His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
The angels proclaimed the news of Christ’s resurrection to the women saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen” (Luke 24: 5-6) The news of the risen Christ brought tremendous joy to the disciples, but terrified the Jewish leaders.
As much as the day of the crucifixion was painful emotionally, it was a day of salvation. However, people did not see Christ opening the doors of paradise, they only saw the suffering, insults and nails. As much as the disciples were disturbed and sad on Friday, they were very joyful on Sunday. The promise of the Lord to them was fulfilled when He said, “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).
Through His resurrection, they rejoiced that the resurrection is possible and realistic. He was the evidence. That is why St. John describes Him, “whom we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands” (1Jn 1: 1). St. Peter also bears witness that “we have eaten and drank with Him after His resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 10: 41). Through the resurrection, the fear of the disciples was turned into courage and indifference to all the powers that were fighting them. All their enemies could do is threaten to kill them, but what can the threat of death do to one who believes in the resurrection and has seen it!
The most dangerous thing about sin is that it means a separation from God; being cut off from Him in ones heart, in ones love, in ones will and in ones activity. It is to be cut off from the community of the saints and from God Himself. It is to be separated from Him on earth and in heaven. In Malachi 3:7, God calls us saying, “Return to Me and I will return to you,” But, how can we return back to Him? In the book “Return to God,” the late Pope Shenouda teaches us what it truly means to return to God and how to overcome the obstacles we encounter on the way.
This book is the compilation of ten lectures delivered by Pope Shenouda from 1973-1979 in Cairo. It provides us teaching on being reconciled with God through repentance and the practical steps to take in returning to God. It is divided into three major sections, “Sin as Separation from God,” “The Return to God,” and “Reconciliation with God.” Throughout these topics, Pope Shenouda takes the reader step by step, starting with sin and its consequences and ending with reconciliation and its fruits. God’s desire is to “Reconcile you to Him in order to restore you, to cleanse you, to purify you and to make you holy. His love for you is so great that He will not abandon you.”
We need only to return to Him.