23 March 2008 Easter Sunday
Acts 10, 34-43; Col 3, 1-4; 1 Cor 5, 6-8; John 20, 1-9
The Resurrection of Christ which we celebrate today is at the center of our faith. St. Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15, 14). Early Christians used a formula to understand what had happened: “Christ died... He was buried... He was raised from the dead on the third day according to Scriptures, and that he appeared....” (1 Cor 15, 3-5). It is, however, the four Gospels that link us from the crucifixion to the resurrection. They tell us that the proof of Christ’s resurrection is the empty tomb. The Gospel is about Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb and thought that Jesus’ enemies took His body. Consequently, they found no sufficient explanation, for Jesus who died have appeared to them alive. Luke writes, “The Lord was raised indeed, and has appeared to Simon Peter” (Luke 24, 34). The empty tomb can be seen as a revelation that Jesus was no longer dead but alive. This is its basis: all four Gospels has an angel or angels appear to the disciples in the empty tomb. In the Old Testament, angels are manifestations of God’s presence in human form. They see God. Thus they know God’s plan and they translate it to us. In all Gospels, the angels have one message: “Jesus is no longer in the tomb because He has been raised!”
Easter then is an experience of transformation and change. From the moment news about the empty tomb reached them the disciples instinctively felt that something had happened. They were not yet clear about what was about to change, but they knew that the event would transform and change their life, their lifestyle, and their outlook on things. From being ordinary folks, they were about to go out of the ordinary, transcend the expectations of people and take on leadership. Peter, James and John cannot remain just fishermen. Matthew cannot return to becoming a tax collector. And with the coming of the Spirit in Pentecost their empowerment would be complete.
However, we all know that we have participated in many Easter celebrations year after year. We know that we will return to our ordinary lives, with our usual situation and our recurring problems. Nothing seems to have changed. In Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, the water still looks like water. The bread and the wine still looks like bread and wine at the Eucharist. The empty tomb remains empty.
It would take new eyes to see the difference. We have to taste the water, to taste the wine that was once water. We have to eat of the bread to feel that it is not bread anymore (we react when consecrated bread falls to the ground). We have to look at the tomb with new eyes to understand that Jesus resurrected from the dead. I guess, this is a requirement for transformation to occur in our lives: we have to taste life deeply so that we would discover what is new.
For change to happen, we need a reinterpretation of life and history. Take Anushka’s life statement: “I am an abandoned child, therefore I need your attention.” Then she would expect others to shower extra care on her especially her husband. Nasasaktan siya kung di siya napapansin. And she remains the same even at 48 years old! For change to happen, she has to break her life statement that blocks her transformation. She has to realize that she is not anymore a child and her life is now legitimate! I remember a public ad that goes like this: I am just a farmer! (Magsasaka lang po ako!) Don’t say “I am just a farmer.” Say, “I am a farmer!” (Magsasaka po!).
Let’s take another example: When our children begin to tell us: “Ma, I am not a child anymore. I am 18 years old,” it demands of parents to reinterpret their life and history viz their child. If parents insist on treating their 18-year old like a baby, then they refuse the grace of the resurrection, which is the call to acknowledge change and growth, not just with their child but with themselves.
Easter therefore gives us a joyful and hopeful outlook on life. It enables us to identify changes in our lives. It empowers us to break the blocks towards growth. We may walk with the same issues in our lives, but with the spirit of Easter, we get to face life with a happy disposition.