Remarks by the President and the Vice President at Easter Prayer Breakfast
9:30 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the White House. Religious leaders, lay faithful, it's an honor -- it's an honor to join you in a morning of prayer and reflection, and it's a delight to have many of you back.
For me, reflection is what Holy Week is all about. And I never fail to get a renewed sense of hope and possibilities when I attend Mass on Easter Sunday.
I believe Pope Francis got it right in his Easter Vigil homily when he said, “We cannot live Easter without entering into mystery. To enter into mystery means the ability to wonder, to contemplate, the ability to listen to the silence and hear the tiny whisper amid the great silence by which God speaks to us.”
I think that's who we are as Christians, and quite frankly, I think that's who we are as Americans. We're constantly renewed as a people and as individuals by our ability to enter into the mystery. We live our faith when we instill in our children the ability to wonder, to contemplate, and to listen to that tiny whisper amid the great silence. We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country. We live Easter -- and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better. We can always do better.
That's why I'm so grateful for what everyone in this room does to transform hope into possibilities, and possibilities into opportunity. And that's why I've been so honored to work every single day for the last six-plus years with a man who encompasses that faith to his core. A man who knows what it is to enter into the mystery with a deep and unyielding conviction that it's within each of our reach to make real the promise of the ongoing miracle that is the United States of America.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to introduce you to my friend, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. Thank you. Well, we give thanks for this day that the Lord has made. Good morning, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. It is wonderful to see so many friends from all across the country. My first concern was whether you actually got something to eat. (Laughter.) Sometimes prayer breakfasts are advertised -- (laughter) -- and then you get there and there’s like a little muffin. (Laughter.) A couple of berries. (Laughter.) And though your soul may be nourished, you leave hungry. So I hope that is not happening here.
I want to thank everybody here for their prayers, which mean so much to me and Michelle. Particularly at a time when my daughters are starting to grow up and starting to go on college visits, I need prayer. (Laughter.) I start tearing up in the middle of the day and I can't explain it. (Laughter.) Why am I so sad? (Laughter.) They’re leaving me.
And I want to thank everybody here for the wonderful work that you do all across the country with your remarkable ministries.
We hold this Easter Prayer Breakfast every year to take a moment from our hectic lives for some fellowship, friendship, prayer and reflection. I know pastors here have had a very busy Holy Week, and so for you to travel here and take the time to spend with us is extraordinary after what I know is difficult. I can't say that our work during this season is comparable, but you should try dealing with thousands of people in your backyard on an Easter egg roll. (Laughter.) After that you need quiet reflection -- particularly because I had some of my nephews -- 6 and 4 -- in my house all weekend. And you need quiet reflection after that. (Laughter.) Girls are different than boys.
This morning, we also remember a man of God who we lost this weekend, a man known and loved by many of you -- the dean of American preaching, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor. Anybody who had the privilege of hearing him speak knows what power he had. He was a civil rights hero. He was a friend of Dr. King, who used his spellbinding sermons to spread the Gospel and open people’s hearts and minds. He taught and mentored countless young ministers. So as we mourn his absence today, we also take solace knowing that he leaves a living legacy and that he is in a better place.
I am no preacher. I can’t tell anything to this crowd about Easter that you don’t already know. I can offer just a couple of reflections very quickly before we begin the program.
For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior. We reflect on the brutal pain that He suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that He bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that He gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light.
And yet, even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can't lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Savior.
“Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day,” Dr. King once preached, “but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter.” Drums that beat the rhythm of renewal and redemption, goodness and grace, hope and love. Easter is our affirmation that there are better days ahead -- and also a reminder that it is on us, the living, to make them so.
Through God’s mercy, Peter the Apostle said, we are given “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” It’s an inheritance that calls on us to be better, to love more deeply, to serve “the least of these” as an expression of Christ’s love here on Earth.
That’s the spirit we feel in the example of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who encourages us to seek peace, to serve the marginalized, and be good stewards of God’s creation. Like millions of Americans, I’m honored that we will be welcoming him to our country later this year.
I want to quote him. He says that we should strive “to see the Lord in every excluded person who is thirsty, hungry, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith… imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper -- whether in body or soul -- who encounters discrimination.”
Isn’t that how Jesus lived? Isn't that how He loved? Embracing those who were different; serving the marginalized; humbling Himself to the last. This is the example that we are called to follow -- to love Him with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors -- all of our neighbors -- as ourselves. As it says in the first letter of John, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that's a topic for another day. (Laughter and applause.)
Where there is injustice -- I was about to veer off. (Laughter.) I'm pulling it back. Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed. Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God.
So today, we celebrate the magnificent glory of our risen Savior. I pray that we will live up to His example. I pray that I will live up to His example. I fall short so often. Every day I try to do better. I pray that we will be strengthened by His eternal love. I pray that we will be worthy of His many blessings.
With that, I’d like to invite Reverend Dr. Amy Butler to offer our opening prayer.
9:43 A.M. EDT