Homily of the Carinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J., archbishop of Buenos Aires, during the Easter Vigil – April 10th, 2004
The walk of the people of God stops this night in front of a sepulcher, an empty sepulcher. The body of Jesus, the Son of the promise, was no longer there; they only say the sheets in which they had wrapped him. The march of an entire people stops today like others have done before a rock in the desert (Exodus 17:6), or like orhter on the bank of the sea on the night of Easter, when the Israelites “the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were in great fear. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord,” (RSV-CE; Exodus 14:10) and furious, reproached Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt?” (RSV-CE; Exodus 14:11) This night, however, is not of panic but of confusion (Luke 24:4) and of fear (v. 5) from these women before the incomprehensible: the Son of the promise was no longer there. When they return and recount everything to the Apostles (v. 10) “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (RSV-CE; Luke 24:11) Confusion, fear, and the appearance of delirium: these are feelings which themselves are a sepulcher and there stops the march of ages of an entire people. The disoriented confusion, the paralyzing fear, the appearance of delirium suggests fantasies.
The women “were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground” (RSV-CE Luke 24:5). Confusion and fear close off all gazing to heaven; confusion and fear without a horizon twists hope. [The women] react surprised to the [Angel’s] reproach: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Ibid.) but they were more surprised still with the prophetic word “Remember.” (v. 6) and “the women remembered” (v. 8) in their hearts and reflected then on what happened outside: the first peak of dawn of the day stalled the shadows of doubt, fear and disconcertment…and they run and announce what they have heard from the Angels: “He is not here, he is arisen” (Luke 24:6).
This reminder resituates them in reality. They recover the memory and the conscience of being a chosen people, they remember the promises, they reaffirm in alliance and feel newly elected. A strengthened vigor is born in them then, which is from the Holy Spirit, to go and evangelize, to announce the good news. The entirety of the history of salvation puts itself on mission. The miracle of that specific night in Egypt of the Red Sea repeats itself “The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.” (Exodus 14:15). And the people of the Lord went forward running with the women who had remembered the promises of the Lord.
This has occurred to us all at some point, as individuals and as a people, we find ourselves stopped on our Christian path, without knowing which way to go. In those moments it appears that the frontiers of life close, we doubt the promises of our Lord and a gross positivism is raised as the interpretive key of the situation. And when this happens fear and confusion become lords of our lives; a limited reality is imposed upon us, one without hope, and we must desire to return to our paces towards that same slavery from which we have left and until we arrive to reapproach the Lord who instead puts us on the path of liberty: “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:12) In these situation, such as on the banks of the Red sea or infront of the sepulcher, the answer arrives: Do not fear (Exodus 14:12), Remember (Luke 24:6). Remember the promise, but, above all, remember the proper story. Remember the marvels that the Lord has done for us throughout life. “Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children” (RSV-CE; Deuteronomy 4:9); when you a re satisfied “then take heed lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (RSV-CE Deuteronomy 6:12); “And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wildernessYour clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years…’ (RSV-CE; Deuteronomy 8:2,4). Do not forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, out of slavery. “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (RSV-CE; Hebrews 10:32); “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel,” (RSV-CE; 2 Timothy 2:8). This is what the Word of God exhorts of us so that we continually reread the history of our salvation so that we can continue going forward in it. The memory of the path walked by the Lord is strength and a foundation of hope to continue walking. May we not allow that the memory of our salvation atrophy for confusion and fear which might overcome us before whatever sepulcher that acts to overtake our hope. May we always leave a place for the Word of the Lord, like the women, in the sepulcher: “Remember.” In those moments of greatest obscurity and paralysis urges us to recuperate this deuterornomical dimension of existence.
In this holy night I would like to petition most holy Virgin that she concede to use the grace of memory of all the marvels which the Lord has done in our lives, and that this memory cleanse us, and compel us to continue going forward in our Christian lives, in the news that it is not necessary to look among the dead for Him who is alive, in the news that Jesus, the Son of the Promise, is the Paschal lamb and is alive. May she teach us to tell ourselves unhurriedly, with the certainty of one who knows the length of live, that which she herself surely repeated that early morning during which she waited for her Son: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25).