During his general audience on April 7, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Christians to bear witness to the joy of Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead in every aspect of their lives.
The resurrection, he noted, is the greatest of God’s mighty acts in history, mysterious beyond all imagining. It is also a real event, attested by trustworthy witnesses who, in turn, became messengers of this good news throughout the world. Now we, as Christ’s disciples, are called to testify to the reality and the power of the new life bestowed by the risen Lord upon all believers.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Our general audience today is marked by the joy of Easter. Indeed, during this time, the Church is celebrating the mystery of the Resurrection and experiencing the great joy that comes from the good news of Christ’s triumph over sin and death — a joy that is not limited to the octave of Easter but extends over the 50 days leading up to Pentecost.
After the sorrow and anguish of Good Friday and the silence filled with expectant hope of Holy Saturday, there is amazing news: “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34). Throughout the entire history of the world, this is the “good news” par excellence; this is the “Gospel” proclaimed and handed down throughout the ages from generation to generation.
Extraordinary Act of Love
Christ’s paschal sacrifice is the supreme and insuperable act of God’s power. It is an absolutely extraordinary event, the beautiful and mature fruit of the “mystery of God.” It is so extraordinary that we are incapable of expressing its many dimensions, which elude our ability to know and comprehend. Yet, it is truly a “historical” fact that was witnessed and documented. It is the event upon which our faith is founded. It is the central point of our belief and the principal reason for which we believe.
The New Testament does not describe Jesus’ resurrection as it occurred. It only gives the testimonies of those who personally met Jesus after he rose from the dead. The three synoptic Gospels tell us that the announcement — “He is risen” — was initially proclaimed by angels.
A Message for the World
It is, therefore, an announcement that has its origins in God, and God immediately entrusts it to his “messengers” so that they can tell the whole world. Thus, it is the angels who encourage the women, who went early in the morning to the tomb, to quickly go and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matthew 28:7).
Through these women of the Gospel, God’s command has been handed down to each and every one of us so that we, in turn, may faithfully and courageously pass this news on to others — the beautiful news of glad tidings, which is the source of joy.
Yes, dear friends, our entire faith rests on the ongoing and faithful transmission of this “good news.” Today, we wish to express to God our deep gratitude for the multitude of believers in Christ who have preceded us throughout the ages because they never fell short of their mission to proclaim the Gospel that they had received. The good news of Easter, therefore, requires the work of enthusiastic and courageous witnesses. Each disciple of Christ, each one of us, is called to be a witness. This is the risen Lord’s precise, compelling and ennobling command.
The “news” about new life in Christ ought to shine in the life of each Christian. It ought to be alive and at work in its bearers, truly capable of changing hearts and entire lives. It is alive, first of all, because it is Christ himself who is its living and life-giving soul. St. Mark reminds us of this at the end of his Gospel, where he writes that the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20).
Christ’s Witnesses to the World
What the apostles experienced is also what we and every believer experiences — the mission of every disciple who becomes a “witness.” Indeed, we too have the certainty that the Lord, today like yesterday, is working with us, his witnesses.
This is a fact we can recognize whenever we see seeds sprout of a true and lasting peace, wherever the commitment and example of Christians and of men and women of good will is driven by a respect for justice, by patient dialogue, by a deep esteem for others, by unselfishness and by sacrifice, both as individuals and as a community.
Unfortunately, we also see so much suffering, violence and misunderstanding in the world. The celebration of the paschal mystery, the joyful contemplation of Christ’s resurrection that conquered sin and death with the power of God’s love, is an appropriate moment to rediscover and profess with greater conviction our trust in the risen Lord, who accompanies those who bear witness to his word, working wonders along with them.
We will truly and fully be witnesses of the risen Christ when we allow the wonders of his love to show forth in us, when it is possible to recognize in our words and even more in our deeds — which are completely in accordance with the Gospel — the voice and the hand of Jesus himself.
First and foremost, therefore, the Lord sends us forth as his witnesses. But we can be his witnesses only on the basis of and with constant reference to the experience of Easter, which Mary of Magdala expressed by proclaiming to the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18).
In this personal encounter with the risen Lord lies the unshakeable foundation and the content that is the core of our faith, the fresh and eternal wellspring of our hope, the ardent dynamism of our charity. Thus, our own lives as Christians will be fully in line with our proclamation: “Christ the Lord is truly risen!”
For this reason, let the wonder and awe of Christ’s resurrection overwhelm us.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary sustain us with her protection and help us to savor fully the joy of Easter so that we, in turn, will be in a position to pass it on to all our brothers and sisters!
Once again, happy Easter to everyone!