Easters can be Small Time

23 April 2006. 2nd Sunday of Easter
John 20, 19-31 Easters can be Small Time

Note: This homily is done in a rush. I am leaving for Surigao for a talk at the Directors of Vocations in the Philippines meeting.

As we celebrate Easter each year, we are urged to show this gesture of joy. In UP, after suspending the clapping of hands as we traditionally and mechanically do every mass during Lent, now we are asked to revive this jubilant gesture. In the liturgy, after suppressing all songs that are lively, we are urged to sing the alleluias and songs of joy in this Easter season. Even the use of percussion and bless are once again allowed to emphasize the peak and joyful season of the church year.

However, I have often wondered how many of us feel that deep joy genuinely in our hearts: that happiness that allows you to jump for joy! We know intellectually and by faith, that this season is a wonderful time to celebrate because Jesus has been raised from the dead, but in spite of that truth, our joy is diluted with a tinge of sadness and doubt, grief and shame, anxieties and worries. We cannot just totally celebrate the season! This is the picture that is painted in the Gospel today. Raymond E. Brown tells us in his book, Reading the Gospels with the Church, that various Gospels mentioned doubt when Jesus appears to his followers after the Resurrection (Matthew 28, 17; Luke 24, 37-38; Mark 16, 14), but John in our Gospel today dramatizes doubt in an individual. There is something in our hearts that doubts this hope and peace that becomes real in the Resurrection.

Let me give you some examples. First, I have friends who did not pass the bar exams. These are not “faithless” individuals. They know that there is hope, but they cannot put themselves totally up for it. They ask the question “Why?” and I do not have answers. Second, I have two couples who have waited for several years for a child, and when God finally granted them, their child is diagnosed to need special treatment. Third, I have a friend who was recently salvaged. Fourth, I have just arrived from Cagayan de Oro and I was able to meet my former students. Many of my favorite “couples” have separated and now they are nursing a broken heart. Fifth, with the leadership we have in our country, is there hope and peace? Easter is a season that many of us find difficulty to enter completely and totally? How can we therefore rejoice in the midst of these doubts and dilemmas? Can we still celebrate Easter? Perhaps we can.

Easter is not just a feeling moment. That we are to celebrate only when we are feeling happy bigtime! Like winning a million pesos that would finance a house and lot or passing the bar and board exams or being accepted in a university you dreamed to be or finally finding someone whom you can spend your life with. These “great events” happen once in a lifetime, but not all the time. Easter is not just a feeling moment, but a faith moment: when we come together to celebrate together like this mass, or when we bond with our friends over a pulutan of chicharon bulaklak, or recently finding a wonderful place in the Philippines such as Bohol. Easter can be celebrated not bigtime, but small time: "little Easters" Joyce Rupp calls it. These are the times when we do feel joy, surprise, amazement, hope, change, newness. As I spend time with my former students, I am amazed at how much they have matured. Their ideas have somehow changed. Easter is recognizing that life moves --- I experienced it when one of my first year student whose ultimate desire was to grow taller, is now tall and will enter college this year. Or receiving a text or email from a friend whom you haven’t heard for decades. Or maybe, the experience of a cold buko shake in the heat of summer!

What makes them Easter experiences? Well, I guess they have provided us with quiet assurances that God keeps raising little dead parts in us to new life. Raymond Brown remarks, that though John have dramatized doubt in Thomas --- and we have dwelled in that doubt so as to name Thomas, the doubter --- we forget that it was also the “doubting Thomas” who has the highest confession of faith in all Gospels when he finally acknowledged Jesus, “my Lord and my God!” Thomas affirmed that the Word indeed was and is and will be God! The Word made Flesh is God.

Note: With Fr. Jonjee Sumpaico SJ, newly-ordained.

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