Here is a translation of the address Francis gave this morning during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. He took up again the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today we continue the Catechesis of the Year of Faith. In the Creed we repeat this phrase: “On the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures.” This is the event we are celebrating: the Resurrection of Jesus, the center of the Christian message, which has echoed right from the very start and has been passed on so that it might reach us. St. Paul writes to the Christians of Corinth: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve”(1 Cor 15:3-5). This short confession of faith announces the Paschal mystery, with the first appearances of the Risen Christ to Peter and the twelve: the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope. Without this faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus our hope would be weak, it would not even be hope, and precisely the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope. The Apostle affirms: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (v. 17). Unfortunately, often attempts have been made to obscure the faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and even among the believers themselves, doubts have crept in. A bit of that “watered down” faith, as we say; it is not the strong faith. This is on account of superficiality, or sometimes because of indifference, occupied as one is with a thousand things deemed more important than the faith, or because of a merely horizontal vision of life. But it is the resurrection that opens us up to a greater hope, because it opens our lives and the life of the world to God’s eternal future, to full happiness, to the certainty that evil, sin, death can be defeated. And this leads to live the daily realities with more confidence, to face them with courage and commitment. The resurrection of Christ illumines these daily realities with a new light. The Resurrection of Christ is our strength!
But how has the truth of faith in the resurrection of Christ been transmitted to us? There are two types of testimony in the New Testament: some are in the form of a profession of faith, namely, synthetic formulas that indicate the center of the faith; others are in the form of the story of the resurrection and of the events related to it. The first: the form of the profession of faith, for example, is that which we have just heard, or that of the Epistle to the Romans where Paul writes: “Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”(10:9). Since the first steps of the Church, faith in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus has been very firm and clear. Today, however, I would like to dwell on the second form, on testimony in the form of narrative, which we find in the Gospels. First, we notice that the first witnesses of this event were women. At dawn, they went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (cf. Mk 16:1). Then follows an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). Women are driven by love and know how to welcome this announcement with faith: they believe, and immediately they transmit it, they do not keep it to themselves. The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills our hearts, cannot be contained. This should occur also in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christians! We believe in a Risen Lord who has defeated evil and death! Let us have the courage to “come out” to bring this joy and this light into all the places of our lives! The resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty; it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share with others this treasure, this certainty? It is not only for us, it is to be communicated, to be given to others, to be shared with others. This is precisely our testimony.
Another element. In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only the men, the Apostles, are remembered as witnesses of the resurrection, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish law of that time, women and children could not give a reliable, credible testimony. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can grasp an element in favour of the historicity of the resurrection: if it were a made-up event, in the context of that time it would not have been tied to the women’s testimony. Instead the evangelists simply narrate what happened: women are the first witnesses. This says that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people; the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. And this is beautiful. And this is to some degree the mission of women: of the mothers, of women! To give witness to their children, their grandchildren, that Jesus is alive, he is the Living One, he is risen. Mothers and women, go forward with this testimony! For God the heart counts, how open we are to Him, if we are like children who trust. But this makes us reflect also on how women in the Church and in the journey of faith, have had and now have a particular role in opening the doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the gaze of faith always needs the simple and profound gaze of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the risen Christ. The women don’t. Peter runs to the tomb, but stops at the empty tomb; Thomas must touch with his hands the wounds of the body of Jesus. Also in our faith journey, it is important to know and feel that God loves us, don’t be afraid to love Him: faith is professed with the mouth and the heart, with words and with love.
After the appearances to the women, others follow: Jesus makes himself present in a new way: he is the Crucified One, but his body is glorious; he has not come back to earthly life, but has returned in a new condition. At the beginning they do not recognize him, and only through his words and gestures are their eyes opened: the encounter with the Risen One tranforms, gives a new force to the faith, an unshakeable foundation. For us too there are many signs in which the Risen One makes himself recognized: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other sacraments, charity, those gestures of love that bring a ray of the Risen Lord. Let us allow ourselves to be enlightened by the resurrection of Christ, let us allow ourselves to be transformed by his strength, so that also through us in the world, the signs of death may give way to signs of life. I have seen that there are many young people in the Square. There they are! To you I say: bring forward this certainty: the Lord is alive and he walks side by side with us in life. This is your mission! Bring forward this hope. Be anchored to this hope: this anchor that is in heaven; hold firm to the chain, be anchored and bring forward hope. You, witnesses of Jesus, bring forward the testimony that Jesus is alive and this will give us hope, it will give hope to this world that has somewhat grown old on account of the wars, evil, sin. Go forward, young people!
I greet with affection the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I welcome with joy the great pilgrimage of the Diocese of Milan, led by Cardinal Angelo Scola, and especially the 14-year young people, who are preparing for their profession of faith. Dear young people, I pray for you, so that your faith may become convinced, strong, like a plant that grows and brings forth good fruit. May the Gospel be your rule of life as it was for St. Francis of Assisi. Read the Gospel, meditate on it, follo
w it: humility, simplicity, fraternity, service; all in trust in God the Father, in the joy of having a Father in heaven who always listens and speaks to your heart. Follow his voice, and you will bear fruit in love! Dear young people.
I greet the faithful of the Diocese of Modena-Nonantola, with their Bishop, Mons. Lanfranchi; i greet the new deacons of the Society of Jesus, with their families; the religious women and men; the many parish groups and associations. For all I invoke the joy and hope which derive from the Lord’s Easter.
To you, dear young people, and you are many, I hope that you may gain an experience of Jesus Christ alive, to become his witnesses. You, dear sick people, may you feel the comfort of the presence of the risen Lord. And you, dear newlyweds, welcome him every day into your married life.[Translation by Peter Waymel]
Speaker: I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. In a special way I greet the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College and their families. My greeting also goes to the delegation from the United States Senate. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. With great affection I invoke upon all of you the joy and peace which are the abiding gifts of the risen Lord.