Pope Francis has urged the faithful to see the signs of the Risen Lord and open their hearts to a "present that is full of the future".
Speaking on Wednesday during the weekly General Audience, the Pope reflected at length on the celebration of the Sacred Triduum which begins on Holy Thursday, and during which we commemorate Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
The Easter Triduum – the Pope said – is the apex of our liturgical year and it is also the apex of our lives as Christians.
We begin the Triduum – he continued - by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, as we recall Christ’s offering of his body and blood to the Father, which he gave to the Apostles as food for their nourishment, with the command that they perpetually celebrate these mysteries in his memory.
He said we also recall the Lord washing the Apostles’ feet, through which he showed that the “purpose of his life and passion was to serve God and neighbour, a service which we are called to imitate by loving one another as he loved us”.
This purpose – Pope Francis explained – is expressed also during our Baptism, when the Lord’s grace cleansed us from sin and we “put on the new self” in the image of Christ (Col 3, 10). And it happens each time we partake in the Eucharist and enter into Communion with Christ to obey his commandment to love Him as he loved us. If we take Communion without being sincerely ready to wash each other’s feet – Francis said – we do not acknowledge the Lord’s Body: “Jesus’ service is to give of himself, totally”.
On Good Friday – the Pope continued - we will meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death and we will adore the Cross.
During the last instants of his life, “before handing over the spirit” – he said – Jesus said “it is finished” (John 19, 30), meaning – the Pope explained – that Salvation has taken place; “that with his sacrifice Jesus has transformed the greatest injustice into the greatest love.”
By his sacrifice – Francis said - sin has been overcome through love, an immense love which we are called to live and transmit.
Throughout the centuries – he continued – many men and women have borne witness to this perfect, uncontaminated love, with their very existence.
“I like to remember a heroic witness of our days, Fr Andrea Santoro, a priest of the Diocese of Rome and a missionary in Turkey” the Pope said.
Just a couple of days before being assassinated in Trebizond he wrote: ‘I am here to live amongst the people and to allow Jesus to be here lending him my flesh (…) One becomes capable of salvation only when offering one’s flesh. The evils of the world must be carried and shared, one must allow them to be absorbed into one’s flesh, as Jesus did’.
Pope Francis said that Fr Santoro is a man of our time, and he said there are many other true martyrs today “who offer their lives with Jesus to confess their faith”.
How beautiful it will be – the Pope said – if at the end of our lives, with all of our errors and our sins as well as our works of charity and our love for our neighbour, we will be able to say: ‘it is finished’. And not with the perfection with which Jesus said it, but knowing that we did what we could.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace – the Pope said – to be able to say: “Father, I did what I could. It is finished”.
On Holy Saturday – he continued - we will contemplate Jesus’ lying in the tomb, and with Mary, the Church will keep alive the flame of faith, hoping against every hope in Christ’s resurrection.
Then, at the Easter Vigil, when the Alleluia resounds again, we will celebrate the Risen Christ, the centre and fulfilment of the universe and history.
And pointing out that “at times the darkness of the night seems to penetrate into our souls; and that at times we think ‘there is nothing left to do’ and our heart seems to have lost the strength to love…”, Pope Francis said that it is in that very darkness that “Christ lights up the fire of God’s love: a flash of light breaks the darkness and announces a new beginning”.
It is in that darkness – he said – that Christ wins and lights the flame of love.
And urging the faithful to open their hearts to a “present which is full of future”, the Pope said “our life does not end before a tomb stone, our life continues with the hope of Christ who arose from the tomb”.
In these days - Pope Francis continued - may we not only observe the Lord’s Passion, but truly enter into its mystery, making our own the sentiments of Christ. In this way, our Easter will indeed be blessed.