Rome, 11 march 2021

Dear Brothers, Members of the Nazarene Fraternities, Aspiring Brothers, Educational Communities, Christian Communities, Catechists and friends of the Sa-Fa Family.          

Easter opens a new liturgical time, the Easter season. For 50 days, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, the triumph of Christ over death. And in the word “death”, we can include: evil, sin, violence, injustice, anguish. The great news that Christ is alive brings hope to people of all times. It is the heart of the Christian faith. In the liturgy, we will sing “Hallelujah”, because Jesus has overcome death and brings us the life of the new man.

From limitation to despair

The long time of the covid-19 pandemic has brought us great limitations and suffering. Many people are feeling anguish, fear and insecurity about the future. Many others are suffering from material shortages, lack of work, lack of health care or deprivation of education. And for others, this time is marked by the painful ordeal of illness or the loss of a loved one. Every nation, family and individual is being affected by the pandemic in some way. These experiences can lead us from limitation to despair that prevents us from looking to the future with confidence.

Jesus’ disciples and the women who also followed him had these feelings as they saw Jesus end his life like a failure, condemned to a death on a cross. Jesus not only felt sorry for the suffering of the people He saw on the roads and streets, but He lived it with all the harshness in His own flesh. Jesus did not pass by the pain, but assumed the human condition “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him” (Phil 2:8).

The followers of Jesus, after living the traumatic experience of their Master’s passion, shut themselves away in their homes for fear of the Jews and locked themselves in their pain. Their lives were trapped by death. These disciples were in the same house, suffering together and consoling each other in the spirit that Jesus taught them: “love one another”. Companionship, closeness and comfort mitigated Jesus’ absence.

But there was one who dared to leave: “On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb” (Mt 28:5). They carried the perfumes they had prepared for embalming the body. An angel came out to meet them and said: “Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus the Crucified; he is not here, he has risen just as he said” (Mt 28, 6).

Their visit to the tomb was not in vain; they were the first to receive the news of the resurrection. Likewise Peter, who at first did not believe the testimony of the women, nevertheless ran to check the truthfulness of what they were telling. Their search brought them to the light. Everything changed in them: fear turned into courage, sadness gave way to joy, despair changed into hope, and the closed space of a room opened up to travel the roads of the known world.

We heard many times in this time of pandemic the phrase “all will be well”, it is a word of encouragement spoken from optimism. It is a beautiful word of encouragement. But Christian hope goes further and tells us that everything can go well or that there will even be things that go wrong, but that everything has a meaning because Christ has given the world a dynamic of life and resurrection. As the disciples in those first moments, we can close ourselves up in suffering by being prisoners of pain. But, like them, we can also take on the pain out of love and open ourselves to hope by going to meet the Risen Jesus.

A new time

“He is not here, he is risen” (Lk 24:6). Love brought about the resurrection. The love of the Father for the Son and the love of the Son for all humanity. Stronger than death is the love lived by Jesus. Now Jesus is the true light, “I am the light of the world” he told them. The light could not be locked up in a tomb but was called to illuminate the world: “The light was not made to be put under a bushel, but to give light to those in the house” (Mt 5:14).

Sometimes, we ask ourselves: if Christ is risen, why do diseases, wars, hunger and hatred continue? Human nature will always bear its limitations and wounds of sin. But the Resurrection brings us the possibility of looking beyond, of seeing horizons of life, of not closing in on our own limitations. The love that Jesus preached throughout his life is now the great strength of the world. Life has the last word in the face of death, evil is defeated by good, love gives meaning to everything, hope enlightens the world. What basis is my hope founded on?

The pandemic we are suffering from is encouraging the desire for all this to pass and for a new time to come. We joined the first Christians when they longed for “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). In the light of the resurrection, the preaching that a new Kingdom based on love is possible is well understood. As the disciples of Jesus, we want to turn the page and be able to begin again. Jesus invites us to make a more fraternal humanity. The fraternity of the human family wants to be the next stage in history, a reality to be built. This is what Pope Francis encouraged us to do with his last Encyclical “Fratelli tutti.

The Resurrection leads to a contagious joy: “They went in haste from the tomb, in fear and great joy, to tell their disciples” (Mt 28:8). And, “suddenly Jesus came out to meet them and greeted them, saying, ‘Rejoice'” (Mt 28:9). Some biblical scholars translate the word “Rejoice” as “Peace be with you. Peace and joy are two words of greeting that open the dialogues of the Risen One with his disciples. They are Easter gifts that the Risen Jesus offers us. Let us welcome them and ask ourselves: Are peace and joy in our hearts essential values?

“They came and embraced his feet and worshipped him” (Mt 28:9). In times of social estrangement, how we miss closeness! We have realized its immense value and have made up for its absence through the media. Love is manifested in closeness. The women approached Jesus and “embraced his feet and adored him”. It is a gesture that is distant from our cultures, but at that time, it was an everyday gesture. A few days before, Jesus knelt down to wash his disciples’ feet and said to them: “You too must wash each other’s feet” (Jn 13:16). A gesture that has many meanings: affection, respect, recognition, welcome, service… We wonder what gestures I use to express love and service to others?

“Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there, they will see me” (Mt 28:10). Galilee is the space where the disciples carried out their mission together with Jesus, the land of ordinary ministry that is now illuminated by the Resurrection. There, they will recognize him and see the meaning of all that they had experienced. It had been the starting point and there, they must return to begin again. Now, they become the bearers of the Good News. There, they received the fire of the Spirit that encouraged them to carry the message of Jesus to the ends of the world.

Like Jesus, by the Lake of Galilee, we must announce the Gospel and call others to follow him. The disciples were called and assigned to a mission. Each one of us has also received a call to mission. Together with this Easter message, I would like to offer you a “Prayer for Vocations to the Sa-Fa Family” to ask the Lord to send workers into His vineyard who will bring hope, faith and love to the new “Galilees” of a world that aspires to be more fraternal. On the 4th Sunday of Easter, we will celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Day of the Good Shepherd. Let us take seriously the animation of vocations and the care of our own vocation. May the interest in new vocations also be a fruit of this Easter 2021.

Happy Easter everyone!

Bro. Francisco Javier Hernando de Frutos. GA