Rome, April 9, 2023
Luis CASASÚS, Apostolic Primate
On this great day, for the whole Church and certainly for the whole of humanity, where believers and nonbelievers exchange our best wishes, I would like to begin by thanking all of you for the enthusiasm with which you are living the Centennial of our Father and Founder, and I am not referring only to the necessary effort in organizing activities, but also to your hearts, attentive to a new wave of people who want to come closer to Christ, thanks to the witness of practically every single one of us.
On some occasions, Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out that the Resurrection of Christ always obliges us to read the Gospel in a new way. It seems that he is quite right because it probably happens with us as it did with the first disciples. It was difficult to imagine a Crucified Messiah and even more difficult to see Him risen. I believe that none of us can be so haughty as to believe that we already understand the Crucifixion and Resurrection, not only rationally, but, above all, in their effects on your life and mine.
The intelligent and polemic diplomat, Catholic bishop for a time, Charles Maurice Talleyrand, gives us an example of this. In the difficult days of the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century, France abandoned the profession of Christianity. In the Cathedral of Notre Dame, in Paris, a harlot in the garb of false royalty was enthroned as the Goddess of Reason. The Lord’s Day was abolished, and it was replaced by a feast day every ten days. The French Directory (1796) elaborated a deistic religious system intended to supplant Christianity.
But this new religion—”theophilanthropy,” meaning friends of God and man—didnot become popular among the masses. Talleyrand talked to the leaders of this new religion, who deplored its lack of success.
To their astonishment, Talleyrand told them, Gentlemen, I can tell you how to make your new religion triumph, and to do so without great effort. They impatiently asked him to reveal the secret. He replied, Let them crucify one of your people, kill him, bury him, and resurrect him on the third day. Let this happen and your religion will triumph.
Yes, he was right. Christ’s death and Resurrection are unique, but not simply because of their miraculous and spectacular character, but because of their effect on our lives. God knows how to attract us. As our Father Founder said, “The cross rescues you from death, rather than causing it” (Transfiguration). And we all desire to see beyond death, regardless of our temperament, beliefs, or moral life.
Our Father and Founder explains that in us there is an ongoing resurrection. In the conversation with the Pharisee intellectual named Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-21), Jesus already takes the opportunity to explain that we must be born again to see the Kingdom of God and, evidently, he was NOT referring to something that would happen after our life in this world, but to what the Holy Spirit was already doing in us.
When Jesus seeks to explain to Nicodemus what it means to be born every day, this process of rising again, He tells him that the wind blows where it wills, and you hear its voice, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. This statement, which was undoubtedly highly significant for the aged and wise Nicodemus, can be just as significant for us. God does not reveal Himself to those who can understand Him well, but to those who are attracted by the greatness of his generosity, to those who are willing to let themselves be carried by a breath about which they do not know much, but they have noticed some signs that their life has changed when they have felt that wind and have unfurled their sails.
A few days ago, a rather thoughtful brother asked, “Where does the resurrection appear in the Mystical Examination?”I think the question is excellent because, although the word “resurrection” does not appear explicitly in the Examination of Perfection, what we do in our communities is to speak of mystical life, a true new life that we are discovering at every moment. And we must never forget that in this we are and will always be disciples.
Surely this is one of the great values of Nicodemus, a wise, intelligent, and elderly man, but one who obeyed his restless heart, which was asking him for something more than what he was living.
Christ told Nicodemus that, although we do not know where the Spirit is going, we can certainly hear his sound. Today’s Gospel shows us how subtly, and yet so clearly, Christ makes Himself present. He does not even appear in the Gospel text. After his resurrection there is nothing spectacular, no special natural phenomena, no splendors. But we can hear the sound of the Spirit He sent us.
He did not visit Pilate, Annas, or Caiaphas to prove to them that He was right. The angels speak of Him, but He tells us nothing today. If we read further on, we see that He appeared to those who had given some proof of their faith in Him, even if they had doubts and fear, like the disciples locked in the upper room. It does not matter that they had betrayed Him or that they were discouraged and felt defeated. He appears to Mary of Magdala, to the disciples of Emmaus, to the apostles at the Sea of Tiberias—discreetly, without drums or trumpets. He appears and approaches those who have suffered with Him, not those who have understood his teachings perfectly and logically.
This is our challenge, one of the lessons we can learn at Easter. Those who have gone up upon the Cross with Christ, those who have been afraid, and those who have mourned their faults will feel the presence of Christ.
A few days ago, a very sincere person asked at a retreat what he should do to follow Christ. The question was typical of a young human being of our time, ready to undertake effective activities, jobs, and well-planned projects. But, rather, the question is: What should I give up in order to follow Him? The Passion, followed by the Resurrection, is the wordless answer to this question of all times. If I am determined to leave everything—that is, to do everything in His name—He will become present in my life. As St. John of the Cross said:
My soul has been employed
and all my wealth in his service;
I no longer keep cattle,
nor do I have any other trade,
for in loving alone is my exercise.
As we experience in our mystical life, the Inspiration that the Holy Spirit gives us is not only to see his imprint in everything and everyone, but to provide new signs of his presence in us—that is, it seems to me, the ongoing resurrection ofwhich our Father Founder speaks to us.
When the salty sea recedes from the shore again and again, as the tides come and go, salt crystals form on the rocks. These are visible, but the salt that forms them, though invisible to the naked eye, is dissolving at all times and in all places in the ocean.
Accordingly, in the Gospels we have definitive texts proving the resurrection of Christ, yet the fact of his resurrection is dissolved, as it were, spilling over into our whole spiritual life.
Today is probably a good day to meditate on what the Second Reading tells us when St. Paul says, Set your hearts on heavenly goods, not on earthly goods. Learning to do the tasks of this world, engaging in the efforts which all human beings make, and transforming them into something that belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven can be, in short, our evangelical “Life Project.”
The activities will come later, but they will have another light, another meaning.
St. Teresa of Jesus also referred to this when she spoke of God’s presence among the “pots and pans,” in any activity or moment that most of us would not consider spiritual or religious. The Resurrection of Christ shows us how even death can be transformed into an act of glory to God, of proof of his presence at our side.
Today, even a tomb takes on a spiritual and beautiful meaning. It shows us how Providence transforms our suffering, the surrender of our life and our reputation, into true light, as the Paschal Candle reminds us.
Christ had already announced it: He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (Jn 11:25) and now we understand better that this life that Christ promises is not for after this world, nor is the death of which He speaks only the end of life on earth.
The linen cloths on the floor and the folded shroud are simple signs, signs of a new life, of God’s having passed by. The Gospel says that the disciples saw and believed.
May this be our faith, our way of welcoming the subtle signs that make us strong and invite us to announce what we have seen and heard, what has happened in our heart of stone, which is rising again, which is becoming flesh.
Thank you very much and Happy Easter. Yours,