HOPE THROUGH THE RISEN CHRIST
"Through the wounds of the Risen Christ we can see the evils
which afflict humanity with the eyes of hope.”
Pope Benedict XVI delivered his Easter Message from the balcony
of St. Peter’s Basilica to the crowds gathered in the square
below on Sunday, April 8 at midday after celebrating the Easter
mass and before he imparted his blessing "urbi et orbi"
(to the city of Rome and the world). The event was followed by hundreds
of millions more people in 67 countries via the radio and television.
“The resurrection of Christ gives hope to a world afflicted
by natural disasters, disease and violence, said Benedict XVI in
his Easter message.
Below is the contents of the Pope’s message:
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters throughout the world,
Men and women of good will!
Christ is risen! Peace to you! Today we celebrate the great mystery,
the foundation of Christian faith and hope: Jesus of Nazareth ,
the Crucified One, has risen from the dead on the third day according
to the Scriptures. We listen today with renewed emotion to the announcement
proclaimed by the angels on the dawn of the first day after the
Sabbath, to Mary of Magdala and to the women at the sepulcher: "Why
do you search among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here,
he is risen!" (Luke 24:5-6).
It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of these women at that
moment: feelings of sadness and dismay at the death of their Lord,
feelings of disbelief and amazement before a fact too astonishing
to be true. But the tomb was open and empty: the body was no longer
there. Peter and John, having been informed of this by the women,
ran to the sepulcher and found that they were right. The faith of
the Apostles in Jesus, the expected Messiah, had been submitted
to a severe trial by the scandal of the cross. At his arrest, his
condemnation and death, they were dispersed. Now they are together
again, perplexed and bewildered. But the Risen One himself comes
in response to their thirst for greater certainty. This encounter
was not a dream or an illusion or a subjective imagination; it was
a real experience, even if unexpected, and all the more striking
for that reason. "Jesus came and stood among them and said
to them, 'peace be with you!'" (John 20:19).
At these words their faith, which was almost spent within them,
was re-kindled. The Apostles told Thomas who had been absent from
that first extraordinary encounter: Yes, the Lord has fulfilled
all that he foretold; he is truly risen and we have seen and touched
him! Thomas however remained doubtful and perplexed. When Jesus
came for a second time, eight days later in the Upper Room, he said
to him: "put your finger here and see my hands; and put out
your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing!"
The Apostle's response is a moving profession of faith: "My
Lord and my God!" (John 20:27-28).
"My Lord and my God!" We too renew that profession of
faith of Thomas. I have chosen these words for my Easter greetings
this year, because humanity today expects from Christians a renewed
witness to the resurrection of Christ; it needs to encounter him
and to know him as true God and true man. If we can recognize in
this Apostle the doubts and uncertainties of so many Christians
today, the fears and disappointments of many of our contemporaries,
with him we can also rediscover with renewed conviction, faith in
Christ dead and risen for us. This faith, handed down through the
centuries by the successors of the Apostles, continues on because
the Risen Lord dies no more. He lives in the Church and guides it
firmly towards the fulfillment of his eternal design of salvation.
We may all be tempted by the disbelief of Thomas. Suffering, evil,
injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent such as
children who are victims of war and terrorism, of sickness and hunger,
does not all of this put our faith to the test? Paradoxically the
disbelief of Thomas is most valuable to us in these cases because
it helps to purify all false concepts of God and leads us to discover
his true face: the face of a God who, in Christ, has taken upon
himself the wounds of injured humanity. Thomas has received from
the Lord, and has in turn transmitted to the Church, the gift of
a faith put to the test by the passion and death of Jesus and confirmed
by meeting him risen. His faith was almost dead but was born again
thanks to his touching the wounds of Christ, those wounds that the
Risen One did not hide but showed, and continues to point out to
us in the trials and sufferings of every human being.
"By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).
This is the message Peter addressed to the early converts. Those
wounds that, in the beginning were an obstacle for Thomas's faith,
being a sign of Jesus' apparent failure, those same wounds have
become in his encounter with the Risen One, signs of a victorious
love. These wounds that Christ has received for love of us help
us to understand who God is and to repeat: "My Lord and my
God!" Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon
himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering,
is worthy of faith.
How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world! Natural
calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and
enormous material destruction are not lacking. My thoughts go to
recent events in Madagascar, in the Solomon Islands, in Latin America
and in other regions of the world. I am thinking of the scourge
of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of
people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt
to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the
violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons. I look
with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions
of Africa. In Darfur and in the neighboring countries there is a
catastrophic, and sadly to say underestimated, humanitarian situation.
In Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the violence
and looting of the past weeks raises fears for the future of the
Congolese democratic process and the reconstruction of the country.
In Somalia the renewed fighting has driven away the prospect of
peace and worsened a regional crisis, especially with regard to
the displacement of populations and the traffic of arms. Zimbabwe
is in the grip of a grievous crisis and for this reason the bishops
of that country in a recent document indicated prayer and a shared
commitment for the common good as the only way forward.
Likewise the population of East Timor stands in need of reconciliation
and peace as it prepares to hold important elections. Elsewhere
too, peace is sorely needed: in Sri Lanka only a negotiated solution
can put an end to the conflict that causes so much bloodshed; Afghanistan
is marked by growing unrest and instability; In the Middle East,
besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the
Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart
by continual slaughter as the civil population flees. In Lebanon
the paralysis of the country's political institutions threatens
the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and
puts its future seriously in jeopardy. Finally, I cannot forget
the difficulties faced daily by the Christian communities and the
exodus of Christians from that blessed land which is the cradle
of our faith. I affectionately renew to these populations the expression
of my spiritual closeness.
Dear brothers and sisters, through the wounds of the Risen Christ
we can see the evils which afflict humanity with the eyes of hope.
In fact, by his rising the Lord has not taken away suffering and
evil from the world but has vanquished them at their roots by the
superabundance of his grace. He has countered the arrogance of evil
with the supremacy of his love. He has left us the love that does
not fear death, as the way to peace and joy. "Even as I have
loved you -- he said to his disciples before his death -- so you
must also love one another" (cf. John 13:34).
Brothers and sisters in faith, who are listening to me from every
part of the world! Christ is risen and he is alive among us. It
is he who is the hope of a better future. As we say with Thomas:
"My Lord and my God!", may we hear again in our hearts
the beautiful yet demanding words of the Lord: "If any one
serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant
be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him" (John
12:26). United to him and ready to offer our lives for our brothers
(cf. 1 John 3:16), let us become apostles of peace, messengers of
a joy that does not fear pain - the joy of the Resurrection. May
Mary, Mother of the Risen Christ, obtain for us this Easter gift.
Happy Easter to you all.
[The Holy Father greeted pilgrims in 62 languages. In English,
May the grace and joy of the Risen Christ be with you all.