Dear men and women religious,
Dear faithful of the Holy Land,
Dear pilgrims and faithful from around the world,
On this glorious day in this Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, we relive the joy of Easter, and the Risen Christ, truly He is risen who, “is going before us to Galilee” (Mt 28:7).
I wish you all a beautiful and holy feast of the Resurrection! Every day in the Middle East, we are witnesses of tragic events that make us even contemporaries of Calvary. But our joy and our faith in the Risen Lord, “no one will take away”(Jn 16:22), because the Lord invites us today, even in the midst of difficulties that are ours, to taste the first fruits of the Resurrection.
When the women followers of Jesus went to the Tomb with spices to anoint the body of the crucified Christ (Mk 16: 1-2), they found an open and empty tomb and saw a young man, clothed in a white robe saying “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified. He has risen, he is not here.” (Mk 16: 6-7) Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. (Mt 28: 8)
Today thousands of us who seek the face of Christ, His Word and His peace. And we struggle to find Him in this world, as nothing seems to quench our thirst, neither political discourses, nor the business world, even our surroundings sometimes. Like the women at the tomb, fear pervades us before this emptiness. Because this tomb, brothers and sisters, where thousands of people are seeking God every day, no longer contains the body of the Crucified.
God is not necessarily where we seek Him. It is not in obscure and isolated corners, it is right beside us, in our brother and sister, in our neighbor! Just like the disciples, standing in amazement in front of the empty tomb, we are invited to grow in our relationship with Jesus and become heralds and witnesses of the Good News, to finally understand that we will find God in our brothers and sisters, in spreading and sharing the joy of our salvation. Even when the darkness of Good Friday and of death overwhelm us and darken our hearts and our country, believe and sing: Christ is risen, Alleluia
To do this, brothers and sisters, we must live the first miracle of the Resurrection, a radical change of heart, a conversion, just as the Roman centurion at the foot of the Cross, “who saw how he breathed his last and said, Truly this man was the Son of God!”(Mk 15:39) There is the conversion of the soldiers, but also of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room and locked up in fear. The Resurrection transformed them and they became witnesses, joyful witnesses in suffering for Christ.
One day, we hope to sing our Alleluia and share eternal glory with all the saints, with our two holy Palestinian saints: Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine. Therefore, let us bury in the tomb of Christ our worldly inclinations, our contradictions, our religious divisions, our hostilities, our lack of faith and our fears. We must “put away the old self of our former way of life… be renewed in the spirit…and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph 4:22-24), believe in good, believe that peace is possible, that we “may have life and have it more abundantly. (Jn 10:10)
From this tomb emanated light and peace. And here today, from this battered Holy Land, light and peace must spring out again. Let us pray for the grace of God for the Holy Land and the whole world.
Brothers and sisters, let us equip ourselves with faith, courage and joy of our encounter with Jesus, to proclaim His resurrection and His victory. As Christians, we are called to the heart of the Middle East, shaken by wars and anguished by violence, to be signs of contradiction, signs of hope beyond everything. Our future in this region and in the world is uncertain and even incomprehensible, but do not be afraid, Christ assured us, He is “with us always until the end of time”(Mt 28:20).
Politics and the international community are less concerned of our freedom and fate. Personal interests prevail over the good will of those who desire and work for peace and justice.
Nevertheless, contemporary martyrs continue to bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ. Processions, the stones of Jerusalem, Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have lost everything for their faith, and prisoners in the name of Christ, are signs that our Lord is alive. With the intercession of Blessed Mariam and Blessed Marie-Alphonsine, we follow them that we become true witnesses for Christ
During this Year of Consecrated Life, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, let us rekindle the joy of our first call and return to God to be faithful disciples at the service of our Church of Jerusalem and our brothers and sisters.
Many come to the Holy Land in search for Christ, while trying to find or rediscover their roots. Our roots are here, in the Mother Church, on Golgotha and this empty Tomb. For this, we have a great responsibility, that despite the numerous adversities, we must persevere in hope for a life of joy. The living Christ always triumphs over evil.
Dear brothers and sisters; dear friends; the sick; the elderly and the prisoners; to you dear faithful refugees, who live a Good Friday with uncertainty for the future because of injustices and violence; to all who are deprived of the experience of the joy of Easter; to you who have come to the Holy Sepulcher to share and celebrate with us this feast – for you, I raise my prayer, in the hope that you enjoy the peace of the Resurrection. This peace will fill your heart with love, solidarity, by the power of the Risen Christ who wants us to rise with him. (Phil 3:10-11)
The Lord is risen! Go and proclaim this Good News to the world. Yes, Jesus is truly risen. Amen. Alleluia!
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem