Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter 2011


The ‘Alleluia Songs’ that reverberate in the stillness of this early Sunday morning with their tunes of happiness and uplifting feelings, the play of lights that starts with the blessing of the fire on Black Saturday evening, the resumption of the intonation of the” Gloria” and the deafening pealing of the bells, the solemn movements of the liturgical rites of the Easter Vigil that are building up its pace into a fast crescendo, the excited greetings of “Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen”, all these are there not at all to conjure up from the Christian Faithful the joy of Easter. Rather, they are there to depict in the best possible way, to portray and describe in liturgical symbols, songs, prayers ,and actions the exhilarating feeling of a man who meets Christ and touches Him in a more personal way during the time of Lent – Christ who forgives him his sins, reconciling him to the Father; the Christ who saves him from his despondent thoughts caused by his irresponsible behaviour towards his wife; the Christ who brings him back from the painful hurts and gnawing pains he has incurred from his employer who has no appreciation for his work, no regard for his person. The joy of Easter is not a conjured up thing, a make-up hope, an empty optimism born from external manipulations. The joy of Easter is real. It is true – “Christ is risen; Christ is truly risen.”

The joy of Easter was the feeling of Moses when he and the Chosen People of God, the Israelites, were saved by God from hands of Pharaoh who pursued them to bring them back to Egypt and to their chains as slaves. Having seen how God drowned the pursuing chariots and charioteers Moses sang the original song of ‘Alleluia:’ “I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea” (Ex 15:1). It is this kind of intervention of God that King David composed the ‘Alleluia Songs’ in the Psalms. Psalm 118 for instance expresses this feeling of joy this way: “Alleluia. In danger I called to the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me? The Lord is with me as my helper; I shall look in triumph on my foes” (5-7).

The joy of Easter is Jesus Himself. He was crucified, died and was buried. But God came to him, raised Him from the dead, and made Him Lord of the living and the dead. It was not for him that he had undergone all these, but “for us men and for our salvation.” The joy of Easter then is a proclamation to all of us sinners who have been cowering from the grace of God because of our fear of His holy anger and right judgment, a proclamation that everything, death included, is over. Jesus conquered sin; Jesus conquered death.

Of course, it is not as simplistic as that. We are not here viewing some acts of a magician gracefully waving his wand to take away from us this reality of sin and death. They are there to haunt us as long as we live. But the Risen Lord has given us the power to face them, to conquer them. With him and with our undaunted faith of His resurrection, we can gradually extricate ourselves from the clutches of sin and from the fear of death. The personal experience that we had with Him during the time of Lent should give us the necessary assurance that He is a personal God, a living God, a God who saves, a God who protects. With this personal experience we face the challenges of the future with hope and courage, for we know that we are not alone in this. Your salary is still the same, but you know better that it is sufficient to support your family and can make decisions within this budget without compromising the Law of God; your wife still suffers the trauma of the breast scarred due to the presence of cancer, but you are not upset anymore for you know that even in that God has better plans for all of you; you still have unholy feeling for your secretary, not really pretty but charming and caring, but you know better that this is but a passing fancy of irresponsible day dreams that could be shaken off by recalling Jesus who died for you. Yes, the resurrection of Jesus does not change your status in life, neither does it provide you in an instance the courage to face the realities of life. But it does give us the hope that what seems impossible before is no longer that impossible; it does give us the perception that the future ahead of us, though still unknown, is no longer threatening; it does give us trust in God amidst the mess in this world, the mistakes that we make, the pains that others inflict on us, the unjust treatment that we receive. For, we have met Jesus in a personal level this past Holy Week. Pope Benedict XVI puts it this way: “We see as a distinguishing mark of Christian the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well” (Spe Salvi, 2).

Jesus is truly risen is a reality that we have witnessed. This is a positive reality that transforms our perception of life ahead of us. As St. Paul himself assured us: “For those who love God all things work together unto good, for those who, according to his purpose are saints through his call” (Rm 8: 28-29).