Wednesday, April 11, 2007

General Audience: seek to carry Jesus in our hearts


REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)

~from Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters!

We meet each other today after the solemn celebrations of Easter for our usual Wednesday encounter, but first I wish to renew to all of you my most fervent good wishes for the season. I thank you for your presence today and I thank the Lord for this beautiful sunny day.

At the Easter Vigil, this proclamation resounded: "The Lord has truly risen, alleluia!" Today, it is He Himself who proclaims, "I will not die, I remain alive."

To sinners, He says: "Receive the remission of sins. It is I, in fact, who am your remission."

And to all, He says: "I am the Pasch of salvation, the Lamb sacrificed for you. I am your redemption, your life. I am your resurrection, I am your light, I am your salvation, I am your King. Adn I will show you the Father."

That is what a writer, Melitone of Sarda, wrote in the second century, interpreting with realism the words and the thoughts of the Risen Lord (On Easter, 102-103).

In these days, the liturgy recalls various encounters that Jesus had after the Resurrection: with Mary Magdalene and the other women who came to His tomb the morning after the Sabbath. with the Apostles reunited, incredulous, at the Cenacle; with Tomas and other disciples.

These various apparitions constitute even for us an invitation to look more deeply into the fundamental message of Easter Sunday. It stimulates us to follow the spiritual itinerary of those who encountered Jesus and recognized Him in those first days after the Paschal events.

The evangelist John narrates that Peter and himself, having heard the news from Mary Magdalene, ran, almost racing each other, towards the sepulchre (cfr Jn 20, 3f). The Fathers of the Church saw in this race to get to the empty tomb an exhortation to the only legitimate competition among believers: the race to find Christ.

And what can we say of Mary Magdalene? Weeping, she remained near the empty tomb, wanting only to know where they had brought the Master. She finds Him and recognizes Him when He calls her by name (cfr Jn 20,11-18).

Even we, if we look for the Lord with a simple and sincere spirit, will find Him, or rather He Himself will be coming towards us: He will make Himself known to us, He will call us by name. In short, He will bring us into the intimacy of His love.

Today, Wednesday in the Easter Octave, the liturgy makes us reflect on another singular encounter with the Risen Lord - that with the two disciples at Emmaus (cfr Lk 24,13-25). As they were returning home one evening, disconsolate about the death of their Master, He Himself joins them on the way but they do not recognize Him.

His words, commenting on the Scriptures that concerned the Christ, inflamed the hearts of the two disciples who, arriving at their destination, asked Him to stay with them. When, towards the end, He "took the bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave it to them" (v. 30), their eyes were opened. But at that very moment, Jesus disappeared from view. And so, they recognized Him just as He disappeared.

Commenting on this Biblical episode, St. Augustine observed: "Jesus broke the bread and they recognized Him. Now we can no longer say that we do not recognize Christ! If we believe, we know Him. Rather, if we believe, than we have Him. They had Christ at their table, we have Him in our hearts."

And he concludes: "To have Christ in our hearts is much more than having Him in our own home. Our heart is more intimate to us than our home." (Discourse 232,VII,7). Let us seek to carry Jesus in our hearts.

In the prologue to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke states that the Risen Lord "presented himself alive to them (the Apostles) by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days" (1,3).

We must understand this very well: When the holy author says that Jesus "presented Himself alive", he doesn't mean that Jesus returned to living as He did before, like Lazarus did.

The Easter that we celebrate, St. Bernard has commented, means a 'passage' not a 'return' - because Jesus did not go back to a preceding situation, but "he crossed the frontier to a more glorious condition", new and definitive. Therefore, he adds, "now Christ has really passed on to a new life" (cfr Discourse on Easter).

To Mary Magdalene, the Lord had said: "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father" (Jn 20,17). A statement which surprises us, especially when compared to what happened with doubting Thomas.

There, in the Cenacle, it was the Lord Himself who presented His hands and his ribs to the Apostle so he could touch them and assure himself that it was indeed Him (cfr Jn 20,27).

Actually, the two episodes are not contradictory. On the contrary, one helps us to understand the other.

Mary Magdalene wanted to have her Master as before, considering the Cross as a tragic event to be forgotten. But from here on, there was no place for a relationship with the Risen Lord in a merely human way.

To meet Him, it is not necessary to turn back, but to place ourselves in a neww relationship with Him. One must move ahead. St. Bernard underscores this: Jesus "invites us all to this new life, to this passagene. We will not see Christ by turning back" (Discourse on Easter).

That is what happened with Thomas. Jesus showed him His wounds, not so the Cross would be forgotten but to make it unforgettable even in the future.

In fact, it is towards the future that one must look, from that point on. It is the task of the disciple to bear witness to the death and resurrection of his Master and to his new life.

Dear brothers and sisters, even we - like Mary Magdalene, Tomas and the other disciples - are called upon to be witnesses of and for the death and resurrection of Christ. We cannot keep the good news to outselves. We should bring it to the whole world: "We have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20,25).

May the Virgin Mary help us to fully enjoy the Paschal joy, so that, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may become capable of spreading it, in turn, wherever we live and work.

Once again, I wish you all a good Easter.

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