Latin Patriarchate - Easter Message 2007

Brothers and Sisters,
Christ is risen. Indeed, he is truly risen.
1. We contemplate today the glory of heaven which came down to earth, renewing life there. Jesus said: “I am the Resurrection. Whoever is alive and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11, 25). The feast of Easter is a time when believers renew their appreciation of life and their happiness to be alive. They place themselves in God’s presence and recall his many blessings. On this feast of Easter, we relive the memory of the resurrected Christ, conqueror of death and sin, and we recall that he died for our sins, as foretold by the Prophet Isaiah: “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. For our peace he was punished” (Is 53, 5). He died because of our sins and for our peace. He died, rose, and gave to us, as well as to all human beings, the power to overcome the death which is present in the depth of our being, namely sin.

2. By his Resurrection, the Lord gives us new life and new courage so that we can conquer sin in ourselves and in our society: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation” (2 Cor 5, 17), says Saint Paul. In all our relations with our society, the Resurrection of Christ gives us new strength to live and to love, and it teaches us and helps us at the same time to forgive and to restore justice. To love is to see in every human being the face of the Most High God. It therefore means to love God himself in his creatures, to forgive as he forgives each of us, and to learn from God himself how to practice justice in our relations with one another. To love as God loves is to enter into the depths of the mystery of his divine Providence, and, with him, the Lord of history, to become capable of contributing to the creation of our history and of transforming our land of death and sin into a land of new life.

3. Jesus said: “I am the Resurrection. Whoever is alive and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11, 25). That is what our faith tells us as we face throughout the Holy Land an ongoing reality of death, with its various aspects of hate, fear, and dysfunction in the relations between individuals and at the level of governments. Our land is at the same time a land of resurrection and of death, but its vocation and fundamental mission is to be a land of love and life, a land of abundant life for all its inhabitants of all religions. This supposes that all believers of all religions accept the consequences of their faith in God: that we are all creatures of God and the product of his hands, and that to believe in God means to accept all of God’s children. It therefore supposes that everyone accepts everyone, that everyone respects everyone, and that no one uses violence against the other. It also supposes that there is neither a strong party nor a weak one, and that there is no longer an occupation, or walls, or military barriers, or fear, or violence.

4. This year we commemorate forty years of extensive dysfunction in our Holy Land, a situation which has had repercussions in the region and in the world. Will our leaders and the international community ever be able to put an end to this dysfunction? In itself the issue is simple: two peoples are at war with each other, and one of them occupies the house of the other. To put it simply: the solution would be for each one to occupy his own house, the Israelis their house and the Palestinians theirs. To be sure, fear has complicated matters and wants to see the Palestinians as terrorists or as incapable of assuring security. Moreover, several worldwide phenomena have arisen in the world as a direct or indirect consequence of this dysfunction in the Holy Land and have given rise to great fear, which has further complicated things that were simple enough in themselves. Given that reality, we believe that the dysfunction will continue as long as someone occupies the house of someone else. And as long as this dysfunction continues in the Holy Land, the region and the world will suffer from it. We must take the risk of making peace and put an end to the occupation (each one in his own house), in order to begin the healing process in our land, in the region, and in the world.

5. Our land is at the same time a land of resurrection and of death, but its vocation and its fundamental mission is to be a land of love and life, of abundant life for all its inhabitants of all religions and of all nationalities. We ask God to grant that this becomes a reality and to give us all, by the grace of the Resurrection, abundant life, tranquility, and his blessing.
Christ is risen. Indeed, he is truly risen.
Happy Easter
† Michel Sabbah, Patriarch
Jerusalem, April 3, 2007

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