The Church must return to a faith that is alive, and resist the temptation of becoming a museum entombed in regrets and dissatisfactions, Pope Francis urged Catholics as he celebrated the Easter Vigil.
In a short and punchy homily - the liturgical high point of the Church’s year - the 82-year-old Pope issued a rallying cry to Christians to “go back to Galilee” and discover a living encounter with Jesus.
“To return to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a ‘museum’ faith, not an Easter faith,” Francis told the congregation in St Peter’s Basilica.
“Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life.”
St Peter’s was plunged into darkness as the Pope began the vigil liturgy and lit the large Paschal candle from the Easter. The basilica then slowly emerged out of the dark as each person lit their candle, symbolising the new light and joy of Christ’s resurrection.
During the liturgy Francis also baptised and received nine adults into the Church: four Italians and one person each from Ecuador, Albania, Peru and Indonesia.
In his homily, the Pope reflected on the Gospel passage from Luke where the women found the stone of Jesus’ tomb had been rolled away and were told not to look among the dead for someone who is alive.
Too often, the Pope said, believers allow “stone upon stone” of disappointments, sins, cynicism and negativity to pile up and allow a “tomb psychology” to take over where “everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive.”
He added that it was sometimes easier for Christians to remain “glum and closed up within ourselves” and to remain alone in the darkness of our heart because “we feel in control.”
But quoting the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, he said: “We never know how high we are. Till we are called to rise.”
Francis stressed that “Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside” and that “God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness.”
And he warned that “only in the direction of our problems” is like “seeking the Living One among the dead” while dwelling on “regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions” is a “return to the dead.”
By embracing the risen one at Easter, the Pope concluded, “it will be possible not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear.”
He added: “With him, we will rise again.”