31 March 2024

Homily - 31 March 2024 - Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection

Mass During the Day

Dear brothers and sisters,


There is a curious absence in the Gospel chosen for this Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection. Did you notice it? “In today’s Gospel Jesus is not even seen, but He leaves signs, so that those who desire Him, those who seek Him, may finally meet him anew.”[1] How carefully do you look for the signs he has left for you? How ardently do you desire him? How diligently do you search for him?


In this intriguing detail of the absence of Jesus, we have an implicit reminder of what Christianity is all about: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”[2] This cannot be forgotten; knowing Jesus, and being with him, is of fundamental importance.


Saint Mary Magdalene knew this very well. She went to the tomb “while it was still dark” (John 20:1) because, as Saint Augustine tells us, she went to the tomb because “she was unquestionably more ardent in her love than these other women who had ministered to the Lord.”[3] She knew Jesus in life and did not forget him in death. For this reason, she is “the first witness and herald of the Risen One” (cf. John 20:1, 11-18).[4]


Detail, The Three Marys at the Empty Tomb, BL Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, f.13v


This was especially fitting, for “just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life.”[5] It was also fitting that the words of life be announced in a garden because the words of death had previously been announced in a garden. The Magdalene’s love for Jesus was greatly rewarded; she knew him well and would not be kept apart from him, not even by death. What was the cause of her ardent love for Jesus?


Saint Luke mentions – as if in passing – that during the days of Jesus’ public ministry, “accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:1-2). Jesus had cast these demons out from her, and she followed him in love as a result. In his great love, the Lord has done similar things for each one of us. He offers his mercy to each of us, again and again. By his Death and Resurrection, he invites us to be with him, now and for eternity, to share in his divine life and to be friends of God.


Why do we not love Jesus as ardently as Saint Mary Magdalene? Why do we not seek Jesus no matter the cost or risk? If we look to her example and listen to her, Mary teaches us that


a disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.[6]


In like manner, Mary’s love for the Lord Jesus was stronger than her fear of death; while the Apostles remained cowering in the Upper Room, Mary went to the tomb, knowing the danger (cf. I John 4:18; John 20:19).


Casting her fear aside, she looked for the signs she thought Jesus left behind, namely his dead body; she desired him and looked for him and met him again, but not how she expected to find him, as we will hear in the Gospel tomorrow (cf. John 20:14). She did not find his dead body, but instead found him in the garden and in the Church, which is why she went to tell Saint Peter (cf. John 20:2). Here, then, is an important lesson for us: when the Lord seems absent or missing, we can find him in the Church; in the Sacraments, especially in confession and the Eucharist; and in the Sacred Scriptures.

When the Lord Jesus seems absent or missing from us, we should imitate Saint Mary Magdalene, not just on Easter but every day of our lives. Our love for him must be so ardent that nothing keeps us from him, that nothing keeps us from growing in his friendship, that nothing keeps us from remaining always close to him.

Everything, absolutely everything, that keeps us from encountering Jesus in his Church must be cast aside and left behind.

So when you die and you meet God and God asks you why he should let you into heaven, please do not speak of how well or how poorly you understood and obeyed some abstract principles, important as they are. What saves you is a person, not a principle. Your answer should not begin with the word “I” but with the word “Jesus.” As they say even about your life in this world, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.[7]

Let us, then, not be afraid to search for his signs, to desire him ardently, and to seek him above all else, so we might meet him anew when he comes again in his glory, sharing in his Resurrection from the dead (cf. Colossians 3:4). Amen.

[1] Pierbattista Cardinal Pizzaballa, O.F.M., Homily, 30 March 2024.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 1.

[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Harmony of the Gospels, 3.24.69.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 14 February 2007.

[5] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, 2519.

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 23 July 2006.

[7] Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings, Cycle B (Elk Grove Village, Illinois: Word on Fire, 2023), 283.

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