Vatican City, Apr 8, 2023 / 15:00 pm
Here is the full text of Pope Francis' Easter Vigil homily, delivered on April 8 in St. Peter's Basilica.
The night is drawing to a close and the first light of dawn is appearing upon the horizon as the women set out toward Jesus’ tomb. They make their way forward, bewildered and dismayed, their hearts overwhelmed with grief at the death that took away their Beloved. Yet upon arriving and seeing the empty tomb, they turn around and retrace their steps. They leave the tomb behind and run to the disciples to proclaim a change of course: Jesus is risen and awaits them in Galilee. In their lives, those women experienced Easter as a Pasch, a passage. They pass from walking sorrowfully towards the tomb to running back with joy to the disciples to tell them not only that the Lord is risen, but also that they are to set out immediately to reach a destination, Galilee. There they will meet the Risen Lord; that is where the resurrection leads them. The rebirth of the disciples, the resurrection of their hearts, passes through Galilee. Let us enter into this journey of the disciples from the tomb to Galilee.
The Gospel tells us that the women went “to see the tomb” (Mt 28:1). They think that they will find Jesus in the place of death and that everything is over, forever. Sometimes we too may think that the joy of our encounter with Jesus is something belonging to the past, whereas the present consists mostly of sealed tombs: tombs of disappointment, bitterness, and distrust, of the dismay of thinking that “nothing more can be done”, “things will never change”, “better to live for today”, since “there is no certainty about tomorrow”. If we are prey to sorrow, burdened by sadness, laid low by sin, embittered by failure, or troubled by some problem, we also know the bitter taste of weariness and the absence of joy.
At times, we may simply feel weary about our daily routine, tired of taking risks in a cold, hard world where only the clever and the strong seem to get ahead. At other times, we may feel helpless and discouraged before the power of evil, the conflicts that tear relationships apart, the attitudes of calculation and indifference that seem to prevail in society, the cancer of corruption--there is so much--the spread of injustice, the icy winds of war. Then too, we may have come face to face with death, because it robbed us of the presence of our loved ones or because we brushed up against it in illness or a serious setback. Then it is easy to yield to disillusionment, once the wellspring of hope has dried up. In these or similar situations--each of us knows our own--our paths come to a halt before a row of tombs, and we stand there, filled with sorrow and regret, alone and powerless, repeating the question, “Why?” That chain of "why." The women at Easter, however, do not stand frozen before the tomb; rather, the Gospel tells us, “They went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, fand ran to announce this to his disciples” (v. 8). They bring the news that will change life and history forever: Christ is risen! (v. 6). At the same time, they remember to convey the Lord’s summons to the disciples to go to Galilee, for there they will see him (cf. v. 7). Brothers and sisters, what does it mean to go to Galilee? Two things: on the one hand, to leave the enclosure of the Upper Room and go to the land of the Gentiles (cf. Mt 4:15), to come forth from hiding and to open themselves up to mission, to leave fear behind and to set out for the future. On the other hand–-and this is very good—to return to the origins, for it was precisely in Galilee that everything began. There the Lord had met and first called the disciples. So, to go to Galilee means to return to the grace of the beginnings, to regain the memory that regenerates hope, the “memory of the future” bestowed on us by the Risen One.