Christ is risen from the dead! Dying he conquered death; to the dead he has given life.
(Byzantine Liturgy. Topiarian of Easter)
The Easter message is the most human tiding of Christianity. This is because Easter tells us that God himself has done something. His action has not merely touched the heart of people here and there. God has raised his Son from dead, has quickened the flesh and has conquered death. This has occurred in reality, not just in thought. Because we are children of the earth, our existence is caught up in birth and death, in the body and in the earth, in bread and wine.
However, our earthly homeland does not suffice. We listen to the Good News ‘the Lord is risen’. We believe and therefore we profess that he died, went into the kingdom of the dead and rose on the third day. Jesus went down allowing himself to be conquered by death so he could give us his divine life forever.
Jesus has taken the world to himself forever and gives new life to earth and its people who are transfigured. Jesus’ resurrection is a clear indication that our reality has already changed. Like the first eruption of a volcano, which shows that God’s fire already burns in the inmost depths of the earth and that everything will be brought to a holy glow in his light.
We know that Jesus is risen because in death he conquered and redeemed forever the innermost centre of all earthly existence and subsequently he keeps this innermost centre in his control to preserve it. He is already in the midst of the poor things of this earth. He is in our weakness. He is present like the light and air of day. He is there and, as Karl Rahner says: ‘He is the heart of this earthly world and the mysterious seal of its eternal validity. Because Jesus penetrated the earth for all time, he leads us to eternity.’
Jesus must rise from the core of our being in the freedom of our faith. That faith draws us into the colossal eruption of all reality into the splendid transfiguration begun with the resurrection of Christ.
In recent weeks God has done an altogether new deed. With thanksgiving for his teaching, his gentleness and his deep faith we have wistfully bade farewell to Pope Benedict. For two weeks we were uncertain and as the Cardinals gathered for the Conclave we waited in suspense. The announcement of Pope Francis reminds us that our faith goes on. Jesus said: ‘Simon, Simon, satan has sought after you that he may sift you like wheat, but you in your turn must strengthen the brethren.’ (Luke 22:32)
Just as the Lord gave to Peter the role of being the rock of his Church, the shepherd of the whole flock, as the visible source and foundation of the unity of all of us in the Church, so we are united under the leadership of Pope Francis who is the visible sign of our oneness in Christ. We remember that Our Lord, having prayed at length to the Father, called to himself those whom he willed and appointed twelve to be with him, whom he might sent to preach the kingdom of God. At the head of them he placed Peter. They were sent first to the children of Israel and then to all peoples, so to make everyone his disciples and sanctify and govern them.
This guidance, a mission to teach, sanctify and govern, is destined to last until the end of the world, since the Gospel which they were given to hand on is the principle by which the followers of Jesus live for all time. So that they might fulfil their special role, the apostles were given by Christ a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Because the Pope is the source of unity of bishops, priests and people, he is a particularly vibrant sign of the love of God and care for all of us.
The time of reflection passed by the Cardinals in preparing for the Conclave helped them to discern through prayer and conversation the one who would best fulfil in these days and times the loving care of God for us his people.
Already we have seen Pope Francis inviting us to walk together with him in the light of the Lord as living stones to build up the Church (our family, community and society) and to profess that Jesus is the Lord and light of our lives, a lordship which springs from the cross and rises up into the new life of resurrection and renewal.
In these days with a new Pope may we take inspiration from his words and deeds, always pointing to Christ, who is risen and leads us on our journey.
We thank God who, through the Cardinals of the Church, has given us a true Holy Father to lead and accompany us on the way to Jesus Christ.
By + Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne