April 20 Born:
1268 at Gracchiano-Vecchio, Tuscany, Italy Died:
20 April 1317 Canonized:
1726 by Pope Benedict XIII
Born in the neighbourhood of Montepulciano in Tuscany about 1268; died there 1317. At the age of nine years she entered a monastery. Four years later she was commissioned by Pope Nicholas IV to assist in the foundation of a monastery at Proceno, and became its prioress at the age of fifteen. At the entreaty of the citizens of her native town, she established (1298) the celebrated convent of Dominican nuns at Montepulciano which she governed until the time of her death. She was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. Her feast is celebrated on 20 April.
We meet today in the light of Easter, which we celebrated and continue to celebrate with the Liturgy. In our itinerary of catechesis on Christian hope, today I wish to speak to you of the Risen Christ, our hope, as Saint Paul presents Him in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. chapter 15).
The Apostle wishes to settle a problem that surely was at the center of the discussions of the community of Corinth. The Resurrection is the last argument addressed in the letter but, probably, in the order of importance, it is the first: everything in fact rests on this presupposition.
Speaking to his Christians, Paul starts from an incontestable event, which is not the success of a reflection of a wise man, but a fact, a simple fact that intervened in the life of some persons. Christianity is born from here. It is not an ideology; it is not a philosophical system, but a journey of faith that begins from an event, witnessed by Jesus’ first disciples. Paul summarizes it thus: Jesus died for our sins, was buried and on the third day He rose and appeared to Peter and to the Twelve (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). This is a fact: He died, was buried, is risen and appeared, namely, Jesus is alive! This is the heart of the Christian message.
Announcing this event, which is the central nucleus of the faith, Paul insists above all on the last element of the paschal mystery, namely, on the fact that Jesus is resurrected. If in fact everything was finished with the death, we would have in Him an example of supreme dedication, but this could not generate our faith. He was a hero. No! He died but is risen because faith is born from the Resurrection. To accept that Christ died and that He died crucified, is not an act of faith; it is a historical fact. Instead, to believe that He is Resurrected, is [an act of faith]. Our faith was born on Easter morning. Paul makes a list of the persons to whom Jesus appeared (cf. cc. 5-7). We have here a little synthesis of all the paschal accounts and of all the people who entered into contact with the Risen One. At the top of the list are Cephas, namely Peter, and the group of the Twelve, then “five hundred brothers” many of whom could again give their testimony, then James is mentioned. The last one of the list – as the least worthy of all – is he, himself. Paul says of himself “as one untimely born” (cf. v. 8).
Paul uses this expression because his personal history is dramatic: he was not an altar boy, but a persecutor of the Church, proud of his convictions; he felt himself as a man who had arrived, with a very limpid idea of what life is about with its duties. However, in this perfect picture — everything was perfect in Paul, he knew everything — in this perfect picture of life, one day something happened that was absolutely unpredictable: the encounter with the Risen Jesus, on the road to Damascus. Not only was he a man who fell to the ground there: he was a person gripped by an event, which would have turned upside down the meaning of life. And the persecutor became an Apostle, why? Because I saw Jesus alive! I have seen Jesus Christ risen! This is the foundation of Paul’s faith, as it is of the faith of the other Apostles, of the faith of the Church, of our faith.
How lovely it is to think that Christianity is, essentially, this! It is not so much our search in our relations with God – a search, in truth, so vacillating –, but rather God’s search of us in our relations <with Him>. Jesus has seized us, He has gripped us; He has won us, never to leave us again. Christianity is grace, it is surprise, and for this reason it presupposes a heart capable of amazement. A closed heart, a rationalistic heart is incapable of amazement, and cannot understand what Christianity is. Because Christianity is grace, and grace is only perceived and what is more it is found in the astonishment of the encounter.
And then, even if we are sinners — all of us are <sinners> –, if our good resolutions remain on paper, or if, looking at our life, we realize we have added many failures . . . On the morning of Easter we can do as those people that Gospel talks about: to go to Jesus’ sepulcher, see the large stone overturned and think that God is bringing about for me, for all of us, an unexpected future. To go to our sepulcher: we all have a little of it inside. To go there, and to see how God is capable of rising from there. There is happiness, joy and life here, where all thought there was sadness, defeat and darkness. God makes his most beautiful flowers grow amid the most arid stones.
To be Christians means not to begin from death, but from God’s love for us, who has defeated our severest enemy. God is greater that anything, and only one lit candle is enough to overcome the darkest of nights. Paul cries out, echoing the prophets: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (v. 55). During these days of Easter, let us bear this cry in our heart. And if we were asked the reason for our given smile and our patient sharing, then we can answer that Jesus is still here, that He continues to be alive among us, that Jesus is here, in the Square, with us: alive and risen.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In the atmosphere of the Easter joy, my greeting goes to the young priests of the Diocese of Mantova, accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor Marco Busca and to you, dear Deacons of the Society of Jesus, gathered here with friends and relatives. I encourage each one to live every day the Gospel of charity.
I greet the Sisters of several Institutes taking part in the course promoted by the USMI; the Logudorese Polyphonic Chorale; the Pious Works of the Immaculate Conception with the Friends of Founder Marcucci; and the faithful of Marigliano, who are observing the 80thanniversary of the Crowning of the image of Our Lady of Hope. I hope that this meeting will be for all an occasion of renewed adherence to Jesus and His teachings.
Finally, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you youngsters of the Profession of Faith of the Dioceses of Milan and Cremona, live fully the Easter message, witnessing everywhere peace, gift of the Risen Christ. Dear sick, look at Him constantly who conquered death and who helps us to accept suffering as a privileged moment of redemption and salvation. Dear newlyweds, live your daily family experience in the awareness of the vivifying presence of Jesus in your home.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT: Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o'clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called "the Beautiful Gate" every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk." Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.
Responsorial PsalmPS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
R. (3b) Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name; make known among the nations his deeds. Sing to him, sing his praise, proclaim all his wondrous deeds. R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD! Look to the LORD in his strength; seek to serve him constantly. R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. You descendants of Abraham, his servants, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones! He, the LORD, is our God; throughout the earth his judgments prevail. R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. He remembers forever his covenant which he made binding for a thousand generations Which he entered into with Abraham and by his oath to Isaac. R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. This is the day the LORD has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" And he replied to them, "What sort of things?" They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!" Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.