Pope Francis delivers his Easter message "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 12, 2020. The Mass was celebrated without the presence of the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. CNS photo/Vatican Media

Editorial: ‘I have seen the Lord’

  • April 1, 2021

Think back a year ago … to an Easter Sunday that reverberated with fear and anxiety as the world’s people tried to grasp the enormity of COVID-19.

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, where normally the faithful packed the pews for the Easter celebration, only about a dozen were present as Pope Francis presided over the Mass. “Today the Church’s proclamation echoes throughout the world: ‘Jesus Christ is risen!’ — ‘He is truly risen!,’ ” the Pope intoned.

“Like a new flame this Good News springs up in the night: the night of a world already faced with epochal challenges and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family. In this night, the Church’s voice rings out: ‘Christ, my hope, has arisen!’”

The words seemed in stark contrast to a world under siege and a people in despair, yet they could not help but stir the soul. Easter does that. It awakens anew the promise of new life and hope, alive in the resurrected Christ.

Much like the apostles at the time, we have all been overcome with uncertainty in the face of forces we cannot control. This past year, we have experienced isolation, fear and grief. More than 2.7 million have died in the pandemic and there will be more victims before vaccines defeat its deadly effects.

More than 2,000 years ago, behind locked doors, the apostles were lost in their despair, their leader dead, their own lives in peril and their future in tatters.

The vision of the risen Lord re-vitalized their mission, just as it does ours, setting them on a path paved in hope. 

“This is no magic formula that makes problems vanish,” the Pope reminded us a year ago. “No, the resurrection of Christ is not that. Instead, it is the victory of love over the root of evil, a victory that does not bypass suffering and death, but passes through them, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good: this is the unique hallmark of the power of God.”

We have seen the signs of hope all year in the many acts of charity to aid those most afflicted by the pandemic, in the courage of our frontline workers, in the sacrifice of isolating to keep us all safe, in reaching out to care for the most vulnerable. We have seen the suffering, too — physically, economically and spiritually. Hospitals were overrun, business went bankrupt, our churches closed.

This Easter morning, like every Easter morning, the world seems a little brighter. The dark clouds of Good Friday have lifted to reveal a dawn of hope. There is a wonderful Easter scene in the Gospel (John 20:1-18) of Mary Magdalene weeping at Jesus’ tomb. Suddenly, she turns around and sees a man, who asks why she is crying. Within moments, she realizes it is Jesus and cries out in joyful recognition. Racing to the disciples, she shouts the good news: “I have seen the Lord!”

May you experience the same joy she did, and the hope of eternal life that springs from it. Our world yearns for that joy more than ever this Easter morn.

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