Dear Brothers, members of the Nazarene Fraternities, Aspiring Brothers, Educational Communities, Christian Communities, Catechists and friends of the Sa-Fa Family:
Receive my affectionate greeting in this Easter season that gives us the joyful news of the Risen Christ. The resurrection of Jesus filled the disciples with joy and peace. Sadness and fear gave way in them to trust and faith in Jesus, the Messiah. This news reaches us today too and invites us to continue believing in Jesus, alive and present, who brings us the new life of the Kingdom, which is “justice, peace and joy” (Rom 14:17).
When we contemplate the passion and death of Jesus on the cross, we understand in a natural way the pain and drama lived, since our experience of suffering and death helps us to understand it. However, when we contemplate the resurrection of Jesus, we lack elements to understand its scope because it is something new. Therefore, I would like to invite you to approach the mystery of resurrection, looking at Christ as the light and hope that brings to the world full life, brotherhood, and peace.
The re-encounter with full life
The passion and death of Jesus happened on a public scenario and under the eyes of a shouting crowd. The resurrection of Jesus, on the other hand, took place privately and in silence. In many artistic paintings alluding to the resurrection of Christ, the soldiers who guarded the tomb appear asleep, without realizing what was happening. These soldiers show an attitude of so many men of our time who do not perceive the presence of the Risen Lord. Perhaps we have a part of soldiers who sleep and do not manage to see the light that explodes inside the tombs of our world.
The entrance stone to the tomb was moved, and no one could explain this. Easter, Pope Francis once said, “is the feast of the removal of the stones. God removes the hardest stones, against which hopes and expectations are shattered: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pt 2:4) is discovered: the Risen Jesus”.
The new presence of the Risen Jesus became visible in personal and group encounters. The community of disciples witnessed some of Jesus’ apparitions that followed one another in time. The disciples lived a vital process that went from fear and despair to recognition of the resurrection and their confession of faith in Jesus as the Risen Lord. Thus, Mary Magdalene exclaimed: Master! (Jn 20:16); Peter cried out: “It’s the Lord!” (Jn 21:7); the disciples said, “We have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:24) and Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
Easter time should be for us a moment of growth in this faith in Jesus that gives meaning, strengthens, illuminates, marks the way, and gives us life in fullness like the disciples of the first hour. May we make those words of the disciples our own: We have seen the Lord! Let us not fall into the temptation to go through life alone and let us welcome the presence fullness of Jesus’ life in each one.
Christ, the brother
When we think of the resurrection of Jesus, we try to divinize it and situate it in the world of the supernatural, which touches little of our life. However, the Gospels do not present Jesus with resplendent aureoles but with very human features, to the point that it is difficult to recognize him. Thus, we see that Jesus, in his apparitions, has the aspect of a gardener before the Magdalene, a traveler before the disciples of Emmaus, a fisherman before the apostles. Jesus goes out to meet each one and, in dialogue with them, he makes himself known.
When Jesus spoke to the women who were visiting the tomb, he asked them to tell his disciples, his brothers: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me”. (Mt 28, 9-10). The word “brothers”, which appears several times in the Gospels, has its highest expression in the phrase “Do not be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, and you are all brothers” (Mt 23:8). After his resurrection, this teaching acquires all its force, and we see that the first Christians called each other “brothers”. Jesus established a new brotherhood around him, “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29).
The Brothers “celebrate the paschal victory of Christ particularly, the origin of our brotherhood” (C 135) particularly. Fraternity is one of the paschal signs that we are called to live in our day-to-day life, that is, to show the face of Christ our brother in every moment. Jesus also clearly indicated that whatever we do to others is as if we were doing it to him: “Whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me” (Mt 25:40).
To live the resurrection means to situate our life in this key of fraternity, in our relationship with others. To feel “brother” is a grace and a requirement that leads us to adopt a style of fraternal life: to relate to others as equals, to take charge of the needs of others, to identify with the weakest, to show concern for justice and peace; in short, to want to grow together.
Peace be with you!
We might think that when Jesus met the disciples again after the resurrection, he had many extraordinary things to say to them, and yet he addressed them the daily greeting: Peace be with you! (Jn 20:19). Despite its simplicity, this greeting contains the essence of the Easter message. St. Paul reminds us, Jesus Christ “is our peace” (Eph 2:14).
The disciples were still terrified at the dawn of that Easter Sunday. When Jesus was arrested, they scattered and went underground, afraid that the authorities would arrest them too. They had witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and had experienced their fear, insecurity, and lack of faith. They had failed the Lord. However, when Jesus appeared to them, he did not blame them for their attitude; on the contrary, he wished them peace: Peace be with you! This peace sounds like reconciliation and hope. He had not come into the world to condemn us, but to save us and to give us life in fullness.
Today this greeting ”Peace be with you” is said to us. The peace that comes from Jesus is not the same peace that we find in the world. The peace of the world depends on whether the circumstances are favorable or whether we have no problems. It will always be an unstable and fragile peace. The peace that Jesus offers us conveys confidence, guides our steps, and helps us to face trials with integrity, even if insecurity or frustration do not disappear.
The gift of peace that Jesus gives us is a call to share it. After telling the disciples “peace be with you”, he added: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). Jesus sends us into the world and asks us to treat our neighbors with the same compassion and love with which he has treated us. Only love is capable of breaking down the walls of hatred, unforgiveness, and prejudice; his love instills courage and strength to work for peace.
I want to remember the families and peoples who are deprived of peace; in particular, I would like to mention those who, for the violence by others, are much suffering hardships, as is the case in some regions of Burkina Faso and so many other parts of the world. For them, I would like to ask for this peace from Jesus and to recall the expression: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for God will call them his children” (Mt 5:9).
At the Last Supper, as a parting gift, Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (Jn 14:27) and with his Resurrection the promise of offering us his peace has been fulfilled. Happy Easter!
Br. Francisco Javier Hernando de Frutos