen!
Alleluia!” These words resounded during the Easter Vigil. Now the Lord himself
speaks to us. “I will not die,” he proclaims. “I am still alive.” To sinners he
says, “Receive forgiveness for your sins. Indeed, I am your forgiveness.”
Finally, he tells all of us once again: “I am the Passover of your salvation. I
am the lamb that was sacrificed for you. I am your ransom. I am your life. I am
your resurrection. I am your light. I am your salvation. I am your King. I will
show you the Father.”
With these words, a second century
writer, Melito of Sardis, interpreted realistically our risen Lord’s words and
During this time, the liturgy
reminds us of Jesus’ various encounters after his resurrection: with Mary
Magdalene and the other women who went to the tomb early in the morning the day
after the Sabbath; with the disbelieving apostles gathered together in the
Upper Room; with Thomas and other disciples. His various apparitions are
invitations to us to enter more deeply into the basic message of Easter. They
encourage us to retrace the spiritual journey of all those who encountered
Christ and recognized him during those first few days after the events of
John the Evangelist recounts that he
and Peter, after hearing the news that Mary Magdalene gave them, ran to the
tomb, each trying to arrive there first (see John 20:3-10).
The Fathers of the Church considered
their race towards the empty tomb an exhortation to the only legitimate form of
competition between believers: the race in search of Christ.
What more can we say about Mary
Magdalene? She remained at the empty tomb weeping; her sole desire was to know
where they had taken her Teacher. She finds him and recognizes him when he
calls her by name (see John 20:11-18).
If we, too, seek the Lord with a
simple and sincere heart, we will find him, or rather, he himself will come to
meet us, he will let himself be recognized by us, he will call us by name, that is, he draw us into the intimacy of his
The Road to Emmaus
Today, Wednesday in the Octave of
Easter, the liturgy encourages us to meditate on yet another encounter with the
risen Lord: the encounter with his disciples from Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-35).
As they were returning home saddened
because of the death of their Teacher, the Lord joined them as their traveling
companion but they failed to recognize him. His words commenting on the
passages throughout the Scriptures that were about himself made the hearts of
these two disciples burn within them and, having arrived at their destination,
they begged him to remain with them. Finally, when “he took bread, said the
blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30), their eyes were opened.
At that moment, however, Jesus
vanished from their sight. They recognized him the moment he disappeared.
In commenting on this Gospel
episode, St. Augustine made the following observation: “Jesus broke bread and
they recognized him. Therefore, we no longer say that we do not know Christ! If
we believe, we know him! Indeed, if we believe, we have him! They had Christ
with them at their table and we have him in our soul. … Having Christ in our
heart is even greater than having him in our home. Indeed, our hearts are a
more intimate place than our homes” (Discorso 232,VII,7). Let us
truly seek to bear Jesus in our hearts.
Thomas the Doubter
In his prologue to the Acts of the
Apostles, Luke tells us that the risen Lord “presented himself alive to (the
apostles) by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during 40
days” (Acts 1:3). We need to understand that when this sacred author says that
“he presented himself alive,” it does not mean that Jesus came back to the life
he lived before, as Lazarus did.
As St. Bernard notes, the Easter
that we celebrate signifies a “passage” and not a “return” because Jesus did
not return to his previous condition but “crossed over a frontier to a more
glorious condition” that was new and definitive. For this reason, he adds,
“Christ has now truly passed over to a new life” (see Discorso sulla
“Stop holding on to me, for I have
not yet ascended to the Father,” Jesus told Mary Magdalene (see John 20:17).
His words are surprising when we consider everything that later happened with
Thomas, the doubter. There, in the Upper Room, it was the risen Lord himself
who showed the apostle his hands and his side so he could touch them and by
doing so, reach the certainty that it was indeed him (see John 20:27).
In reality, these two episodes do
not contradict each other; on the contrary, one is helpful for understanding
the other. Mary Magdalene wanted to have her Teacher back again as he was
before and considered the cross as a tragic memory to be forgotten. Now,
however, there is no longer any place for a merely human relationship with the
To find him, we do not need to turn
back; we need to move on in our relationship with him in a new way. We need to
As St. Bernard emphasized, Jesus
“invites all of us to this new life, to this passage. … We will not see Christ
by turning back” (Discorso sulla Pascua). This
is what happened to Thomas. Jesus showed him his wounds not so that he would
forget the cross but so that he would remember it in the future.
Indeed, our gaze is now fixed on the
future. The task of a disciple is to give testimony to the death and
resurrection of his Teacher and to his new life. This is why Jesus invited his
doubting friend to “touch” him: He wanted him to witness firsthand his
Dear brothers and sisters, we, like
Mary Magdalene, Thomas and the other apostles, are called to be witnesses of
the death and resurrection of Christ. We cannot keep this great news to
ourselves. We need to take it to the whole world: “We have seen the Lord!”
May the Virgin Mary help us to
experience fully the joy of Easter so that we, in turn, strengthened by the
power of the Holy Spirit, will spread it wherever we live and wherever we work.
Once again, Happy Easter to all of you!