Summary of today’s show: On this Easter Monday, Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor look at Pope Francis’ two major Easter messages for us, his Easter vigil homily and his Urbi et Orbi Easter Sunday message. Pope Francis calls us to seek out the meaning of the Easter event for ourselves, to remember that Christ died and rose for us, to be grateful for the newness of life and grace we have been given, and to seek out, work for, and pray for peace in the world, especially for those suffering the slavery of human trafficking.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
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Today’s topics: Pope Francis’ Easter message of Peace, Gratitude, and Remembrance
1st segment: Scot Landry wished everyone a Happy Easter. Today, Scot and Fr. Chris O’Connor will discuss Pope Francis’ message over Easter. Fr. Chris said Easter sunday was great and even the weather cooperated. Besides St. John’s Seminary, Fr. Chris celebrated Good Friday at St. John’s in Winthrop and on Sunday in Winthrop, East Boston, and Lincoln. They discussed the big crowds and how we should pray for all those who came this weekend who may not be attending Mass weekly that they come back.
Fr. Chris said the tradition on Easter Monday in Poland is that people dump water on each other, and he said it has nothing to do with April Fools Day. He added that on Spy Wednesday, last Wednesday, Polish Catholics throw a dummy from the church steeple, representing Judas, and the youth kick the dummy around the town and finally dump it in the closest body of water.
Scot said his focus today is thinking about how his life is different today after going through Lent and the Triduum. He should be different than he was before the beginning of Lent.
Fr. Chris said we hear the expression that we are an Easter people, a people filled with Christ’s love and joy. We still carry all the same crosses and concerns we did a week ago, but we remind ourselves that Christ conquered all crosses. He said we need to remember that St. Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty. Reflecting on the fact of Christ’s resurrection, how can we not be an Easter people?
Scot said there were a lot of changed spiritual and mental habits over Lent and there’s no reason he can’t continue them. He said it might be a good habit on each hour to remember and say, “Christ is truly risen, Alleluia” as a way to have this Easter joy. Scot said as Easter people we reflect on the grace and joy of Easter. Fr. Chris said when we say Alleluia, we are saying Praise the Lord. Saying that over and over changes us and focuses us.
2nd segment: Scot said today we are considering Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily and Urbi et Orbi message. First the homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
Scot said it’s a beautiful beginning to the homily, connecting the Gospel to our own experiences of God surprising us. Fr. Chris compared it to losing a loved one, being dazed and confused, and yet life continues to unfold around us. Here’s he’s saying God has a new plan for us. He said Easter grace challenges us to live in a new way. Scot said the Holy Father asks us a question that we can pray on: What is the meaning of all this? How many times in our lives might we be called to step back and pray over that. Maybe we had a wonderful weekend with family or maybe we had the opposite. Maybe we were alone, maybe we’ve lost someone since last Easter, maybe family gatherings are fraught with uncomfortable moments. We can pray to have understanding and peace in order to do what God calls us to do.
Fr. Chris said the pope points out that God is working on us through the Holy Spirit. He says let us not lose confidence, never give up. There are no sins that cannot be forgiven if we turn it over to him. Perseverance is the most important word for us here.
But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you, dear sister, dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!
Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
Scot said he likes the statements, the calls at the end: If to now you have kept Him at a distance, step forward, and He will receive you with open arms. It’s like children running to their parents. So many of us have kept God at a distance, thinking of him not as a Father, Brother, and personal Savior. Fr. Chris thinks of the Divine Mercy image with Christ coming before us with the rays extending from Him and the words, “Jesus, I Trust in you.” Jesus is alive and He desires our good. To let Him in close, He will make demands of us, like changing parts of our life that are comfortable, but shouldn’t be.
Another call was to take a risk because you won’t be disappointed. Scot recalled the Carrie Underwood song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”. So many of us want to remain in control of our own lives, but we need to let go a little bit and let him guide and push us forward. We actually put our trust into practice and ask Christ to lead us where we need to be for the rest of our lives.
Fr. Chris said, “If God is distant, guess who moved.” God is always there calling to us and even if we don’t feel it, that doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t present. Scot asked us to reflect if we’re keeping Jesus at a distance and whether we’re willing to take a risk.
There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.
Scot said he thinks about the headline that could be on this homily and “Remember” could be the one-word headline. We need to remember actual grace and actual facts in how God transforms us.
Fr. Chris said his word would be “Gratitude”. He thinks both go together and we can’t be Christians without being grateful to God for the fact God walked among us, was like us in all things but sin, suffered, died, and rose again to open the gates of heaven to us that had been closed. We should be grateful to his willingness to interject Himself into our lives. We give thanks to God every day. The word “Eucharist” itself means thanksgiving.
Scot said Christ is fully alive today and if we step forward today and are willing to take the next step, Christ is waiting to give us a spiritual “hug”.
Fr. Chris thought about the “newness that transforms” and thinks of the sacraments and how God meets us in these all the time. There is newness for First Communicants, newness for Confirmandi, newness for those coming into the Church this past weekend, the newness for a married couple. The newness transforms us from dead people into an Easter people.
3rd segment: Scot said now we’ll discuss Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message, “to the City and the World” given in Rome on Easter sunday at noon. This is a traditional message each Easter.
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!
What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons …
Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!
We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.
Scot said the great Christian writers have talked about the spiritual desert where God calls us to the living water that is Jesus Christ.; Fr. Chris said St. John of the Cross talked about the dark night of the soul and that Mother Teresa talked about how she experienced God’s love only once in her life, but it was enough to move her and motivate her for her whole life. Fr. Chris said if we don’t feel the emotion, we just need to look at the cross and remind ourselves that He did that for me. He noted that the Pope said he wants to go to every home, hospital, prison to bring the Easter joy. Most of all he would like to enter every human heart. But Jesus is only going to enter our hearts if we invite him in.
Fr, Chris recalled the Pope’s visit to the juvenile prison on Holy Thursday where he told a young man that he came because he felt it on his heart. The Holy Father loves the poor, but most of all he loves Christ. Scot said we should pray for the Lord to enter our heart and transform it.
This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell – to the abyss of separation from God – this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.
This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).
Scot said the Pope is talking about the Exodus reading in which God delivered the Jewish people from slavery through the Red Sea and the wilderness to the promised land. Fr. Chris said in Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol we see a radical change in Scrooge when he realizes his love for neighbor. It is through charity for neighbor that we express our love for God and experience a radical newness. Scot said to transform the world, we need to transform ourselves.
So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.
And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.
Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?
Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.
Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.
Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).
Dear brothers and sisters, who have come from all over the world to this Square, the heart of Christianity, and all of you joining us via communications media, I renew my wishes for a Happy Easter! Bring to your families and your nations the message of joy of hope and peace that each year is powerfully renewed on this day. May the Risen Lord, who defeated sin and death, support us all especially the weakest and those most in need. Thank you for your presence and the witness of your faith. A thought and a particular thanks for the gift of these beautiful flowers from the Netherlands. I affectionately repeat to all of you: May the Risen Christ guide you and all humanity on the paths of justice, love and peace!
Scot noted that Pope Francis repeated that human trafficking is the most extensive form of slavery in the twenty-first century and like Pope John Paul’s desire to end the Cold War, this may be Pope Francis’ priority of justice. Fr. Chris noted the emphasis on the Middle East and Africa as especially needing peace. He’s calling the entire world, not just Catholics, to pay attention and pray and work to end these conflicts.
Scot said he has gratitude to God that we live in a country that has been blessed with peace more so than many other countries.