By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Too often people are fixated on material things, money, power or status — none of which can give life and joy, Pope Francis said.
Christians need to examine their lives with the question the angel asked the women who went to the tomb to anoint the body of the buried Jesus: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the pope said.
At his weekly general audience April 23, Pope Francis had the tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square repeat the angel’s Easter question three times.
Sometimes, the pope said, people act as if “a dead Jesus would be less of a bother than a living Jesus,” yet his victory over death is the source of Christian hope and the assurance that we, too, will live with him.
When “we close ourselves up in any kind of selfishness or self-satisfaction, when we let ourselves be seduced by earthly power and the things of this world, forgetting God and our neighbor; when we put our hopes in worldly vanity, money and success,” he said, that is the time people must ask themselves the angel’s question.
Although it did not rain during the pope’s audience, the sky was gray, and raindrops were falling earlier in the morning. To keep the sick and people with disabilities warm and dry, the Vatican had them wait in the Paul VI audience hall. Pope Francis went to the hall before the audience and spent more than half an hour greeting the people gathered there.
Talking to people in St. Peter’s Square about Easter and the joy that should mark the lives of all Christians, the pope said, “too often we seek the living among things that are dead, among things that cannot give life, among things that exist today and are gone tomorrow.”
Christians are called to fight “the temptation to keep looking back,” the pope said, and instead move toward the future. “Yesterday is the tomb of Jesus and the tomb of the church,” but Jesus is alive and so is his body, the church. He keeps it alive and moving forward.
When people feel like hiding after some kind of failure, when they feel unable to pray or feel alone or abandoned, even by God, when they feel “imprisoned by sin,” Pope Francis said, they need to ask themselves again why they are focused on the tomb of a dead man rather than on the life-giving victory of the Risen Lord.
“Look, brothers and sisters,” he said, “he is alive and is with us! Don’t go to those tombs that promise something, but in the end give nothing.”
Before concluding the audience, the pope spoke movingly and forcefully about a video message he said he received from Italian workers unemployed after the closure of a steel mill.
“It made me so sad,” the pope said. “Dear workers, dear brothers, on your faces there was such sadness and the worry of fathers who ask only for the right to work so they can live with dignity and care for, feed and educate their children.”
Pope Francis asked the factory owners to be creative and generous in finding ways “to reignite hope in the hearts of these brothers of ours and in the hearts of everyone who is unemployed because of waste and the economic crisis.”
“Please,” the pope said to business owners, “open your eyes and don’t just stand there with your arms crossed.”