I was struck today by the feast day as the pope arrived in Rio. We celebrate the life of Mary Magdalene, we give thanks that she reported what she had seen: The Lord. The young people who gather in Rio see Him and want to know Him better. They are on fire with the ardor of the Holy Spirit within them. They are receptive. They are disciples and they want to make disciples of others.
As the pope explained:
Christ offers them space, knowing that there is no force more powerful than the one released from the hearts of young people when they have been conquered by the experience of friendship with him. Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, “Go and make disciples”. Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters! And young people have confidence in Christ: they are not afraid to risk for him the only life they have, because they know they will not be disappointed.
Thanks be to God. Let us pray together that our faith may be renewed this week in this worldwide encounter with Christ, guided by this Holy Father who turns heads and challenges every one of us to true conversion.
And he does it at a time, in a place, where hope could seem like an empty word, to borrow a phrase from Pope Benedict XVI, which appears in the meditation for today’s feast day in Magnificat today:
Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus “my hope”: he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. “Christ my hope” means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.
But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.
And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience…
If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.
That was Pope Benedict XVI’s final Easter message as pontiff. We are an Easter people. He resigned in the prayer that we would get with the urgency of this reality, already, in a world where too many of us have surrendered to secularism. Not at World Youth Day. Not with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Not if we heed our Gospel mandate. And so we are renewed. That’s what this week is about. Renewal in Christ.