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Easter Vigil 2022: Full text of Pope Francis’ homily

April 16, 2022 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis at the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 16, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil 2022, which was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 16, 2022.

Many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights. The nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death. On this night, brothers and sisters, let us allow the women of the Gospel to lead us by the hand, so that, with them, we may glimpse the first rays of the dawn of God’s life rising in the darkness of our world. As the shadows of night were dispelled before the quiet coming of the light, the women set out for the tomb, to anoint the body of Jesus. There they had a disconcerting experience. First, they discovered that the tomb was empty; then they saw two figures in dazzling garments who told them that Jesus was risen. Immediately they ran back to proclaim the news to the other disciples (cf. Lk 24:1-10). They saw, they heard, they proclaimed. With these three verbs, may we too enter into the passover of the Lord from death to life.

The women saw. The first proclamation of the resurrection was not a statement to be unpacked, but a sign to be contemplated. In a burial ground, near a grave, in a place where everything should be orderly and peaceful, the women “found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they went in, they did not find the body” (vv. 2-3). Easter begins by upsetting our expectations. It comes with the gift of a hope that surprises and amazes us. Yet it is not easy to welcome that gift. At times – we must admit – this hope does not find a place in our hearts. Like the women in the Gospel, we are overtaken by questions and doubts, and our first reaction before the unexpected sign is one of fear: “They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground” (v. 5).

All too often we look at life and reality with downcast eyes; we fix our gaze only on this passing day, disenchanted by the future, concerned only with ourselves and our needs, settled into the prison of our apathy, even as we keep complaining that things will never change. In this way, we halt before the tomb of resignation and fatalism, and we bury the joy of living. Yet tonight the Lord wants to give us different eyes, alive with hope that fear, pain and death will not have the last word over us. Thanks to Jesus’ paschal mystery, we can make the leap from nothingness to life. “Death will no longer be able to rob our life” (K. RAHNER), for that life is now completely and eternally embraced by the boundless love of God. True, death can fill us with dread; it can paralyze us. But the Lord is risen! Let us lift up our gaze, remove the veil of sadness and sorrow from our eyes, and open our hearts to the hope that God brings!

In the second place, the women heard. After they had seen the empty tomb, the two men in dazzling garments said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (vv. 5-6). We do well to listen to those words and to repeat them: He is not here! Whenever we think we have understood everything there is to know about God, and can pigeonhole him in our own ideas and categories, let us repeat to ourselves: He is not here! Whenever we seek him only in times of emotion, so often passing, and moments of need, only to set him aside and forget about him in the rest of our daily life and decisions, let us repeat: He is not here! And whenever we think we can imprison him in our words, in our formulas, and in our customary ways of thinking and acting, and neglect to seek him in the darkest corners of life, where there are people who weep, who struggle, suffer and hope, let us repeat: He is not here!

May we too hear the question asked of the women: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” We cannot celebrate Easter if we continue to be dead; if we remain prisoners of the past; if in our lives we lack the courage to let ourselves be forgiven by God who forgives everything, the courage to change, to break with the works of evil, to decide for Jesus and his love. If we continue to reduce faith to a talisman, making God a lovely memory from times past, instead of encountering him today as the living God who desires to change us and to change our world. A Christianity that seeks the Lord among the ruins of the past and encloses him in the tomb of habit is a Christianity without Easter. Yet the Lord is risen! Let us not tarry among the tombs, but run to find him, the Living One! Nor may we be afraid to seek him also in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the stories of those who hope and dream, in the pain of those who we suffer: God is there!

Finally, the women proclaimed. What did they proclaim? The joy of the resurrection. Easter did not occur simply to console those who mourned the death of Jesus, but to open hearts to the extraordinary message of God’s triumph over evil and death. The light of the resurrection was not meant to let the women bask in a transport of joy, but to generate missionary disciples who “return from the tomb” (v. 9) in order to bring to all the Gospel of the risen Christ. That is why, after seeing and hearing, the women ran to proclaim to the disciples the joy of the resurrection. They knew that the others might think they were mad; indeed, the Gospel says that the women’s words “seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Yet those women were not concerned for their reputation, for preserving their image; they did not contain their emotions or measure their words. They had only the fire in their hearts with which to bear the news, the proclamation: “The Lord is risen!”

And how beautiful is a Church that can run this way through the streets of our world! Without fear, without schemes and stratagems, but solely with the desire to lead everyone to the joy of the Gospel. That is what we are called to do: to experience the risen Christ and to share the experience with others; to roll away the stone from the tomb where we may have enclosed the Lord, in order to spread his joy in the world. Let us make Jesus, the Living One, rise again from all those tombs in which we have sealed him. Let us set him free from the narrow cells in which we have so often imprisoned him. Let us awaken from our peaceful slumber and let him disturb and inconvenience us. Let us bring him into our everyday lives: through gestures of peace in these days marked by the horrors of war, through acts of reconciliation amid broken relationships, acts of compassion towards those in need, acts of justice amid situations of inequality and of truth in the midst of lies. And above all, through works of love and fraternity.

Brothers and sisters our hope has a name: the name of Jesus. He entered the tomb of our sin; he descended to those depths where we feel most lost; he wove his way through the tangles of our fears, bore the weight of our burdens and from the dark abyss of death restored us to life and turned our mourning into joy. Let us celebrate Easter with Christ! He is alive! Today, too, he walks in our midst, changes us and sets us free. Thanks to him, evil has been robbed of its power; failure can no longer hold us back from starting anew; and death has become a passage to the stirrings of new life. For with Jesus, the Risen Lord, no night will last forever; and even in the darkest night, in that darkness, the morning star continues to shine.

In this darkness that you are living, Mr. Mayor, Parliamentarians, the thick darkness of war, of cruelty, we are all praying, praying with you and for you this night. We are praying for all the suffering. We can only give you our company, our prayer and say to you: “Courage! We are accompanying you!” And also to say to you the greatest thing we are celebrating today: Christòs voskrés! Christ is risen!

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Pope Francis at Easter Vigil: The Risen Lord has robbed evil of its power

April 16, 2022 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis prays at the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 16, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2022 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

At the Vatican’s Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis said that Jesus has “entered the tomb of our sin” and restored us to life.

“Let us celebrate Easter with Christ! He is alive! Today, too, he walks in our midst, changes us and sets us free,” Pope Francis said in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 16.

“Thanks to him, evil has been robbed of its power; failure can no longer hold us back from starting anew; and death has become a passage to the stirrings of new life.”

“For with Jesus, the Risen Lord, no night will last forever; and even in the darkest night … the morning star continues to shine,” the pope said.

Pope Francis did not preside over the Easter Vigil Mass or participate in the Paschal candle procession, but sat in the front of the congregation in a white chair.

The pope has suffered from acute knee pain recently which has made it difficult to walk and has led him to cancel some public appearances.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, served as the main celebrant of the Mass. The pope participated in the Easter Vigil by delivering the homily and baptizing seven catechumens.

In his homily, Pope Francis spoke of bringing Christ’s light into days “marked by the horrors of war” through gestures of peace and acts of compassion.

“Let us make Jesus, the Living One, rise again from all those tombs in which we have sealed him,” Francis said.

“Let us bring him into our everyday lives: through gestures of peace in these days marked by the horrors of war, through acts of reconciliation amid broken relationships, acts of compassion towards those in need, acts of justice amid situations of inequality … and of truth in the midst of lies,” he added.

A Vatican spokesman said that the pope also met briefly with a delegation of local government officials from Ukraine ahead of the Mass.

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities,” according to the Roman Missal.

The liturgy began in darkness with the blessing of the new fire and the preparation of the Paschal Candle. The candle symbolizes the light of Christ, which “shines in the darkness” and “has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Re and the concelebrating cardinals, bishops, and about 200 priests processed through the dark church carrying lit candles to signify the light of Christ coming to dispel the darkness.

“Many writers … have evoked the beauty of starlit nights. The nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“On this night, brothers and sisters, let us allow the women of the Gospel to lead us by the hand, so that, with them, we may glimpse the first rays of the dawn of God’s life rising in the darkness of our world.”

Pope Francis baptized seven people in St. Peter’s Basilica during the Easter Vigil Mass, including an American, Taylor Pescante.

The congregation prayed the Litany of the Saints and renewed their baptismal promises as Pescante prepared to be received fully into the Catholic Church, alongside four Italians, one Albanian, and one Cuban.

“Brothers and sisters our hope has a name: the name of Jesus,” Pope Francis said.

“He entered the tomb of our sin; he descended to those depths where we feel most lost; he wove his way through the tangles of our fears, bore the weight of our burdens and from the dark abyss of death restored us to life and turned our mourning into joy.”

At the beginning of the liturgy, a cantor sang the Exsultet Easter Proclamation, which tells the story of salvation from the creation, the testing and fall of Adam, the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and culminates in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and leads us to salvation.

The basilica was lit up gradually until it was fully illuminated at the Gloria, when the bells of St. Peter’s tolled.

About 5,500 people were present inside the basilica for the Vigil Mass, according to the Holy See Press Office.

The pope is also scheduled to celebrate Mass on Easter Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square, followed by the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

“How beautiful is a Church that can run … through the streets of our world. Without fear, without schemes and stratagems, but solely with the desire to lead everyone to the joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

“That is what we are called to do: to experience the risen Christ and to share the experience with others; to roll away the stone from the tomb where we may have enclosed the Lord, in order to spread his joy in the world.”

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Pope Francis at Easter Vigil: ‘The Risen Lord loves us without limits’

April 3, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- At the Vatican’s Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ love is without limits and always provides the grace to begin anew.

The pope said in his homily on April 3 that “it is always possible to begin anew because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.”

He continued: “From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn.”

“Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal.

Pope Francis offered the Vigil Mass at the basilica’s Altar of the Chair with about 200 people present.

St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, is normally packed for the Easter Vigil. This year’s Easter Triduum liturgies were once again scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The preparation of the Paschal candle was omitted and no baptisms took place at the vigil, only a renewal of baptismal promises.

The liturgy began in darkness with the blessing of the new fire. The pope and concelebrating cardinals then processed through the dark church carrying lit candles to signify the light of Christ coming to dispel the darkness.

“If on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed, or a dream shattered, go open your heart with amazement to the message of Easter: ‘Do not be afraid, he has risen! He awaits you in Galilee,’” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord always goes ahead of you, he always walks before you. And, with him, life always begins anew.”

During the liturgy, a cantor sang the Exsultet Easter Proclamation, which tells the story of salvation from the creation, the testing and fall of Adam, the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and culminates in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and leads us to salvation.

The basilica was lit up gradually until it was fully illuminated at the Gloria, when the bells of St. Peter’s tolled.

In his homily, the pope asked people to reflect on the angel’s message to Mary Magdalene and the others who went to anoint Jesus’ body, but found an empty tomb, as described in the Gospel of Mark:

“Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter,  ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”

Pope Francis said: “Let us go to Galilee, where the Risen Lord has gone ahead of us. Yet what  does it mean ‘to go to Galilee?’”

The pope then explained that “going to Galilee” can mean setting out on new paths, beginning anew, and going out to the peripheries.

“Galilee was an outpost: the people living in that diverse and disparate region were those farthest from the ritual purity of Jerusalem. Yet that is where Jesus began his mission. There he brought his message to those struggling to live from day to day … the excluded, the vulnerable and the poor,” he said.

“There he brought the face and presence of God, who tirelessly seeks out those who are discouraged or lost, who goes to the very peripheries of existence, since in his eyes no one is least, no one is excluded.”

Pope Francis said that he thinks many people today view the Catholic faith as a thing of the past or “lovely childhood memories” that no longer influence their daily lives.

“God cannot be filed away among our childhood memories, but is alive and filled with surprises. Risen from the dead, Jesus never ceases to amaze us,” he said.

Pope Francis continued: “Jesus is not outdated. He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams. … Even if you feel that all is lost, please, let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: He will surely surprise you.”

 


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Many joining the Church this year have learned of the faith virtually

April 3, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Apr 3, 2021 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Despite difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, parishes are welcoming groups of catechumens and candidates into the Catholic Church this Easter who have had to learn about the faith largely through virtual meetings. 

One such parish is St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco, which is welcoming a group of catechumens and candidates into the Church who had never convened in person until last month.

Dr. Mary Romo, a professor at the University of San Francisco and a catechist for the parish, told CNA that after convening their RCIA group online in September, she and a deacon have taught all the classes via Zoom.

“Hopefully we got the material across, but people missed the sense of community,” Romo said.

“The first time they actually saw each other [in person] was at the Rite of Election, the first Sunday of Lent.”

San Francisco has had some of the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions in place, including on places of worship, throughout the pandemic— a fact often decried by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

For much of the pandemic, indoor religious services were not allowed in San Francisco; under current restrictions, indoor religious services are allowed at 50% maximum occupancy.

Romo said their parish church has remained closed throughout most of the pandemic, but the RCIA group is looking forward to being together in person for the Easter Vigil.

St. Ignatius, like most parishes, is still livestreaming their Masses. Don Crean, director of sacramental preparation for the parish, said they have been trying to encourage viewers to be aware of the RCIA group.

One of the ways they have done that throughout the pandemic, Crean said, is to invite people from the RCIA group, two or three at a time, to come forward at the livestreamed Masses for a blessing so the viewers get a sense of who the catechumens and candidates are.

Generally their group of catechumens and candidates includes people from all walks of life, Romo said, but this year one demographic which generally accounts for a handful of converts is notably absent from the group— students from the nearby university.

She said in typical years, students from the University of San Francisco tend to “bring a life” to the RCIA sessions with their enthusiasm and inquisitive nature. But with the university still largely closed for in-person learning, the opportunities to attract students to RCIA at the parish dried up.

Romo said she honestly does not know how well the months of catechesis will “stick,” since she found it difficult to connect with the group via Zoom.

She and her co-catechist even recently conducted a retreat over Zoom, which included a guided meditation on Holy Week. She said it remains hard to “take the pulse” of the class when the interaction is mediated through a screen.

“Are they in profound silence, or are they just texting? We don’t know,” she laughed.

But she said the joy that the group showed when they met for the first time in person in February was a promising sign, and that seeing “the Church in action” as it continues to reopen will doubtless be helpful for the new Catholics.

Deacon John Rangel, RCIA coordinator at St. Joseph Catholic Church in the Diocese of San Angelo, told CNA that they usually start their RCIA program in early August, but this year delayed their start until mid-September.

Since then, their RCIA program has been a combination of in-person and virtual, with Deacon Rangel leading an in-person group for those who feel comfortable, and others joining via Zoom.

He said they started out with 27 in their English-language RCIA program, and five in the Spanish RCIA.

Out of those 32 participants who started the program, 17 are set to join the Church at the Easter Vigil. That number is more than a typical year; eight to 12 is a typical number, Rangel said.

The group has been able to get together in person recently with masks and social distancing. Deacon Rangel said they recently held an in-person retreat with precautions at a local retreat center.

Among the catechumens are a mother and daughter who are joining the Church together, he said.

“They came not knowing much, not knowing what to expect, but throughout this process…they were hungry for something,” Rangel commented.

“God was calling them to be a part of something beyond themselves. They are probably the most vibrant out of the whole vibrant class.”

Normally, he said, RCIA meets once a week, with a potluck before each meeting. Although the lack of fellowship meals this year has been a big loss for the group, Deacon Rangel said the group has found ways to support each other in their journey to become Catholic.

He said in many ways, the experience of leading RCIA during a pandemic has strengthened St. Joseph’s program, and taught them that they are not limited to the “old way” of conducting RCIA only in person.

“The more we discovered what we could do, the more ‘normal’ it became. The people found their niche, where they fit in with everyone else. They interacted with one another” and supported each other to build a community, he said.

“And that’s the miracle part. God himself is greater than COVID. When he calls his people, he makes a way for them to become a community, one people.”

Deacon Rangel’s parish is far from the only parish in the U.S. which has seen its RCIA numbers increase this year from 2020.

St. Mary and St. Michael parish in Stillwater, Minn., part of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis, reported that this year they have 25 people expected to become Catholic at the Easter Vigil, a fivefold increase from the number that joined in 2020.


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