VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Easter Vigil, when the Gospel readings tell of the discovery of Christ’s empty tomb, is one of the most dramatic liturgies on the Christian calendar, and Pope Francis used the service Saturday (April 3) to invite faithful to “begin anew” — follow Jesus by letting go of the nostalgia for the past.
According to the Gospels, the women who had been following Christ before his death go to his sepulcher to find an angel who tells them that their leader “is going ahead of you to Galilee.” In his homily, Francis said going to Galilee means “it is always possible to begin anew, because there is a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.
“From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history,” he said.
About 200 worshippers, including white-clad cardinals, candles in their hands, attended the Mass in the unlit St. Peter’s Basilica, kept dark to mimic the obscurity of Christ’s tomb. As they sang the Gloria and prayed, the light grew brighter and brighter in the Basilica, and Francis reflected on “these dark months of the pandemic.”
Christ’s resurrection, he said, serves as an example of new beginnings and a call to “never lose hope.”
Over the past year, the pandemic not only forced most ceremonies to go online, but also exacerbated, Francis suggested, the difficulties of restructuring a church struggling with financial and sexual scandals. In talking about how Christ’s invitation “also means setting out on new paths,” the pope criticized what he called “a faith of memories,” the kind of faith, he explained, “that can become the memory of something once beautiful, now simply to be recalled.”
Instead, he said, Jesus asks the faithful “to be alive” and to “get back on the road.”
“Jesus is not outdated,” Francis said. “He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams.”
The pope reprised one of his favorite themes in his sermon, urging the church to follow Christ to the peripheries, calling Galilee a “diverse and disparate” outpost. Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has put an emphasis on administering to the global peripheries, not only in geographically distant countries, but also to all those who have been cast aside.
“Jesus, the risen Lord,” he said, “invites us to overcome barriers, banish prejudices and draw near to those around us every day in order to rediscover the grace of everyday life.”
Francis’ last words were addressed to those men and women who “are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed or a dream shattered.
“Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord goes ahead of you; he walks before you. And, with him, life begins anew,” he said.