The Risen Christ Is the Hope of Mankind
More than 25,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on April 14 for Pope John Paul II's first general audience after Easter. On the advice of the Holy Father's personal physician, a priest was entrusted with the task of reading the text John Paul had prepared in order to spare him any further fatigue after a week of tiring events. However, the Holy Father personally greeted the pilgrims in various languages at the end of the audience.
“The Prince of Life, who died, reigns immortal.” This joyful proclamation from the Easter sequence is the foundation and heart of the Church's faith and formed the basis for the Holy Father's catechesis. “Christ triumphs over sin and death! This is the shout of joy that bursts forth at the heart of the Church during this time,” the Pope noted. During the days immediately after Easter, he added, each person is invited to a personal encounter with the risen Lord. Christ, the innocent victim who died for our sins, revealed from the cross the depths of God's mercy and forgiveness.
This message of God's mercy needs to resound in today's world, the Holy Father noted, a world that is characterized by threats of violence and war. As Divine Mercy Sunday approached April 18, he encouraged all Catholics to join with St. Faustina Kowalska, who was chosen to be the humble messenger of God's mercy, in abandoning themselves with confidence to the risen Lord and pray, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
The Easter sequence is a renewal of the proclamation of hope that we heard during the solemn Easter vigil: “The Prince of Life, who died, reigns immortal.” These are the words that will guide our reflection during this gathering, which takes place during this glorious time of the octave of Easter.
Christ triumphs over sin and death! This is the shout of joy that bursts forth at the heart of the Church during this time. Victorious over death, Jesus gives the gift of life, a life that will no longer die, to those who welcome him and believe in him. His death and resurrection are, therefore, the foundation of the Church's faith.
The accounts we find in the Gospels relate — often in rich detail — the encounters of the risen Lord with the women at the tomb and with the apostles. As eyewitnesses, they are, in fact, the first to proclaim the Gospel of his death and resurrection. After Pentecost, they fearlessly affirm the Scriptures regarding the promised Messiah have been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
The Church, which is the guardian of this universal mystery of salvation, has handed this mystery down from generation to generation to men and women in every place and in every time. However, this proclamation of Christ, who has died and who now lives and triumphs through the power of his Spirit, needs to resound powerfully through the efforts and the commitment of believers.
A Personal Encounter
In order for Christians to be able to fully carry out the mandate that has been entrusted to them, it is indispensable that they have a personal encounter with Christ, who was crucified and who has risen, and that they let the power of his love transform them. When this happens, sorrow will be transformed into joy and timidity will make way for missionary zeal.
The evangelist John, for example, tells us about the moving encounter of the risen Christ with Mary Magdalene, who went to the tomb early in the morning and found it open and empty. Fearing that the body of the Lord had been stolen, she was downcast and wept. Suddenly and unexpectedly, someone, whom she at first thought was the “gardener,” called out her name: “Mary!” She recognized him as the teacher — “Rabbouni” — and, quickly overcoming any sorrow or disorientation, immediately brought the news to the 11 with great enthusiasm: “I have seen the Lord” (see John 20:11-18).
“Christ my hope is arisen.” With these words the sequence highlights an aspect of the paschal mystery that mankind today needs to understand more deeply. In a world characterized by imminent threats of violence and death, men and women are seeking someone who will give them peace and security. But where will they find peace, if not in Christ, the innocent victim, who has reconciled sinners with the Father?
On Calvary, God in his mercy manifested his love and forgiveness for all. After the resurrection, when he was in the upper room, Jesus entrusted the apostles with the task of being ministers of this mercy, a source of reconciliation among all men.
In her humility, St. Faustina Kowalska was chosen to proclaim this message of light, which is particularly suitable for today's world. It is a message of hope that invites us to abandon ourselves into the Lord's hands. As she loved to repeat over and over again, “Jesus, I trust in you!”
May Mary, a woman of hope and the mother of mercy, enable us to have a personal encounter with her Son, who has died and who has risen, and make us untiring agents of his mercy and peace!
- April 25-May 1, 2004