The Paschal Message of His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin 2024

The Paschal Message of His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin 2024

To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West:

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

At the end of our forty-day sojourn through Great Lent, and before we are plunged into the darkness and horrors of Holy Week, we are blessed with two days of light and joy. The resurrection of Lazarus was the prefigurement of the death of death. The power of Jesus Christ not only over sickness and suffering in the living but over those already dead was on full display for all to see.

Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. ” (John 11:21-26)

Our Lord reminds Martha that resurrection and life are not “whats,” but “Whos.” Our celebration of The Resurrection is not just a celebration of resurrection in general, but the reality that entering into our Lord is entering into Resurrection Himself. Our Paschal joy is the joy of knowing that death is swallowed up by Life Himself.

The joy of that reality spills over in Jerusalem on that very first Palm Sunday as Jesus enters the city and, for the first time, allows Himself to be greeted, seen, and acknowledged, as King. The One who raised Lazarus from the dead was coming to liberate His people. Crowds greeted Him with shouts of joy and with messianic cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

But the darkness of the Passion begins to gather at the very same time He enters the city:

Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.
(John 12:9-11)

Not only the chief priests, but the very same crowds that shouted “Hosanna,” later shouted “Crucify Him!” when it became apparent that the liberation which He brought had nothing to do with kingdoms and powers of this world, with “them” and their worldly desires, but with the Kingdom of Heaven.

We have seen the miracles, we have heard the teachings, we have the witness of the Saints, we have journeyed to the tomb of Lazarus and seen the raising of one four days dead, we have encountered the Lord in the life of the Church and His Body and Blood. Now we are gathering on that Day beyond this world to encounter the living Resurrection and Life. We have spent the holy forty days denying ourselves in many ways to make room for the One now coming. At the Paschal Liturgy, we hear these words from the Gospel of St. John the Theologian:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

His life is the light of men. That light shines for each of us in the Resurrection. We have spent the holy forty days acquiring the voice to greet Him. Brothers and Sisters, we have to choose which voice we use: the voice which cries “Crucify Him!” or the voice which cries “Christ is Risen!” May the joy, peace, and light of the Day without End fill each of your hearts and souls and may every voice lift up the Light which destroys darkness!

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Yours in the Risen Christ,

†Benjamin; Archbishop of San Francisco and the West

May 5, 2024