24/04/2011 12:00 pm
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, gave this homily on Easter Sunday 2011 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
Dear Excellencies, Dear friends, dear pilgrims and faithful from around the world, who participate in this celebration or follow through the various means of communication. Happy Easter and Happy Resurrection to all of you!
With deeply saddened hearts but with so much courage, three women who followed Jesus, went to the tomb bringing flowers and aromas. But they do not find the body of Christ, the tomb is empty. Fear invades, anxiety and wonder overcomes them, mixed emotions fill their hearts.
Today, we are millions who are seeking Christ, searching for His face, His word, His gospel and His peace ... But we do not find Him, neither in cities, politics nor in families. The same fear and anguish invade us in the same way as the women experienced upon reaching the tomb.
Christ in his body of flesh and bones, is no longer in the tomb nor among the dead. Through faith and love, he invades humanity asking us to do what he asked the women, to announce to the whole world, to Jews, Muslims, believers and nonbelievers, the message of this Easter feast.
We too are faced with the empty tomb and are called today, to be the new witnesses to the Resurrection: God the Father raised the Nazarene, there are no more reasons for our fears and doubts.
The tomb before us is empty and the crucified Christ who was dead, is alive. Such statement is peremptory, without evidence, without explanation. "He saw and believed"(Jn 20:8). An incredible truth, which surpasses all understanding is presented as a fait accompli. But where is He now? We must find Him in a new way that no place, no country, no nation can monopolize Him. He gives us a new message, a new mission by proclaiming the joy and exultation of the Easter Alleluia!
“God raised him on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God, as judge of the living and the dead."(Acts 10.40-42) Today, you and I, we, together are His witnesses.
But the women fled, shocked and shaken: it was a revelation. Divine revelations and manifestations have always aroused fear and anxiety. In the end, the women have proclaimed the message.
Today, as it was then, is not enough to proclaim Christ and his resurrection in words alone. We must bear witness by our actions, our unity, our own processions here in this land and through our institutions.
We are called to be witnesses of our faith in the Resurrection, to the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who come to seek Christ and rediscover the roots of their faith. We are missioned to give our testimony to the many people who cannot even believe in God, and to the many unable to break free from their conflicts and struggles.
So, a few courageous women, denied by Jewish law the legal right of witnesses, testified to Christ’s resurrection which brought out of the disciples all doubts that enslaved them. It was the women who announced all that Jesus had promised . Initially, nobody believed them!
Throughout human history, disciples like you and me, who shared experiences and encounters with the Risen One, were treated with consternation despite attempts to offer one’s life. Often, disbelief is more spontaneous than expressions of faith. It is only slowly, painstakingly with the strength of martyrs and a persevering testimony, can faith in the Risen Christ prevail. People of today demand more evidence: tangible, visible and indisputable. Certainly neither the empty tomb, nor the Holy Shroud, nor an account of authority can convince them.
The first miracle of Easter that we celebrate today ,is the radical transformation of the women and the disciples from fearful followers and deserters, to unyielding, joyful, proud defenders and resolute in suffering for their faith.
In the Arab world around us, an entire generation of young people had “shaken the dust off” their distressing conditions. They are seeking a new path marked by justice and dignity. An entire generation is looking for a resurrection of their people who have no other means of bringing about change for a better future. They have confidence and determination, let us support them with our prayers, encouragement and advice. We join our voices with theirs in singing Alleluia for victory.
This is what is expected of us today who are successors of the Apostles and descendants of the early Christian community. We must bury our worldly spirit, our divisions, our hostility, our disbelief and our fears, so we will be led to new life, a resurrected life according to the Master’s will ,and in accordance with the Message of the Synod.
We must die to our old self and live anew, believing in the peace and the joy of a renewed life. We have the right to dream for a better future in this land.
Dear friends, the sick, the elderly, the lonely, those who feel that your Good Friday has not ended and you, who do not have the opportunity to celebrate Easter, our thoughts and prayers are with you. We wish you the joy of the Resurrection, more hope and love among men, greater trust and solidarity, because Christ is risen and we all rise with Him.
Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia! Let us proclaim this to the ends of the earth!
+Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch
Homily given on Easter Sunday 2011 by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.