“The women thought they would find a body to anoint; instead they found an empty tomb. They went to mourn the dead; instead they heard a proclamation of life”. The beginning of the Pope’s homily during the Easter Vigil places us before the fact that in life there is an abundance, a “something more” that always takes us by surprise, if we are attentive, if we are, to state it more precisely, vigilant.
Vigil, vigilance: if we assumed this posture before the daily opening of the “spectacle” of life, then we would realize that Borges was right when he wrote in his short story “The Wait” that: “there is not a day, not even in jail or in the hospital, which does not bring surprises, which is not a translucent network of minimal surprises”. The entire homily of the Holy Father at the Easter Vigil celebration is an invitation to let ourselves be surprised by the creative love of God who always “opens new doors when you least expect it, he urges you not to indulge in nostalgia for the past or cynicism about the present. Even if you feel that all is lost, please, let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: he will surely surprise you”.
In the minds of the women, Jesus is a body to be anointed, a deceased friend to be remembered. God responds with the victory of life over death, with the announcement of the best, most beautiful and truest news imaginable. The truth is that, as Pope Francis has been saying for eight years and repeated in his homily: “He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn. In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the Risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope”. Jesus Christ is always first, the Pope says, he goes before us, he always precedes us; and when we arrive, he is already waiting for us. It is the opposite of what people often end up doing: struggling to excel and then not waiting for others who remain behind, but crushing them, exploiting them or rejecting them out of a thirst for domination. Instead, Jesus is a traveling companion, he walks with you and if his stride is longer and he overtakes you, he stops and waits for you. He is ready to bet on you, even if you failed in your first attempt, “he walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams”. Perhaps when you think and let yourself be taken by your lucubrations, he looks at you somewhat amazed, with love, (“man thinks, God laughs”, says an old Jewish adage) because he knows, and he tells you that “reality always overcomes ideas”, but he is always ready to encourage you, to tell you not to be afraid but to keep that childlike spirit ever open to amazement. An American poet, Mary Oliver, sensed that the secret of life is contained in this sense of vigilance and wonder and in her poem, “Instructions for Living a Life”, she recommends three attitudes: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it”. That is what happens at the tomb to the women who were walking, weighed down by their thoughts of death: they are overwhelmed by amazement and they immediately recount that extraordinary experience.
And thus “new paths” open; they go against the tide, just as the disciples of Emmaus would do, running back to Jerusalem, as the Magi did at the beginning of the Gospel, returning to their homeland “by another way”. If it is true that the ways of Lord are not our ways, so must it be for a Christian regarding the ways of the world, which are those of resignation, of “regret” and of “nostalgia”; they are those who, in search of an excuse, think that the world does not change and can never change. Not so the Christian who opens his heart with amazement to the message of Easter and thus is driven almost naturally to go against the tide.
It is not surprising then that the morning after that homily of the Easter Vigil, Pope Francis stated, in the Urbi et Orbi message, the words that caught the attention of the whole world regarding the scandal of a society which, amid the pandemic that is destroying human life and the economies of entire countries, rather than committing itself to sharing vaccines, continues to spend incredibly large sums of money to increase military arsenals. No, we cannot be amazed at this.