Thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square today to hear Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter message and Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) blessing. During his address, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that Jesus’ death and resurrection gives hope to the world.
The Pope began his reflection by quoting St. Augustine saying, "‘Resurrectio Domini spes nostra - the Lord's resurrection is our hope.’ With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope."
Answering the question about what follows death, the Pope affirmed "that death is not the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message."
He also emphasized that "since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savor the joy of eternal life."
Christ’s resurrection is not a theory, but a true "historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his ‘Passover’, his ‘passage’, that has opened a ‘new way’ between heaven and earth. It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb."
The Holy Father also spoke of the dark realities that threaten our society: "I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life."
If Jesus had not risen these realities and "emptiness" would prevail, he continued. "If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: "Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?" We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed. "
The Pope went on to reflect on the evil in the world and the need for human cooperation in spreading the Gospel message. "Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love."
"The resurrection of Christ is our hope!" exclaimed Pope Benedict. "This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs," he concluded.