Easter Message and Easter Homily from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
Brothers and Sisters,
Christ is risen! Indeed, he is truly risen!
1. We contemplate today the glory of heaven which came down to earth, renewing life there. Jesus said: “I am the Resurrection. Whoever is alive and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11, 25). The feast of Easter is a time when believers renew their appreciation of life and their happiness to be alive. They place themselves in God’s presence and recall his many blessings. On this feast of Easter, we relive the memory of the resurrected Christ, conqueror of death and sin, and we recall that he died for our sins, as foretold by the Prophet Isaiah: “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. For our peace he was punished” (Is 53, 5). He died because of our sins and for our peace. He died, rose, and gave to us, as well as to all human beings, the power to overcome the death which is present in the depth of our being, namely sin.
2. By his Resurrection, the Lord gives us new life and new courage so that we can conquer sin in ourselves and in our society: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation” (2 Cor 5, 17), says Saint Paul. In all our relations with our society, the Resurrection of Christ gives us new strength to live and to love, and it teaches us and helps us at the same time to forgive and to restore justice. To love is to see in every human being the face of the Most High God. It therefore means to love God himself in his creatures, to forgive as he forgives each of us, and to learn from God himself how to practice justice in our relations with one another. To love as God loves is to enter into the depths of the mystery of his divine Providence, and, with him, the Lord of history, to become capable of contributing to the creation of our history and of transforming our land of death and sin into a land of new life.
3. Jesus said: “I am the Resurrection. Whoever is alive and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11, 25). That is what our faith tells us as we face throughout the Holy Land an ongoing reality of death, with its various aspects of hate, fear, and dysfunction in the relations between individuals and at the level of governments. Our land is at the same time a land of resurrection and of death, but its vocation and fundamental mission is to be a land of love and life, a land of abundant life for all its inhabitants of all religions. This supposes that all believers of all religions accept the consequences of their faith in God: that we are all creatures of God and the product of his hands, and that to believe in God means to accept all of God’s children. It therefore supposes that everyone accepts everyone, that everyone respects everyone, and that no one uses violence against the other. It also supposes that there is neither a strong party nor a weak one, and that there is no longer an occupation, or walls, or military barriers, or fear, or violence.
4. This year we commemorate forty years of extensive dysfunction in our Holy Land, a situation which has had repercussions in the region and in the world. Will our leaders and the international community ever be able to put an end to this dysfunction? In itself the issue is simple: two peoples are at war with each other, and one of them occupies the house of the other. To put it simply: the solution would be for each one to occupy his own house, the Israelis their house and the Palestinians theirs. To be sure, fear has complicated matters and wants to see the Palestinians as terrorists or as incapable of assuring security. Moreover, several worldwide phenomena have arisen in the world as a direct or indirect consequence of this dysfunction in the Holy Land and have given rise to great fear, which has further complicated things that were simple enough in themselves. Given that reality, we believe that the dysfunction will continue as long as someone occupies the house of someone else. And as long as this dysfunction continues in the Holy Land, the region and the world will suffer from it. We must take the risk of making peace and put an end to the occupation (each one in his own house), in order to begin the healing process in our land, in the region, and in the world.
5. Our land is at the same time a land of resurrection and of death, but its vocation and its fundamental mission is to be a land of love and life, of abundant life for all its inhabitants of all religions and of all nationalities. We ask God to grant that this becomes a reality and to give us all, by the grace of the Resurrection, abundant life, tranquility, and his blessing.
Christ is risen! Indeed, he is truly risen!
† Michel Sabbah, Patriarch
Jerusalem, April 3, 2007
Easter Homily 2007
1. Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen! That is what we believe, and the hope that comes from the Resurrection allows us to accept our daily life along with all the mystery of good and evil that it comprises.
Brothers and Sisters, Christ is risen! May the joy of the Resurrection fill your hearts. We meditate on the mystery of Easter in communion with all the generations of believers of all times and places. In this communion with their faith, their hope and their love, we ourselves are strengthened in our faith, our hope, and our love for the resurrected Lord and for all men and women for whom he died and rose: “God, in his great mercy,” says Saint Peter, “gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pt 1, 3-4).
In this communion of saints, here, in Jerusalem, before the empty tomb of Our Lord, we relive the memory of the risen Christ. These past few days, we have re-read and listened to the events narrated by the evangelists. Our Lord suffered just as he had predicted when he told his disciples that he had to suffer and die. He also reminded the two disciples of Emmaus that the Christ had to suffer before entering into his glory in order to restore glory to the entire human family.
In the breviary’s 2nd reading for Easter Monday, Melito of Sardis says: “The paschal mystery which we celebrate this day is a mystery of spiritual joy which we must meditate throughout our entire life: the Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead” (Melito of Sardis, 2nd reading for Monday within the Octave of Easter).
All these considerations confront us with a mystery: why did Jesus have to die? Why was suffering the path to life, and why does that always remain so? Then, there is also another dimension to this same mystery: since we are created in the image of God, why did sin appear at the very beginning of human history in the account of a brother who, driven by jealousy, killed his brother? And this has continued to be a reality until this day in all parts of the world as well as here in our Land where we celebrate today the glory of the Resurrection.
It is an indisputable fact that we are created in the image of God. It is no less indisputable that here in our Land, a brother continues to kill his brother. We are all in the image of God and the work of his hands, whether Christians, Jews, or Muslims. We have all received the command to imitate him: “Be perfect and holy,” say the Scriptures, “because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lv 11, 44; Mt 5, 48). But we do not follow this command. Good and evil become intertwined in our personal lives and in our relations among and between peoples. However, because we received the command from the Creator, this implies that God has also given us the means of putting into practice what he commanded us to do. That is why, in the midst of all the evil and of all the good we experience, a cry constantly goes out to everyone from the written Word of God and through the various events in our life: the Lord is coming; he is present (cf. Mt 25, 10).
Practical applications for our life
2. The Resurrection is a new life which is given to us and which must always be kept new. It must never be allowed to grow old through repetition, fatigue or routine, and it must not be smothered by selfish demands which only obstruct the life we have in us.
Saint Peter tells us: “By obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brothers. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cloak for vice. In a word, live as servants of God” (1 Pt 1, 22; 1 Pt 2, 16).
To live as free men without using freedom as a cloak: that is a wakeup call to those responsible for peace and war in our Land of the Resurrection and of freedom. Our conflict has been going on for more than a century. It has been a century of conflict and a century of human inability to end it. And this year marks forty years of occupation and forty years of inability to end it, together with forty years of insecurity and forty years of inability to end it.
The spirit of Easter invites all those who, in this Holy Land, are responsible for making peace and waging war to have recourse to new criteria and to a new vision. Until now, oppression has bred violence, and violence has bred oppression. It is imperative that the initial oppression, the occupation, and the refusal to recognize each other cease so that we can set out resolutely on the road to peace. The Jews are celebrating Passover in memory of their liberation and as a symbol of freedom for all the peoples. Will Israel, some day, ever have the courage to celebrate Passover by giving freedom to the Palestinian people in order to recover its own complete freedom? It would bring to an end a century of inability to make peace, and it would set in motion the work of the Resurrection and of a new life in this Land.
3. Brothers and Sisters, in our paschal joy and prayer, here before the tomb of the Lord, we pray for our entire diocese and for all the Churches in Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus. We pray for all the inhabitants of our countries, whether Muslims, Jews, Christians or Druses. To the Jews who are celebrating Passover, we wish them a Passover of holiness, freedom, and peace. To the entire Palestinian people, Christians and Muslims, who are under occupation, we wish them freedom, an end to our suffering, and freedom for thousands of political prisoners, along with the freedom of four Israeli prisoners. Our feast is a prayer for everyone and a renewal of our love for all.
Christ is risen! He had to suffer in order to enter into his glory. He invites us to turn our suffering, at all levels, into a source of Redemption for us and for all those with whom we live. Christ is risen! Have a Happy and Holy feast of Easter. Amen.
† Michel Sabbah, Patriarch
Jerusalem, Easter, April 8, 2007