Christ's resurrection offers freedom from fear, Pope teaches

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Pope Benedict XVI at an October 2011 general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Believers in Christ can look to his resurrection as a source of fearless confidence, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at his first general audience of the 2012 Easter season.

Jesus' victory over death, the Pope said on April 11, “transforms our lives; it frees them from fear, gives them firm hope, and infuses them with something that provides existence with full meaning: the love of God.”

The Pope traveled by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to deliver his general audience in St. Peter's Square. After blessing a mosaic image of the Holy Family for next month's World Meeting of Families in Milan, he taught over 25,000 pilgrims about the strength and courage found in the resurrection.

This freedom from fear was first experienced by Christ's disciples, who felt anxiety and uncertainty after his death and the discovery of his empty tomb.

As the Pope recounted, “this situation of anguish changed radically when Jesus arrived. He entered through the closed doors, was among them and brought them peace.”

Jesus also displayed the wounds of his death, thus “confirming the new reality of the resurrection.”

“Thus, in the shining light of Easter, in the meeting with the risen one, the disciples came to understand the salvific meaning of His passion and death. Then sadness and fear became overwhelming joy.”

During the same encounter, Jesus declared to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” According to Pope Benedict, this was more than a simple greeting.

“It was a gift, the gift the risen one made to his friends. At the same time it was a commission: the peace which Christ had bought with his blood was for them, but it was also for everyone else, and the disciples would have to carry it throughout the world.”

Jesus also breathed upon the disciples, declaring: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

The Pope described this gesture as “the sign of a new creation. With the gift of the Holy Spirit which came from the risen Christ, a new world began.”

“Today too the Risen One enters our homes and hearts, although sometimes the doors are closed,” he reflected.

Christ enters “bringing joy and peace, life and hope, gifts we need for our human and spiritual rebirth.”

Jesus offered this same gift of hope in his appearance to two disciples whom he met on the road to Emmaus. At first, they did not understand the reality of the resurrection, nor did they recognize Jesus as he walked with them.

The Pope recounted how Jesus traveled and spoke with them, explaining why it was that the Messiah had to suffer and be raised from the dead. Eventually, Jesus revealed his identity to the travelers as he celebrated the Eucharist with them.

“This episode,” the Pope said, “shows us two privileged places in which we can meet the Risen One who transforms our lives” – the Eucharist, and the word of God in Scripture. 

When the two disciples returned to Jerusalem, “their enthusiasm for the faith was reborn, their love for the community and their need to communicate the good news. The Master rose, and with him all life resurges. Bearing witness to this event became an irrepressible need for them.”

Today, Pope Benedict said, the risen Christ remains present through the Eucharist –  strengthening believers just as he did in the Church's first Easter season.

“In communion Jesus nourishes us with his body and his blood, becoming present in our lives, making us new and animating us with the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Following this teaching, Pope Benedict greeted different groups of pilgrims in several languages, including a delegation from the NATO Defense College and a newly-ordained group of deacons from the Pontifical Irish College.

“During this Easter season,” he urged the English-speaking pilgrims, “let us resolve to walk in the company of the risen Christ and allow our lives to be transformed by faith in him and by the power of his resurrection.”

The Pope gave his apostolic blessing and sang the “Our Father” in Latin, before returning to his residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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