Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Resurrection – April 16, 2006

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Dear faithful in the Risen Christ!

Journeys are very much a part of life. Wherever we go or travel, it is usually on roads and byways, whether by land, sea or air. A difficulty in any journey is choosing the right road to travel. We can use MapQuest on the Internet. While extremely useful, sometimes, the directions outlined are not necessarily the best route to our destination. The fastest route to our destination is not always the most advantageous and it can be treacherous.

Journeys are very much a part of the gospels. Jesus is usually on a journey. He walks with his disciples from here to there and it is on these journeys that he taught his disciples and the people: walking by the Lake of Galilee (Mt 4:18); seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain (Mt 5:1); he began to teach them by the lakeside (Mk 4: 1); he made a journey around the villages, teaching (Mk 6:7); one Sabbath he was walking through the cornfields (Lk 6:1); he made his way to the Mount of Olives (Lk 22:39); carrying his own cross, he went out to the Place of the Skull, where they crucified him (Jn 19:17).

Journeys continued after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as we find him on the road — the road to Emmaus. He is not alone but traveling with two disciples. The mood is somber as they discuss the events of the previous days. The risen Christ listens carefully and when the opportunity for him to teach presents itself, he does just that. “You foolish ones! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?” (Lk 24: 25) Jesus continued to explain, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself. Then, in “the breaking of the bread,” the disciples finally recognized the Risen Jesus.

Journeys continue in our lives and it seems that we are constantly on the road. Journeys are not always physical, but can be emotional, intellectual, social or spiritual as well. But in any of these, the fastest route is not always the best way to reach the destination. The world in which we live belies this with ever higher speed limits, instant communication and frustration with inconvenience or delay. We want everything to be done in an instant. But just as in ordinary travel, the fastest route to a place is not always the best. The Emmaus event was a long slow walk culminating in “the breaking of the bread” whereby the disciples recognized the Risen Jesus.

The Emmaus event also is the sign for us that on all our journeys we really meet the Risen Christ in “the breaking of the bread,” the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the center of our lives. The communion of love is found in the Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI tells us: “Communion, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is nourished by the Eucharistic bread and expressed through fraternal relations, a kind of anticipation of future glory … it is the gift that lifts us out of our solitude and brings us to participate in the love that unites us to God and with one another” (Catechesis – March 29, 2006).

Just as Jesus burst forth from the tomb and trampled death by death, so today, in the Eucharist the Risen Christ bursts forth and allows us to trample everything on the journeys of our life that leads us to death and not to resurrection.

Let us burst forth with the Risen Christ in the Church by proclaiming the Gospel to ourselves and to whomever has ears to hear. Let us burst forth with the Risen Christ in our families by living according to the Gospel. Let us burst forth with the Risen Christ in ourselves by living our strengths and diminishing our weaknesses. Let us burst forth with the Risen Christ so that we may journey in community not only during this Paschal Season but for the rest of our journey.

Let me close with the words of the Kontakia of Romanos: “Lift up your hearts, Christ is risen; form choruses and sing along with us: the Lord is risen. He has burst forth, he who was created before the dawn; do not be downcast but take courage. Spring has appeared — burst forth — let us clap our hands and say: He has returned to life, who offers resurrection to the fallen. Christ is risen!”

Bestowing my blessing, I remain

In the name of the Lord!

Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh