I am told there is a sizeable contingent from Germany today so willkommen heißen – but that’s the end of my German for this homily today. There is also quite a large community of English speaking persons whom I would like to greet. First a few words in Maltese.
Meta ngħidu ‘L-Għid it-Tajjeb’ inkunu qegħdin ngħidu l-isbaħ tislima li għandna aħna l-Insara. Waħda li għallimna Ġesù u li jgħidha l-Isqof fil-bidu tal-Quddiesa hija t-tislima tal-Irxoxt: “il-Paċi magħkom.” Ħaġa sabiħa li f’dan il-jum qaddis, insellmu lil xulxin propju f’waħda minn dawn it-tislimiet ta’ Ġesù: “il-Paċi magħkom”. Aħna u ngħidu l-Għid it-tajjeb lil xulxin nitolbu lill-Mulej tal-ħniena u tar-rikonċiljazzjoni, sabiex jimla l-qlub u l-ħajja tagħna bil-paċi.
Let us reflect on the Easter mystery. Why do we call it a mystery? Judas Thaddeus puts the question to Jesus in the Last supper. He asks him: “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world? – Revealing yourself in a spectacular way, but only to those who believe?” Jesus does not really answer the question directly but says that whoever believes in Him and the Father, the Holy Trinity will dwell in him (Jn 14:22-23).
The Resurrection of Jesus places itself at the first day of the week, at dawn, in a garden. There is silence. The large stone that covered the tomb is rolled back and the tomb is empty. The resurrection of Jesus does not impose itself in a spectacular manner on the hearts of men and women. It is the work and the initiative of God’s mercy. It will bear fruit in faith, it will work wonders in hope, and it will show itself in love and charity.
Therefore, since the very beginning, the witnesses of the resurrection are people who believe the words of Jesus. There are only a few privileged ones who meet Jesus as the risen Lord, but he says: “blessed are those who do not see and yet believe” (Lk 10:24). The two disciples mentioned in today’s Gospel from the 20th Chapter of St John: “they go to the tomb and what do they find? They find the linen cloth and an empty tomb.” The linen cloth is an important detail because if the corpse of Jesus had to be moved, it would have been moved with the linen, but the resurrection of the body leaves the linen there.
In Turin we venerate the shroud of Jesus with that mysterious image burnt on the linen in a very, very superficial way, something that baffles science because the resurrection is not about science; it is about an event, which knocks on the door of our hearts and solicits our faith. We are witness of the resurrection if we embrace the words of Jesus and we let him enter our life with his mercy. Today, in this blessed Year of Mercy, we celebrate the answer, which God gives us in the face of our wickedness, our regression, in the face of the world’s terrorism, injustices which are summed up in the crucifixion of his son Jesus of Nazareth.
In the very beautiful prayer that Pope Francis prayed at the end of the Via Sacra on Good Friday at the Coliseum in Rome; the Pope looked at the crucified Lord and mentioned many instances where we can still meet him crucified. We can meet the Lord in the refugees nobody wants to accept, in the women who are raped and subjected to great humiliations, in workers who are not given just wages – and so many different situations where suffering does not really make any sense but finds its meaning in the crucified Lord.
What is the answer God gives to all this? Where is God in all this? Easter Sunday is the answer! In the garden the Lord rises and leaves an empty tomb. Each one of us goes through the moments of bereavement in life when we miss our beloved ones and we have to return them to the earth. I have always been impressed by the fact that the German word for cemetery is Friedhof, a place of peace. However, we can call a cemetery a place of peace, a garden of serenity, because we believe in the Resurrection. This is the great gift of Easter Sunday: that our destiny is not the grave, but a life eternally blessed with the mercy of God.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta