My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
With faith tested and tried, sometimes confused and anxious, struggling to understand but nonetheless remaining his followers, Mary of Magdala, Peter, and John endured to see the darkness of Golgotha dispelled by the light of Christ’s glorious resurrection. In the Gospel proclaimed on Easter Sunday (John 20:1-9), the Evangelist writes that when Mary of Magdala, John and Peter arrive at the tomb where Jesus had been buried following his death upon the cross, the tomb is empty. The body of Jesus was not stolen by either his enemies or his followers; rather Jesus fulfilled and confirmed his words: "I lay down my life, that I may take it again … I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18).
When Peter, John and Mary of Magdala left the tomb, they left behind the scars of Calvary now transformed into the wounds of our salvation. In the days and years ahead, their faith would grow ever stronger, their apostolic zeal unbounded and their voices louder in the proclamation of the Gospel. Their quest for life’s meaning found its destination in the heart of Christ. But their mission was hardly over. Now the apostles and disciples of Jesus had to begin the work of evangelization in fulfillment of Christ’s mandate: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:18). The disciples of Jesus Christ would help others in their quest to know God.
In his September 12, 2008, address to representatives from the world of culture at the Collège des Bernadins in Paris (www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080912_parigi-cultura_en.html) , Pope Benedict XVI recalled the fundamental goal of the monks who once gathered there: "Their goal was: quaerere Deum (to seek God). Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, (the monks) wanted to do the essential — to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God."
Even the agnostic who professes no religious faith seeks the truth, and even he or she is curious to know if this truth resides in the One we call God. "Such people do not simply assert: ‘There is no God.’ They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness" (Pope Benedict’s address to the 2011 Meeting for Peace in Assisi, www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2011/october/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20111027_assisi_en.html).
So it is, that like so many who have gone before us, we, too seek God. As his sons and daughters, how can we possibly avoid knowing him, loving him and — like Mary of Magdala, Peter and John and all the other disciples — following him?! And in our search, as we come nearer to the Christ, we realize all that we have gained and in our surrender to him we actually have lost nothing. In his inaugural homily, Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully took up this theme: "If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? … No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great" (www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050424_inizio-pontificato_en.html).
Christ’s glorious resurrection invites us into the mystery of the Trinity, a mystery that touched earth at the moment of the Incarnation. The resurrection represents, is the culmination of the God-man’s immersion into human history. It is a mystery not pondered in a moment, a day, a year, or a decade, but rather for a lifetime like the monks of the Collège des Bernadins, whose life was "quaerere Deum," "to seek God." A contemplation that finds expression in T.S. Eliot’s "Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages":
… But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint —
… For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
… or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses;
… The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
So it is, then, that the Lord has given to us his bride, the Church, to help us in our quest for God. And through the sacraments he instituted, we are able to have a personal relationship with the Lord, which culminates in our reception of the most holy Eucharist.
Peter, John and Mary Magdala penetrated the mystery of God and rejoiced in Christ’s resurrection because they knew him, listened to him and recognized him in the breaking of the bread. And yes, they came to see his cross at Golgotha as the sign of contradiction, the sign of hope, the symbol of victory giving them the courage "to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified." (Pope Francis’ homily of March 14, 2013 www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130314_omelia-cardinali_en.html). He who was crucified, redeemed us and, on Easter Sunday he flung open the gates of heaven so that where he is, we, too, may be one day!
But as we make our way to him, to the heavenly Jerusalem, Christ’s voice continues to echo in the words of holy Scripture and he dwells among us in the most holy Eucharist. The Church is the beneficiary of his earthly manifestation and mission, rousing her members to unite in singing the Easter Alleluia!
As we continue to strive to know and to love the Lord more deeply, I ask that this Easter we pray for our struggling brothers and sisters whose search is sometimes painful, anxious and even lonely. Let us pray that they seek the solace and comfort of holy Church, Christ’s bride, the community of faith, so that they no longer travel alone and one day possess that joy and peace which causes them to join the chorus of Alleluia!
Wishing you a joyous Easter and asking the risen Lord to bless you, I remain, invoking the intercession of our Mother Mary and our patron, St. John Fisher,
Devotedly yours in Christ,
+ The Most Reverend
Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester