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Pope Francis carries a lighted candle at the Easter Vigil Pope Francis carries a lighted candle at the Easter Vigil  (Vatican Media)

Pope at Easter Vigil: Roll away the stones that crush hope

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” is the recurring theme in Pope Francis’ homily during the Easter Vigil Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, as he challenges us to roll away the stones of sin and discouragement.

By Vatican News

Many people consider the Easter Vigil liturgy to be the most beautiful of all Catholic liturgies. Celebrated on Holy Saturday evening, it provides a dramatic introduction to Easter. Through the powerful symbols of fire, light, music, and the water of baptism – everything speaks of hope and rebirth. And Pope Francis did the same in his homily.

Rolling away the stone

The Pope began with the image of the women bringing spices to the tomb: they found a stone blocking the entrance, and feared their journey had been in vain. “The journey of those women is also our own”, said the Pope. “At times, it seems that everything comes up against a stone… We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of life”.

But today “we see that our journey is not in vain”, he continued. “Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside”, the Pope said. “God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness.  Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the ‘living stone’, the risen Jesus”. 

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The stone of discouragement

Pope Francis then challenged us to identify the stone we personally need to roll back from our hearts. He began with the “stone of discouragement” which is what blocks hope, he said. “Once we start thinking everything is going badly…we lose heart…we become cynical, negative and despondent”. Pope Francis spoke of building a kind of “tomb psychology” where there is no hope of coming out alive. “The Lord is not to be found in resignation”, he continued, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Do not bury hope”.

The stone of sin

The “stone of sin” is what seals the heart shut, said the Pope. “Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death”.  Pope Francis described sin as “looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away”. Sin is like “a stone before the entrance to your heart,” he said. “It keeps God’s light from entering in”. Better to choose Jesus, “the true light”, over “the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure”.

The courage to look up

Pope Francis then returned to the image of the women at the tomb: “frightened, their faces bowed to the ground”, as the Gospel tells us. “They did not have the courage to look up”, said the Pope, reminding us how often we do the same thing. “Glum and closed up within ourselves, we feel in control”, he said, “for it is easier to remain alone in the darkness of our heart than to open ourselves to the Lord”. Only He can raise us up, said Pope Francis, going on to quote American poet, Emily Dickinson: “We never know how high we are. Till we are called to rise”. The Pope suggested we should ask ourselves: “Am I gazing at graveyards, or looking for the Living One?”.

With Him we will rise again

“Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards”, added Pope Francis, “for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One”. Which is why we need to ask where we ourselves are going in our lives. “Sometimes we go only in the direction of our problems”, he said, “we keep seeking the Living One among the dead…digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions, without letting the Risen One change us”.

Pope Francis’ final invitation was to ask for the grace “not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems…not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear”.  “Let us seek Him in all things and above all things”, concluded the Pope, because “with Him, we will rise again".

20 April 2019, 21:52