Pope Francis in the airport of Quito' Mariscal Sucre'


Easter: Exodus of Christ and of the Church

Lectio Divina: Easter Sunday, Year C

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Roman rite
Resurrection Sunday- March 27, 2016
Jn 20: 1-9 or Luke 24: 1-12

Ambrosian Rite
Act 1, 1-8a,  Ps 117, 1 Cor 15,3-10a, Jn 20, 11-18

1) Christ is risen: life has swallowed death.
        With the exception of the Virgin Mother who, with the faith that even in the darkness of the Holy Saturday  the certitude of hope, went to meet him on Easter morning (see Spe Salvi, 50), all the disciples thought that the death on the Cross had stopped  the exodus of Christ forever. They had followed Jesus because he was the only one who had words of eternal life, but the new Moses was dead like the old Moses, who had been unable to enter the Promised Land, viewed only from afar while dying on Mount Nebo.
         The story of Jesus, the new Moses, does not stop at Mount Calvary on Good Friday, a dramatic day in which he, and with him the love and dedication of God for us, ended on the cross. This story does not stop even on Holy Saturday, when the world has become a desolation of death because Christ is put in the tomb and all is quiet, including God. Death has won and has swallowed life. It is an apparent victory: here comes the Easter Sunday in which the «dead» Jesus rises. Today is Easter, the day of the risen One, the day when Life swallows death, Light surrounds darkness and we celebrate the fact that the new Man has come out from the bowels of the Earth bringing the light of the sun that never sets.
         Like the sun, Christ began his exodus in the heart of one night: that of Christmas, full of stars, angels and songs, and ends in another night, that of Easter, full of silence and of hostile darkness, where a handful of men and women totally lost keep vigil.
         The light of the Risen Christ, the Sun of justice and mercy, swallows the night and opens the tomb, from where exits the «Flesh wearing eternity.» Everything is light and in the gardens Spring is coming. From one night to the other, faith breathes thanks to the light that illuminates the earth, the sky, the mind and the heart.
         The image of the sun is taken from the liturgy of Easter to describe Christ’s triumphant exodus from the darkness of the tomb and his entry into the fullness of the new life of the resurrection. «As the sun rises after the night in the dazzling brightness of renewed light, so you too, O Word, will shine with new brightness when, after death, you’ll leave your nuptial bed» (Matins). «Let the heavens rejoice and the Earth exult because the whole universe, the visible and the invisible, takes part in this celebration:  Christ, our everlasting joy, is risen» (First Hour). «Today the whole universe, heaven, earth and abyss, is full of light and the entire creation sings now the resurrection of Christ, our strength and our joy» (Third Hour). «Christ our Passover is risen from the tomb like a sun of justice shining on all of us the splendor of his charity» (Sixth Hour).
           In the sixth century in France, there was a custom, narrated by Saint Gregory of Tours (approximately 538 – 594 AD), which helps us to understand why the liturgy gives importance to light. This holy bishop tells of a custom of his time, which required the lighting of the Easter fire during the day with crystals catching the sunlight. In this way, from the sky we receive light and fire to turn on all the lights and fires of the year. This is a symbol of what we are celebrating in the Easter Vigil. With his radical love, where God’s heart and the heart of man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to the earth – the light of truth and the fire of love that transforms man. He brought the light, which turns pain into joy and takes away the sadness from those who live in pain.
         From the day of the resurrection of Christ, and forever, light blooms from the very heart of the world, where Christ descended and took home: like the yeast that ferments the dough, like salt that gives flavor (see Mk 9, 50), like the rays of a sun that «in the first light of day resurrect things from darkness, as it was at the beginning of the world, dressing them with light and silence. Therefore, before Christ, the Sun that rises again, let us intone praise with faith, and look towards the light, reaching toward the return of Christ. He is the splendor of the Father, vivid divine light. In Him we dress of hope, we live with joy and love (see Hymn of Lauds). Jesus, the Word of the Father, is the inner light that dispels the darkness of sin; He is the fire that drives away the cold; He is the flame that welcomes the existence; He is the splendor of truth who, shining before us, guide us in the exodus to the promised land, to «new heavens and a new earth where justice will dwell» (Rev 21: 5).

2) The exodus of Christ and ours exodus.
          The exodus of the Redeemer is our exodus and, in the same way that the journey to the Father for the Son was not only a physical journey, we too are called to the same exodus of the heart.
          I propose the Origen’s answer: «To the glory of the Lord our God, we celebrate the feast of Exodus. We celebrate not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5, 8), because now we do not bring with us anything of the ungodly leaven of Egypt. Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; with him today I am glorified. Yesterday I died with him, today with him I am back to life. Yesterday I was buried with him, today I rise with him «(Origen, Eis ton aghiovpascha, XLV: PG 36, 624; I, PG 35, 397-400)
          Let’s resume our exodus today going with the heart to the tomb and then from there continue our journey.  We have as example Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, whose hearts full of devotion and affection pushed them to the tomb of the Savior, but they did not stay there.
        Let’s follow them on this journey of the heart. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb when it was still dark and her heart was driving her. Peter also was driven by the heart, because it was him who loved Christ more than any other. And so it was for John, because he, the most beloved disciple, was attracted by the heart. On Easter dawn it is no coincidence that those who went to the tomb were those who had a particular experience of Jesus.  Magdalene, the Apostle who had the primacy of love and the beloved Apostle were the first to understand that love had conquered death. All three saw that the tomb was empty, but they did not stop at that tomb uncovered by Love. They wondered: where’s the Risen? How can I meet him? To meet him there was nothing to do but to get back on the journey and seek Him among the living. But, even in this case Christ preceded them, and appeared to them. And they saw and believed and became witnesses.
          From then on and even today, the faith of Christians is based on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who have seen the overturned tombstone and the empty tomb, the mysterious messengers who claimed that Jesus, the crucified, had resurrected. Then He, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples of Emmaus, and finally to all the eleven, gathered in the Cenaculum (see Mk 16: 9-14).
         «The Apostles had direct and wonderful experience of the Resurrection; they are eyewitnesses of that event. Thanks to their authoritative testimony, many have believed; and from the faith in the risen Christ constantly Christian communities were and are born. Today, we too base our faith in the risen Lord on the testimony of the Apostles which came to us through the mission of the Church «(St. John Paul II).
         It is very significant that the first book of Christian history is the «Acts of the Apostles», where the story is told by authoritative witnesses of the victory of Christ.
         Today, it is up to each of us continue to «write» and to «do» the acts of the apostles, because every disciple of Christ is called to be a witness of the Resurrection, especially in places where more strongly man wants to lose the memory of God and reduce the human being to a single dimension.
         A particular way of «writing» these acts, by which the exodus of life, the journey of love, is accomplished, is that of the consecrated Virgins in the world. With their virginal consecration these women have surrender themselves forever to Christ and witness that all that is lived in virginal love is not lost. Starting from God and in communion with Jesus Christ, they live in an Eucharistic way giving thanks to God and serving Christ in their brothers and sisters in humanity. If on the one hand they make this service with charity in the workplace and in their life, on the other they testify that in the charity consecrated to God in virginity there is the love of neighbor. Their being brides of Christ always involves a journey, an exodus that does not mean inactivity or life as a vagrant, but a mission of charity that takes action, accomplished by people who have eyes to Christ and hands toward those who are materially and spiritually poor. Their body, sanctified by the presence of the risen Christ and made Temple, becomes a «sacrament» by which Jesus meets, touches and saves all men.

Patristic Reading
Saint Augustine of Hyppo
Tract 123 in Iohan.

  1. With this third manifestation of Himself by the Lord to His disciples after His resurrection, the Gospel of the blessed Apostle Jn is brought to a close, of which we have already lectured through the earlier part as we were able, on to the place where it is related that an hundred and fifty-three fishes were taken by the disciples to whom He showed Himself, and for all they were so large, yet were not the nets broken. What follows we have now to take into consideration, and to discuss as the Lord enables us, and as the various points may appear to demand. When the fishing was over, “Jesus saith unto them, Come [and] dine. And none of those who sat down dared to ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord.” If, then, they knew, what need was there to ask? and if there was no need wherefore is it said, “they dared not,” as if there were need, but, from some fear or other, they dared not? The meaning here, therefore, is: so great was the evidence of the truth that Jesus Himself had appeared to these disciples, that not one of them dared not merely to deny, but even to doubt it; for had any of them doubted it, he ought certainly to have asked. In this sense, therefore, it was said, “No one dared to ask Him, Who art Thou?” as if it were, No one dared to doubt that it was He Himself.
  1. “And Jesus cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.” We are likewise told here, you see, on what they dined; and of this dinner we also will say something that is sweet and salutary, if we, too, are made by Him to partake of the food. It is related above that these disciples, when they came to the land, “saw a fire of coals laid, and a fish laid thereon, and bread.” Here we are not to understand that the bread also was laid upon the coals, but only to supply, They saw. And if we repeat this verbin the place where it ought to be supplied, the whole may read thus: They saw coals laid, and fish laid thereon, and they saw bread. Or rather in this way: They saw coals laid, and fish laid thereon; they saw a so bread. At the Lord’s command they likewise broughtof the fishes which they themselves hadcaught; and although their doing so mightnot be actually stated by the historian, yet there has been no silence in regard to the Lord’s command. For He says, “Bring of the fishes which ye have now caught.” And when we have such certainty that He gave the order, will any suppose that they failed to obey it? Of this, therefore, the Lord prepared the dinner for these His seven disciples, namely, of the fish which they had seen laid upon the coals, with an addition thereto from those which they had caught, and of the bread which we are told with equal distinctness that they had seen. The fish roasted is Christ having suffered; He Himself also is the bread that cometh down from heaven.1 With Him is incorporated the Church, in order to the participation in everlasting blessedness. For this reason is it said, “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught,” that all of us who cherish this hope may know that we ourselves, through that septenary number of disciples whereby our universal community may in this passage be understood as symbolized, partake in this great sacrament, and are associated in the same blessedness. This is the Lord’s dinner with His own disciples, and herewith John, although having much besides that he might say of Christ, brings his Gospel, with profound thought and an eye to important lessons, to a close. For here the Church, such as it will be hereafter among the good alone, is signified by the draught of an hundred and fifty-three fishes; and to those who so believe, and hope, and love, there is demonstrated by this dinner their participation in such super-eminent blessedness.
  1. “This was now,” he says, “the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after that He was risen from the dead.” And this we are to refer not to the manifestations themselves, but to the days that is to say, taking the first day when He rose again, and the [second] eight days after, when the disciple Thomas saw and believed, and [the third] on this day when He so acted in connection with the fishes, although how many days afterwards it was that He did so we are not told); for on that first day He was seen more than once, as is shown by the collated testimonies of all the evangelists: but, as we have said, it is in accordance with the days that His manifestations are to be calculated, making this the third; for that [manifestation] is to be reckoned the first, and all one and the same, as included in one day, however often and to however many He showed Himself on the day of His resurrection; the second eight days afterwards, and this the third, and thereafter as often as He pleased on to the fortieth day, when He ascended into heaven, although all of them have not been recorded in Scripture.
  1. “So when they had dined, He saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto Him, Feed my lambs. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shall be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wilt not. And this spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” Such was the end reached by that denier and lover; elated by his presumption, prostrated by his denial, cleansed by his weeping, approved by his confession, crowned by his suffering, this was the end he reached, to die with a perfected love for the name of Him with whom, by a perverted forwardness, he had promised to die. He would do, when strengthened by His resurrection, what in his weakness he promised prematurely. For the needful order was that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation, and then that Peter should die for the preaching of Christ. The boldness thus begun by human temerity was an utter inversion of the order that had been instituted by the Truth. Peter thought to lay down his life for Christ,2 the one to be delivered in behalf of the Deliverer, seeing that Christ had come to lay down His life for all His own, including Peter also, which, you see, was now done. Now and henceforth a true, because graciously bestowed, strength of heart may be assumed for incurring death itself for the name of the Lord, and not a false one presumptuously usurped through an erroneous estimate of ourselves. Now there is no need that we should any more fear the passage out of the present life, because in the Lord’s resurrection we have a foregoing illustration of the life to come. Now thou hast cause, Peter, to be no longer afraid of death, because He liveth whom thou didst mourn when dead, and whom in thy carnal love thou didst try to hinder from dying in our behalf.3 Thou didst dare to step in before the Leader, and thou didst tremble before His persecutor: now that the price has been paid for thee, it is thy duty to follow the Buyer, and follow Him even to the death of the cross. Thou hast heard the words of Him whom thou hast already proved to be truthful; He Himself hath foretold thy suffering, who formerly foretold thy denial.
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Mgr Francesco Follo

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