Pope Francis called on Christians to let the risen Jesus enter their lives and to welcome him with trust as a friend during the Church's most holy night of the year.
“If up until now you have kept him at a distance, step forward...he will receive you with open arms,” Pope Francis said at Saint Peter's Basilica during the Easter Vigil Mass.
“If you have been indifferent, take a risk, you won’t be disappointed,” he told thousands gathered at the Vatican on March 30.
At the opening of the liturgy – which Pope Francis concelebrated with numerous cardinals – candles were lit among the faithful and passed in complete silence, illuminating the church as the Easter candle procession reached the altar.
Pope Francis also baptized four people during the service, including a 17-year-old U.S. Citizen of Vietnamese descent, a 30-year-old Albanian, a 30-year-old Russian and a 23-year-old Italian.
After the baptisms, a white cloth was placed over each of the four and a flame from the main Easter candle was shared with smaller candles which were given to them to hold. Pope Francis then confirmed them as Catholics, making the sign of the cross on their forehead with oil and kissing them each on the cheek. The four also received their first Holy Communion during the Mass.
During his homily, the new Pope said that if following Christ seems difficult, “don’t be afraid.”
“Trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”
If people remember what God has done for them, he noted, they will not fear what lies in store for their lives.
“To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have traveled is what opens our hearts to hope for the future,” he said.
The Pope observed that “newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us.”
“We are afraid of God’s surprises...he always surprises us!” he exclaimed. However, “Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up.”
Pope Francis reflected on the resurrection narrative from the Gospel reading where the women were sad and afraid to find the tomb of Jesus opened and empty after his death.
“Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future, he is the everlasting 'today' of God,” he emphasized.
Because of this, Pope Francis explained, sadness is the wrong place to look for life. “How often does Love have to tell us 'why do you look for the living among the dead?'” he asked.
“Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness,” Pope Francis noted. That “is where death is” and “is not the place to look for the one who is alive.”
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life!”