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WEEKLY CATECHESIS

Easter Assures Us That Evil Does Not Have the Last Word

BY John Lilly

April 23-29, 2006 Issue | Posted 4/24/06 at 11:00 AM

 

Register Summary

More than 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience on April 12. The Holy Father emphasized that the upcoming Easter Triduum is the focal point of the entire liturgical year as we relive the Lord’s passion death and resurrection.

“This is a very appropriate time for the reawakening in us of a more ardent desire to be united to Christ and to follow him with generous hearts, conscious of the fact that he has loved us to the point of giving his life for us,” he noted.

Holy Thursday commemorates Christ’s total giving of himself to mankind in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, and the washing of the feet recalls in a dramatic the new commandment to love one another. The day concludes with Eucharistic adoration in memory of Our Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. “The disciples fell asleep,” he noted. “We see how we too, his disciples today, are often asleep.”

On Good Friday, the Holy Father said, we hear the account of Christ’s passion and contemplate him on the cross.

“The mystery of Christ crucified is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him,” he said quoting his recent encyclical Deus Caritas Est. “This is love in its most radical form.”

On Holy Saturday, the Church is spiritually united with Mary, praying by the tomb of God’s son, who lies at rest after completing his work of redemption. “Late at night the solemn Easter Vigil begins, during which the Gloria and Alleluia of Easter will rise forth joyfully from the hearts of the newly baptized and the whole Christian community, who are joyful because Christ has risen and has defeated death,” the Holy Father said.

Pope Benedict also encouraged those present to prepare for Easter with the sacrament of penance.

“Recognizing the fact that we are sinners but trusting in God’s mercy, let us be reconciled with Christ in order to experience more intensely the joy that he communicates to us through his resurrection.”

The celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said, “gives us the certainty that, despite all the darkness we see in the world, evil does not have the last word. Sustained by this certain knowledge, we can commit ourselves with greater courage and enthusiasm to creating a world of greater justice.”



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow we begin the Easter Triduum, which is the fulcrum of the entire liturgical year. With the help of the sacred rites of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the solemn Easter Vigil, we relive Our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. This is a very appropriate time for the reawakening in us of a more ardent desire to be united to Christ and to follow him with generous hearts, conscious of the fact that he has loved us to the point of giving his life for us. Indeed, the events of this holy Triduum are the sublime manifestation of God’s love for man.

Let us prepare ourselves, therefore, to celebrate the Easter Triduum by embracing St. Augustine’s exhortation: “Consider now attentively the three holy days of the Lord’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. From these three mysteries we fulfill in our present life that of which the cross is symbol, while we fulfill through faith and hope that of which the burial and resurrection is symbol” (Epistola 55,14,24: Nuova Biblioteva Agostiniana (NBA), XXI/II, Rome, 1969, pg. 477).

Holy Thursday

The Easter Triduum begins Holy Thursday, with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. However, another significant liturgical celebration is usually held in the morning, the Chrism Mass, during which all the priests in every diocese, gathered around their bishop, renew their commitment as priests and take part in the blessing of the oil of the catechumens, the oil of the sick and the holy chrism. We, too, will do this here in St. Peter’s tomorrow morning. In addition to the institution of the priesthood, we commemorate on this holy day Christ’s total offering of himself to mankind in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

On the very night he was betrayed, he left us, as sacred Scripture recalls, the mandatum novum (new commandment) of fraternal love through his very moving gesture of the washing of the feet that reminds us of the humble service of slaves. This special day, when we recall the great mysteries, ends with Eucharistic adoration in memory of the Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Overcome with great anguish, the Gospel tells us, Jesus asked his disciples to keep watch with him in prayer: “Remain here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). But the disciples fell asleep. Even today the Lord tells us: “Remain here and keep watch with me.”

We see how we too, his disciples today, are often asleep. For Jesus, this was the hour of abandonment and solitude, followed by his arrest and beginning of his sorrowful journey to Calvary in the middle of the night.

Good Friday

Good Friday, centered on the mystery of the Passion, is a day of fasting and penance, completely oriented to contemplating Christ on the cross. The account of the Passion is proclaimed in the churches and the words of the prophet Zechariah resound: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced” (John 19:37). On Good Friday we, too, should also have a desire to look upon the pierced heart of our Redeemer in whom, as St. Paul writes, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), and in whom “dwells the whole fullness of deity bodily” (Colossians 2:9). For this reason, the Apostle can resolutely affirm “to know nothing ... except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Truly, the cross reveals “the breadth and length and height and depth” — referring to cosmic dimensions — of a love that surpasses all knowledge, a love that goes beyond everything that is known and fills us with “all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3:18-19). In the mystery of Christ crucified “is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form” (Deus Caritas Est, 12). The cross of Christ, Pope St. Leo the Great wrote in the fifth century, “is the source of all blessings and the cause of all blessings” (Discorso 8 sulla passione del Signore, 6-8; PL 54, 340-342).

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday, the Church, spiritually united to Mary, remains in prayer before the tomb where the body of the Son of God lies at rest, as though in a state of repose after he fulfilled his creative work of redemption through his death (see Hebrews 4:1-13). Late at night the solemn Easter Vigil begins, during which the Gloria and Alleluia of Easter will rise forth joyfully from the hearts of the newly baptized and the whole Christian community, who are joyful because Christ has risen and has defeated death.

A Time of Reconciliation

Dear brothers and sisters, in order to the celebration of Easter to be profitable, the Church asks the faithful to approach to the sacrament of penance during this time, which is a kind of death and resurrection for each one of us. In the early Christian community, a rite of reconciliation for penitents was celebrated on Holy Thursday over which the bishop presided. Historical conditions have certainly changed, but preparing for Easter with a good confession continues to be a duty that we should fully appreciate because it offers us the possibility to begin our lives anew and to truly have a new beginning in the joy of the risen Lord and in the communion of forgiveness that he has given us. Recognizing the fact that we are sinners but trusting in God’s mercy, let us be reconciled with Christ in order to experience more intensely the joy that he communicates to us through his resurrection. The forgiveness that Christ gives us in the sacrament of penance is the source of interior and exterior peace and makes us apostles of peace in a world marked, unfortunately, by divisions and sufferings and the tragedy of injustice, hatred, violence and the inability to achieve reconciliation and to begin anew in sincere forgiveness.

We know, however, that evil does not have the last word because Christ, who was crucified and has risen, will conquer and his victory will be manifested with the force of his merciful love. His resurrection gives us the certainty that, despite all the darkness we see in the world, evil does not have the last word. Sustained by this certain knowledge, we can commit ourselves with greater courage and enthusiasm to creating a world of greater justice.

This is what I wholeheartedly wish all of you, dear brothers and sisters, hoping that you will prepare yourselves in faith and devotion for the upcoming Easter celebrations. May you be accompanied by the most holy Virgin Mary who, after having followed her divine son in the hour of the passion and the cross, shared in the joy of his resurrection.

(Register translation)