In the Resurrection narrative of the Gospel of Luke, there is a powerful question that resonates through history: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (Lk 24:5)
This angelic query is the question that is asked of all of us to this day. Too often we seek our gods among the dead, among the distractions and fleeting pleasures of life, among its obsessions and anxieties. What we hunger for, we do not find because we look in the wrong places for the peace that surpasses understanding.
It is peace that we hunger for. Society as a whole is characterized by a profound restlessness. Its appetites, its ideologies and its desires speak of restless hearts unable to find peace. So many want their gods on their terms, yet they are ultimately never satisfied with them. They are not at peace.
The source of Christian joy, never made more clear than on Easter Sunday, is that we know the source of true peace, of a God who is boundless mercy, a God who so loved the world that he gave us his only Son. And this love conquers all, including death, if only we can accept it and return it.
As Christians, we are called to live this joy and to share this joy. Yet how often we feel like the women returning in excitement from the empty tomb, only to be disbelieved: “These words seemed to them (the apostles) an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Lk 24:11).
How do we persuade others to open their hearts to the truth we have experienced? Perhaps now, at this moment of the New Evangelization, in this Year of Faith, the divine logic behind the election of our new pope becomes clear.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the first man to have the courage to choose the name Francis. In almost 800 years, no one had done this. There is a boldness in this gesture that suggests that at this time in the history of our Church we are being urged in a special way to look to the example of Francis — the saint and now the pope — in living our faith with humility and trust.
The Church has many documents, many pastoral letters and exhortations. What it most needs now, Pope Francis seems to be suggesting, is witness. Not the witness that simply lectures the world, but the humble witness of the saint of Assisi who embraced the leper, who set out to rebuild God’s Church stone by stone, who loved Lady Poverty and who remains even today a living model of Christlike simplicity and surrender.
Pope Francis has been a strong and eloquent witness to the love of God. He has not hesitated to challenge the false gods in society. He has defended human dignity, both the dignity of the unborn child and the dignity of the child born on the margins. He has rebuked those in society who profit at the expense of the many, and he has rebuked those in the Church who would deny baptism to the child of an unmarried mother.
For Pope Francis, the teachings of the Church are clear, but so is the mercy of God and his willingness to forgive always. “God never tires of forgiving us,” Pope Francis said in his first Angelus talk, “but we sometimes tire of asking him to forgive us. Let us never tire of asking God’s forgiveness.”
This Easter, let us give thanks for our new pope, and let us open our hearts to the message of Pope Francis, which is ultimately the message of our Lord. Be not afraid, for he is risen. Alleluia!