Rorate Caeli

Rorate on the Road at Fontgombault Abbey
Abbatial Easter Sermon: Easter and the lesson of John Paul II

Dom Jean Pateau, the Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault Abbey delivered the following sermon for Easter Sunday Mass, made available to Rorate:


Homily of the Right Reverend Dom Jean PATEAU
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
April 20th, 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

On June 1st, 1980, in Le Bourget [air field, near Paris], Blessed John Paul II asked our country a question, "France, eldest daughter of the Church, art thou faithful to the promises of thy baptism?"

On this holy Easter day, just a week before his canonisation, Pope John Paul II asks us the same question, "Friend, art thou faithful to the promises of thy baptism?" Maybe we shall have to answer, "And what are the promises of my baptism?"

Last night, during the great Vigil, we renewed these promises. We have renounced Satan, along with all the evil works which he inspires. We have forcefully reasserted the articles of the Creed: "I believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and life everlasting."

Each year during Easter night the Church thus brings us back to the holy day of our baptism, towards which we must show great veneration. Yet, does our everyday life bear the mark of our commitments? Are we convincing witnesses to Jesus Christ's redeeming love, which we received when water was being poured three times on our head and the priest said, "I baptise thee in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"? Are we possessed with the boldness of faith which makes us say to everybody, "Please, sorry, thank you", in the name of Jesus Christ Who comes Himself to beg for our love, to forgive us and to love us? Has God entered our lives? Is our heart self-sufficient to the point of claiming the right to manage all right without Him?

To be baptised, to be a Christian, means to put on Christ, to be one with Him in His body which is the Church. Tertullian thus said: "A Christian is another Christ."

Yet, where will Christ ultimately lead me if I let Him enter my life, if I allow Him to burn my heart with His cleansing fire?

Let us once more allow Pope John Paul to teach us:

When, on October 22, 1978, I said the words "Be not afraid!" in St. Peter's Square, I could not fully know how far they would take me and the entire Church. ...

The exhortation "Be not afraid!" should be interpreted as having a very broad meaning.... Have no fear of that which you yourselves have created, have no fear of all that man has produced, and that every day is becoming more dangerous for him! Finally, have no fear of yourselves!

Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. ... The Redemption... is the light that "shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (cf. Jn 1:5). The power of Christ's Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.
"Be not afraid!" Christ said to the apostles (cf. Lk 24:36) and to the women (cf. Mt 28:10) after the Resurrection. According to the Gospels, these words were not addressed to Mary. Strong in her faith, she had no fear. ... On this universal level, if victory comes it will be brought by Mary.
At the end of the second millennium, we need, perhaps more than ever, the words of the Risen Christ: "Be not afraid!" ... Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world; Someone who holds the keys to death and the netherworld (cf. Rev 1:18); Someone who is the Alpha and the Omega of human history (cf. Rev 22:13)-be it the individual or collective history. And this Someone is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16)-Love that became man, Love crucified and risen, Love unceasingly present among men. It is Eucharistic Love. It is the infinite source of communion. He alone can give the ultimate assurance when He says "Be not afraid!"

You observe that contemporary man finds it hard to return to faith because he is afraid of the moral demands that faith makes upon him. And this, to a certain degree, is the truth. The Gospel is certainly demanding. We know that Christ never permitted His disciples and those who listened to Him to entertain any illusions about this. On the contrary, He spared no effort in preparing them for every type of internal or external difficulty, always aware of the fact that they might well decide to abandon Him.
To accept the Gospel's demands means to affirm all of our humanity, to see in it the beauty desired by God, while at the same time recognizing, in light of the power of God Himself, our weaknesses: "What is impossible for men is possible for God" (Lk 18:27).

These two dimensions cannot be separated: on the one hand, the moral demands God makes of man; on the other, the demands of His saving love-the gift of His grace-to which God in a certain sense has bound Himself.
It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, not to stop before it, but to let oneself be led. I believe that the great Polish poet Cyprian Norwid had this in mind when he expressed the ultimate meaning of the Christian life in these words: "Not with the Cross of the Savior behind you, but with your own cross behind the Savior." (Letter to J.B. Zaleski, Paris, January 6, 1851.) There is every reason for the truth of the Cross to be called the Good News. [Crossing the Threshold of Hope]

Let us therefore follow Christ Who has borne our cross. Let us cast away from our lives the leaven of deaths so as to don Christ's livery. Let us not be afraid to run behind Him on the path of holiness.

Let us also ask God to grant us strength so as to carry Easter's Alleluia and germinate its good news in our families, in our work, in our communities. Let us staunchly renounce anything which does not come from God, any compromise with the Evil One. Let us reject from our lives aspersions, slanders and murmurations. In these days, Christ offers His disciples peace: let us become peacemakers. Let us foster Easter fire in our hearts so that it burns and sets the world aflame.

Let us not be afraid to follow Christ, dead and Risen.

Amen, Alleluia.

[Official translation provided by Fontgombault Abbey, except for book excerpt, taken directly from the published English translation.]