On Encountering the Risen Christ

«Let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us»

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Every year, celebrating Easter, we relive the experience of Jesus’ first disciples, the experience of the encounter with the risen Christ: John’s Gospel says that they saw him appear in their midst, in the cenacle, the evening of the day itself of the resurrection, “the first of the week,” and then “eight days later” (cf. John 20:19, 26). That day, eventually called “the Lord’s Day,” is the day of the assembly, of the Christian community that reunites for its proper worship, to wit, the Eucharist, the new worship that was distinct from Jewish Sabbath worship from the very beginning. In fact, the celebration of the Lord’s Day is powerful proof of Christ’s resurrection, because only an extraordinary and shocking event could have induced the first Christians to found a form of worship that was different from the Jewish Sabbath.

Then as now, Christian worship is not merely a commemoration of past events, nor a special mystical interior experience, but it is essentially an encounter with the risen Lord, who lives in God, beyond space and time, and who nevertheless makes himself truly present in the midst of the community, speaks to us in sacred Scriptures and breaks the Bread of eternal life for us. Through these signs we live what the disciples experienced, that is, the fact of seeing Christ and at the same time of not recognizing him; of touching his body, a true body, free of every earthly bond.

What the Gospel says is important, namely, that Jesus, in the two appearances to the apostles gathered in the cenacle, repeatedly says “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19; 21:26). The traditional greeting of “Shalom,” “peace,” becomes something new here: it becomes that gift of peace that only Jesus can give, because it is the fruit of his radical victory over evil. The “peace” that Jesus offers to his disciples is the fruit of the love of God that led him to die on the cross, to shed all of his blood, as the meek and humble Lamb, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is why Blessed John Paul II wanted to call the Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday, with a definite picture: the pierced side of Christ from which blood and water flow according to the Apostle John’s eyewitness testimony (cf. John 19:34-37). But Jesus has now risen and from him as living there flow the Easter Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist: those who draw near to him with faith receive the gift of eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us, let us allow our heart to be filled with his mercy! In this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead, we too can bring these Easter gifts to others. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of Mercy, obtain this for us.

[Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father addressed those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

I would like to greet the pilgrims who participated in the Holy Mass presided over by the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia – welcome! This church is the privileged place of the worship of Divine Mercy, where St. Faustina Kowalska and Blessed John Paul II are venerated in a special way. I hope that all of you will be witnesses of the merciful love of Christ. Thank you for your presence.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [Speaking in English, the Holy Father said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and overcomes the doubts of Thomas. Through his Divine Mercy, may we always believe that Jesus is the Christ and, believing, may we have life in his name. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

Have a good Sunday!

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