Pope Francis: “A closed heart cannot understand what Christianity is”
Faith “is not an ideology or a philosophical system,” he said at the General Audience.
Pope explains meaning of Resurrection at General Audience
April 19, 2017. “Encountering Christ is always a surprise; it’s a grace given to those whose hearts are open.”
This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:30 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Christ Risen, our hope (cf. 1 Corinthians 15).”
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
Below is a Zenit working translation of the Pope’s address:
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We meet today in the light of Easter, which we celebrated and continue to celebrate with the Liturgy. In our itinerary of catechesis on Christian hope, today I wish to speak to you of the Risen Christ, our hope, as Saint Paul presents Him in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. chapter 15).
The Apostle wishes to settle a problem that surely was at the center of the discussions of the community of Corinth. The Resurrection is the last argument addressed in the letter but, probably, in the order of importance, it is the first: everything in fact rests on this presupposition.
Speaking to his Christians, Paul starts from an incontestable event, which is not the success of a reflection of a wise man, but a fact, a simple fact that intervened in the life of some persons. Christianity is born from here. It is not an ideology; it is not a philosophical system, but a journey of faith that begins from an event, witnessed by Jesus’ first disciples. Paul summarizes it thus: Jesus died for our sins, was buried and on the third day He rose and appeared to Peter and to the Twelve (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). This is a fact: He died, was buried, is risen and appeared, namely, Jesus is alive! This is the heart of the Christian message.
Announcing this event, which is the central nucleus of the faith, Paul insists above all on the last element of the paschal mystery, namely, on the fact that Jesus is resurrected. If in fact everything was finished with the death, we would have in Him an example of supreme dedication, but this could not generate our faith. He was a hero. No! He died but is risen because faith is born from the Resurrection. To accept that Christ died and that He died crucified, is not an act of faith; it is a historical fact. Instead, to believe that He is Resurrected, is [an act of faith]. Our faith was born on Easter morning. Paul makes a list of the persons to whom Jesus appeared (cf. cc. 5-7). We have here a little synthesis of all the paschal accounts and of all the people who entered into contact with the Risen One. At the top of the list are Cephas, namely Peter, and the group of the Twelve, then “five hundred brothers” many of whom could again give their testimony, then James is mentioned. The last one of the list – as the least worthy of all – is he, himself. Paul says of himself “as one untimely born” (cf. v. 8).
Paul uses this expression because his personal history is dramatic: he was not an altar boy, but a persecutor of the Church, proud of his convictions; he felt himself as a man who had arrived, with a very limpid idea of what life is about with its duties. However, in this perfect picture — everything was perfect in Paul, he knew everything — in this perfect picture of life, one day something happened that was absolutely unpredictable: the encounter with the Risen Jesus, on the road to Damascus. Not only was he a man who fell to the ground there: he was a person gripped by an event, which would have turned upside down the meaning of life. And the persecutor became an Apostle, why? Because I saw Jesus alive! I have seen Jesus Christ risen! This is the foundation of Paul’s faith, as it is of the faith of the other Apostles, of the faith of the Church, of our faith.
How lovely it is to think that Christianity is, essentially, this! It is not so much our search in our relations with God – a search, in truth, so vacillating –, but rather God’s search of us in our relations <with Him>. Jesus has seized us, He has gripped us; He has won us, never to leave us again. Christianity is grace, it is surprise, and for this reason it presupposes a heart capable of amazement. A closed heart, a rationalistic heart is incapable of amazement, and cannot understand what Christianity is. Because Christianity is grace, and grace is only perceived and what is more it is found in the astonishment of the encounter.
And then, even if we are sinners — all of us are <sinners> –, if our good resolutions remain on paper, or if, looking at our life, we realize we have added many failures . . . On the morning of Easter we can do as those people that Gospel talks about: to go to Jesus’ sepulcher, see the large stone overturned and think that God is bringing about for me, for all of us, an unexpected future. To go to our sepulcher: we all have a little of it inside. To go there, and to see how God is capable of rising from there. There is happiness, joy and life here, where all thought there was sadness, defeat and darkness. God makes his most beautiful flowers grow amid the most arid stones.
To be Christians means not to begin from death, but from God’s love for us, who has defeated our severest enemy. God is greater that anything, and only one lit candle is enough to overcome the darkest of nights. Paul cries out, echoing the prophets: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (v. 55). During these days of Easter, let us bear this cry in our heart. And if we were asked the reason for our given smile and our patient sharing, then we can answer that Jesus is still here, that He continues to be alive among us, that Jesus is here, in the Square, with us: alive and risen.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]In Italian
I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In the atmosphere of the Easter joy, my greeting goes to the young priests of the Diocese of Mantova, accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor Marco Busca and to you, dear Deacons of the Society of Jesus, gathered here with friends and relatives. I encourage each one to live every day the Gospel of charity.
I greet the Sisters of several Institutes taking part in the course promoted by the USMI; the Logudorese Polyphonic Chorale; the Pious Works of the Immaculate Conception with the Friends of Founder Marcucci; and the faithful of Marigliano, who are observing the 80th anniversary of the Crowning of the image of Our Lady of Hope. I hope that this meeting will be for all an occasion of renewed adherence to Jesus and His teachings.
Finally, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you youngsters of the Profession of Faith of the Dioceses of Milan and Cremona, live fully the Easter message, witnessing everywhere peace, gift of the Risen Christ. Dear sick, look at Him constantly who conquered death and who helps us to accept suffering as a privileged moment of redemption and salvation. Dear newlyweds, live your daily family experience in the awareness of the vivifying presence of Jesus in your home.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Pope’s address at the General Audience this morning:
Speaker: Dear Brothers and Sisters: In these joyful days of Easter, our continuing catechesis on Christian hope looks to the Risen Jesus. Saint Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus himself is our hope. His Resurrection is the event that grounds our faith; without our confident belief in its historical reality, the Christian faith would be a mere human philosophy, and Jesus himself simply another great religious figure. Our belief is based on the testimony of those who encountered the Risen Christ, from Saint Peter and the group of the Twelve to Saint Paul, who was converted by his dramatic meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus. Encountering Christ in faith is always a surprise; it is a grace given to those whose hearts are open. It overturns our comfortable existence and opens us to an unexpected future, sowing life and light in place of death and sorrow. This is the reason for our Easter joy: in the risen Jesus, who dwells in our midst, we encounter the power of God’s love, which triumphs over death and brings ever new life and undying hope.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Sweden, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada and the United States of America. I offer a particular greeting to the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College, together with families and friends. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!
[Original text: English]
Here is a translation of the Pope’s words Monday, April 17, 2017, at noon introducing the Marian prayer of Eastertide.
Before the Regina Caeli:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In this Monday of celebration, called “Monday of the Angel,” the liturgy has the announcement resound of the Resurrection proclaimed yesterday: “Christ is Risen, Alleluia!”
In today’s evangelical passage we can pick up the echo of the Angel’s words addressed to the women who approached the sepulcher: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead’” (Matthew 28:7). We also feel as addressed to us the invitation to “go quickly” to proclaim to the men and women of our time this message of joy and hope. Of certain hope, because, from the dawn of the third day, Jesus crucified was resurrected, the last word is no longer that of death but of life! And this is our certainty. The sepulcher is not the last word, it is not death; it is life! Therefore, we repeat much: Christ is Risen,” because in Him the sepulcher was defeated and life is born.
By virtue of this event, which constitutes the true and proper novelty of history and of the cosmos, we are called to be new men and women according to the Spirit, affirming the value of life. There is life! We will be men and women of resurrection, men and women of life, if, in the midst of the events that trouble the world — there are so many today –, in the midst of the worldliness that estranges from God, we are able to put gestures of solidarity, gestures of hospitality, nourishing the universal desire for peace and the aspiration for an environment free of degradation. They are ordinary and human signs but that, sustained and animated by faith in the Risen Lord, acquire a far superior efficacy than our capacities. And this is so because Christ is alive and working in history through His Holy Spirit; He rescues us from our miseries, reaches every human heart and gives back hope to anyone who is oppressed and suffering.
May the Virgin Mary, silent witness of the Death and Resurrection of her Son Jesus, help us to be living signs of the Risen Christ amid the events of the world, so that all those who are in tribulation and difficulties do not remain victims of pessimism and defeat, of resignation, but find in us many brothers and sisters that offer them support and consolation. May our Mother help us to believe intensely in the Resurrection of Jesus: Jesus is Risen, He is alive here, among us, and this is a wondrous mystery of salvation with the capacity to transform hearts and life. And may she intercede in a particular way for the Christian communities persecuted and oppressed which are today, in so many parts of the world, called to a more difficult and courageous witness.
And now, in the light and the joy of Easter, we turn to her in the prayer that, for fifty days until Pentecost, takes the place of the Angelus.
Regina Caeli . . .
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]After the Regina Caeli:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the Easter atmosphere that characterizes this day, I greet you all warmly, families, parish groups, associations and individual pilgrims from Italy and from all over the world. I wish each one of you to spend in serenity these days of the Octave of Easter, in which the joy of the Resurrection of Christ is prolonged. Take every good occasion to be witnesses of peace of the Risen Lord. A Good and Holy Easter to all! Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and see you soon.