"It is always possible to start over". This was one of the Pope's messages during this year's Easter Vigil, marked once again by the pandemic. The celebration took place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday evening at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter's Basilica. The nave was completely empty, except for a few faithful gathered in the pews of the apse of the Cathedra.
For this reason, the rite of the Blessing of the Fire, which took place at the foot of the Altar of Confession, was more charged with symbolism than in other years. The initial procession started from the Altar of Confession to the Altar of the Chair passing by the side of the "Altar of St. Joseph".
With the singing of the Gloria, the Basilica was progressively illuminated until it was completely lit. During the ceremony, the preparation of the paschal candle was omitted and there were no baptisms, only the renewal of the baptismal promises, preceded by the blessing of the lustral water.
We publish below the text of the homily delivered by the Pope during the Easter Vigil, after the proclamation of the Holy Gospel:
"The women thought they were going to find the body to anoint, instead they found an empty tomb. They had gone to mourn a dead man, but instead they heard a proclamation of life. That is why, the Gospel says, those women were "frightened and bewildered" (Mc 16,8). Bewilderment: in this case it is fear mixed with joy that surprises their hearts when they see the great stone of the tomb removed and inside a young man in a white robe.
It is the wonder of hearing those words: "Do not be afraid! The one you are looking for, Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified one, is risen" (v. 6). And then that invitation: "He will go before you to Galilee, and there you will see him" (v. 7). Let us also accept this invitation, Easter invitationLet us go to Galilee, where the risen Lord precedes us. But what does it mean to "go to Galilee"?
Going to Galilee means, first of all, start over. For the disciples it was to return to the place where the Lord first sought them out and called them to follow him. It is the place of the first encounter and the first love. From that moment, having left the nets, they followed Jesus, listening to his preaching and witnessing the wonders he performed. However, although they were always with him, they did not fully understand him, they often misunderstood his words and before the cross they fled, leaving him alone.
In spite of this failure, the risen Lord presents himself as the One who, once again, precedes them in Galilee; he precedes them, that is, he goes before them. He calls them and invites them to follow him, never tiring. The Risen One says to them: "Let us begin again from where we began. Let us begin again. I want you back with me, despite and beyond all failures". In this Galilee we experience the amazement produced by the infinite love of the Lord, who traces new paths within the paths of our defeats.
This is the first Easter announcement I would like to offer you: it is always possible to start overFor there is a new life that God is able to restart in us beyond all our failures. Even from the rubble of our heart God can build a work of art, even from the ruined remains of our humanity God prepares a new history. He always precedes us: on the cross of suffering, desolation and death, as well as in the glory of a life that rises again, of a history that changes, of a hope that is reborn. And in these dark months of pandemic we hear the risen Lord inviting us to begin again, never to lose hope.
Going to Galilee, in the second place, means to travel new roads. It is to move in the opposite direction to the tomb. The women were looking for Jesus in the tomb, that is, they were going to remember what they had lived with Him and which they had now lost forever. They are going to take refuge in their sadness. It is the image of a faith that has become a commemoration of a beautiful but finished event, only to remember. Many live the "faith of memories", as if Jesus were a character of the past, a friend of the youth already distant, an event that happened a long time ago, when as a child he attended catechism classes. A faith made of customs, of things of the past, of beautiful childhood memories, that no longer moves me, that no longer challenges me.
Going to Galilee, on the other hand, means learning that faith, in order to be alive, must set out again. It must rekindle every day the beginning of the journey, the amazement of the first encounter. And then to trust, without the presumption of already knowing everything, but with the humility of those who allow themselves to be surprised by God's ways. Let us go to Galilee to discover that God cannot be deposited among the memories of childhood, but that he is alive, always surprising. Risen, he never ceases to amaze us.
Then, the second Easter proclamation: faith is not a repertoire of the past, Jesus is not an obsolete character. He is alive, here and now. It walks with you every day, in the situation you are living, in the trial you are going through, in the dreams you carry inside. It opens new paths where you feel there are none, it urges you to go against the current with respect to remorse and the "already seen". Even if everything seems lost to you, let yourself be caught up in awe by its novelty: it will surprise you.
Going to Galilee also means, go to the ends. Because Galilee is the most distant place, in that complex and diverse region live those who are farthest from the ritual purity of Jerusalem. And yet it was from there that Jesus began his mission, directing his proclamation to those who struggle for daily life, to the excluded, the fragile, the poor, to be the face and presence of God, who tirelessly seeks out those who are discouraged or lost, who goes to the very limits of existence because in his eyes no one is last, no one is excluded.
It is there that the Risen Lord asks his followers to go, even today. It is the place of daily life, the streets we walk every day, the corners of our cities where the Lord precedes us and makes himself present, precisely in the lives of those who pass by us and share with us the time, the home, the work, the difficulties and the hopes.
In Galilee we learn that we can find the risen Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the enthusiasm of those who dream and in the resignation of those who are discouraged, in the smiles of those who rejoice and in the tears of those who suffer, especially in the poor and the marginalized. We will be amazed at how God's greatness is revealed in littleness, at how his beauty shines in the simple and the poor.
Finally, the third Easter proclamation: Jesus, the Risen One, loves us without limits and visits all the situations of our lives. He has established his presence in the heart of the world and invites us too to overcome barriers, to overcome prejudices, to draw closer to those who are close to us every day, to rediscover the grace of everyday life. Let us recognize Him present in our Galilee, in everyday life. With him, life will change. For beyond all defeat, evil and violence, beyond all suffering and beyond death, the Risen One lives and governs history.
Brother, sister, if on this night your heart goes through a dark hour, a day that has not yet dawned, a buried light, a shattered dream, open your heart with wonder to the Easter proclamation: "Do not be afraid, he is risen! He is waiting for you in Galilee. Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be wiped away, your fears will be overcome by hope. For the Lord goes before you, He walks before you. And, with Him, life begins anew".