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Proclaiming the resurrection with firm resolve

April 17, 2009
Here is the Salt + Light unofficial translation of Pope Benedict's April 15th General Audience address. ZENIT News Agency, which regularly publishes the English translation of the Wednesday General Audience, is on Easter hiatus until April 19th.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our usual Wednesday General Audience is today filled with joy, the joy that no suffering or pain can erase, because it is a joy that comes from the certainty that Christ, with his death and resurrection, has triumphed over death once and for all. “Christ is Risen, Alleluia,” the church sings rejoicing. This climate of rejoicing, these typical Easter feelings, extend not just through this week -- the octave of Easter -- but they extend through the next fifty days until Pentecost. Actually, we can say: the mystery of Easter embraces our entire existence
In this liturgical season, many biblical references to meditate on are offered to us to help us deepen our understanding of the value of Easter. The Way of the Cross that we followed during the Holy Tridiuum, reliving the painful passion, during the Easter Vigil became a consoling Way of Light. Seen from the point of view of the resurrection, we can say that all this suffering is a way of light and spiritual rebirth, a path to interior peace and hope. After the tears, after the loss of Good Friday, followed by the silence of waiting on Holy Saturday, at the dawn of the “the first day after the Sabbath”, the victory cry of the Life that beat death resounds. “Dux vitae mortuus / renat vivus”- the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives, triumphs!” The radically new life brought about by the resurrection is so important that the Church never ceases to proclaim it, remembering it every Sunday. In fact, every Sunday is “the day of the Lord”, a weekly Easter for the people of God. Our Eastern brothers, in order to better highlight the mystery of Easter that fills our daily life, refer to Sunday with a Russian name that means 'day of resurrection' (voskreshenye).
Thus it is fundamental to our faith and for our Christian witness to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real, historic event, recounted by many authoritative witnesses. We continue to proclaim it with firm resolve because even today there is no shortage of people who try to negate the historical accuracy of this event, reducing the Gospel to a myth, a “vision” the apostles had, presenting old, used theories as new and scientific. Certainly for Jesus, the resurrection was not just a return to his previous life. For example, two thousand years ago Lazarus was resurrected from the dead and returned to his previous life. The resurrection is on a different dimension; it is a passage to a new dimension of life that is profoundly new and touches even us. It involves all of us in the human family, the history of the universe. This event, which introduced a new dimension of life, caused an opening of our world to the eternal, changed the existence of the eyewitnesses as demonstrated in the Gospel accounts and in other New Testament writings. It is an event that entire generations of men and women have embraced with faith and have given witness to, often with their own blood, knowing this was the way to enter into this new dimension of life. Even this Easter, this Good News resounds, unchanged and always new, in every corner of the earth: Jesus died on the cross and rose again. He lives in glory because he overcame the power of death. He brought human beings into a new communion with God and in God. This is the Easter victory and our salvation! With St. Augustine we can proclaim: "The Resurrection of Christ is our hope" and our future.
It is true: the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope and illuminates our entire earthly pilgrimage, including the enigma of pain and death. Faith in Christ, crucified and risen, is the heart of entire Gospel message, the nucleus of our Creed. In this Creed we find an authoritative expression in a well known Pauline writing, found in his First Letter to the Corinthians, where the apostle addresses members of the community of Corinth, who paradoxically proclaimed the resurrection of the Lord but denied the resurrection of the dead – our hope – that transmits faithfully what Paul had learned from the first apostolic community about the death and resurrection of the Lord.
He starts with the affirmation, “I proclaim to you, brothers, the Gospel that I announced and that you have received, in which you remain firm and by which you are saved, if you maintain it as it was given to you.” He quickly adds that he has passed on to them exactly what was given to him. This is followed by the words we heard at the opening of today’s gathering. St. Paul presents the death of Jesus and adds two things to the news that Christ died. The first thing he adds is that “He died for our sins”, the second thing is “according to the scriptures.” This expression, “according to the scriptures,” connects the death of the Lord with the story of Old Testament covenant between God and his people and makes us understand that the death of the Son of God is part of the tapestry that is the history of salvation, and from it gets its true meaning and logic. Until that moment, the death of Christ was an enigma whose success was still uncertain. In the Easter mystery, the words of scripture come true: this death that happened “according to scripture” is an event that has its own logic. The death of Christ gives witness that the Word of God became truly “flesh”, human “history”. How and why this happened can be understood thanks to the other point Paul adds: Christ died “for our sins”. With these words Paul’s text goes back to Isaiah’s prophesy in the Fourth Canticle of the Servant of God. The servant of God, so goes the canticle, poured himself out to the point of death, took on “the sins of many” and, interceding for the “guilty”, was able to give to man the gift of reconciliation between them and their God. Thus his is a death that puts an end to death; the Way of the Cross leads to the resurrection.
In the verses that follow, the Apostle reflects on the resurrection of the Lord. He says that Christ “rose again on the third day, according to the scriptures”. Again, “according to the scriptures”! Not a few biblical scholars see in this expression, “He rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the scriptures,” a recalling of Psalm 16, where the psalmist proclaims, “You will not abandon me to the grave nor let your holy one see decay.” This is one of the Old Testament texts often cited by early Christians to prove Jesus’ messianic nature. Because in the Jewish interpretation corruption of the body began after the third day, the words of the scripture are fulfilled in Jesus, who rises after the third day -- that is, before decay begins. St. Paul, carrying on faithfully the teaching of the apostles, underlines that Christ’s victory over death happens through the creative power of the Word of God. This divine power gives hope and joy: this is the indisputable message in the liberating Easter revelation. At Easter, God reveals himself and the power of Trinitarian love, which banishes the destructive forces of evil and death.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us be illuminated by the splendor of the risen Lord. Let us embrace with faith and adhere generously to the Gospel, just like the privileged witnesses of his resurrection, just like, many years later, St. Paul, who met the divine Master in an extraordinary manner on the road to Damascus. We cannot keep the gospel to ourselves, the gospel that changes everyone’s lives. With humble faith we pray, “Jesus, risen from the dead, you anticipated our resurrection. We believe in you!”
I’d like to conclude with an exclamation that Silvanus of Mount Athos liked to repeat: “Rejoice o my soul. It is always Easter because Christ rose and is our resurrection!” May the Virgin Mary help us cultivate in us and around us a climate of easter joy, to give witness to Divine Love in every moment of our existence. Once again, Happy Easter to you all.