The Lord Jesus has risen… let us hold on to Him!

SThis night from every altar the Church has cried out to the world the most surprising, the most comforting and the most renewing news of history: Christ the Lord has risen!

Easter is holding on to Christ who rises again and goes up to heaven.

In the middle of the night that we have just gone through, in churches throughout the world, great news has been proclaimed: the Lord Jesus has risen!

This is not news some people will say. And that is true: it has been proclaimed for more than nineteen centuries. But whereas all other examples of ‘news’ have dried up like leaves in autumn, this news still thrills our hearts: it is always fresh and young; fresher and younger than the many examples of useless news of which the newspaper of this morning was also full.

Let us try to have a good understanding of what happened.

The world, created beautiful and good by God, went wrong: now we live in a world, as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, without wisdom, without loyalty, without love, without mercy (Rom 1:31). In our times, as never before, this harsh judgement seems to us to hit home. The protesters and revolutionaries of every epoch do not make a great discovery when they tell us that this is a wrong world; and when they decide to destroy it they are not without a certain logic. They wish only for something that is useless because this world in the design of God is already destined for destruction, like a lurid and dilapidated slum house is destined for demolition in a council’s urban development plan. But men must not destroy it: when they do this on the whole a world that is uglier and more unjust than before is born. The world is waiting for the hour of the Lord, when, as St. Peter writes, the heavens will burn up and the heavenly bodies will be melted by the heat and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will finally be at home (cf. 2 Pt 3:12,13).

But us, what will happen to us. Will we be able to save ourselves?

Yes, we can save ourselves because God sent His Son into the world, who was born of a woman, like us, who was born a slave, like us, who freed us and gave us the opportunity of becoming children of God.

What, therefore, of such importance happened twenty centuries ago that we still remember it today as something that touches us from close to hand?

Jesus told us with simple and essential words, which the Evangelist John narrates in the speech of the Last Supper: ‘I came from the Father and I came into the world; now I will leave the world and return to the Father (Jn 16:28).

Easter was this earthly ‘adventure’ of the Son of God who came down from heaven into this unjust and dusty world; and by his death and his resurrection he returned to heaven, taking with him those who believe in him.

One thus understands what one must be done to save us from the destruction that will beset the world (and which, in practice, will take place at the moment of our deaths to each one of us): one must hold on to Christ who passes from this world to the Father. This is Easter, which means, indeed, ‘passage’

One thus understands why today we are happy and why this is the greatest Christian feast: it is the joy of those who are on the point of drowning and see a rope thrown to them that they can finally hang on to.

A      But how can one hold on to Jesus who rises from the dead and goes up to heaven, so as to be able to go up with him, and not be overwhelmed in the ruins of this world?

‘“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”’ (Acts 3:36-38).

Jesus answers us: first of all, repent, that is to say recognise your errors and decide to change. Call your vices by their name and do not mask them in your eyes and the eyes of other people by referring to them with words of virtue.

If you are lazy, do not call yourselves prudent; say: I am lazy and I must change.

If you are proud, do not say that you have a sense of your dignity: recognise that you are selfish and proud, and try to be humble.

This is how our Lord and Teacher speaks to us, with the frankness of one who truly loves us and who truly wishes us to grow and live.

It is certainly the case that repentance is a rare fact. A man who recognises his errors is the greatest and most difficult thing given to the world.

This is something that is difficult: a man grows more angry when an observation that is right and deserved is made to him than is the case when he is angry with his wife.

D      But it is the greatest thing: it is the resurrection itself of Christ who reaches our soul and enables us to pass with him from death to life.

But to repent is not enough; if we want to hold on to Jesus who rises and goes up to heaven, we must unite ourselves to him in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

For this reason, the Church lays down that all Christians, specifically during these days of Easter, should take communion; for this reason, ‘doing Easter’ means, in traditional language, drawing near to the table of the Eucharist. Because only in this way are we certain that we will be united to he who is our salvation and will remain our only hope when there is no longer any human hope left for us.

If we recognise our errors before God and His Church in the sacrament of penance, and if we draw near to the sacrament of the Eucharist, then the proclaiming of the victory of Christ will also be the proclaiming of our victory.

And the great news, that sounded out in all churches tonight, will be completed in our consciousness in the following way: ‘The Lord Jesus has risen, and I have risen with him!’