By BISHOP REUEL MARIGZA
On behalf of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, I greet you, “Happy Easter!” Christ our Lord is risen!
During the early part of the extreme enhanced community quarantine, more truthfully known as lockdown, a friend posted in the Facebook, a song we used to sing during our Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) days:
The marketplace is empty, no more traffic in the streets
All the builders’ tools are silent, no more time to harvest wheat
Busy housewives cease their labor, in the courtroom no debate
Work on earth has been suspended, As the King comes to the gate.
Almost accurate scene, except that the housewives never ceased their labor, and the King has not yet come. There was a sense of emptiness, a sense of isolation, a sense of being forsaken.
Jesus knew the feeling. After initiating the Holy Communion that Thursday, Jesus took the disciples to the Gethsemane, and moving further with James, Peter and John, he went a little more beyond, where in his deep grief, he wrestled and struggled in prayer. He felt alone and forsaken, his disciples could not even keep watch with him for an hour; when he was arrested not soon after, all his disciples deserted him except two, the one who betrayed him, and the one who would deny him.
Under the hands of rulers and soldiers, he alone faced the insults and jeers, the beating and the whipping, alone and forsaken was he!
At the cross he cried, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” What could be more agonizing than that?
In these days, we have experienced the sense of isolation, but more so, for those who are in the margins of our society, the poorest of the poor, who felt not only isolated but forsaken. Told to stay at home, yet without provision of basic necessities, they shouted out for food to those who had the power and the means, and what they got was threats of being shot dead, and threats of, as well as, actual arrest. Can you blame them if they cry out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken us?”
In many junctures of human history that has been the agonizing cry: from the Jews at Holocaust to the Palestinians wanting a homeland; from the slaves of America to the sacadas of the Negros Island; from the times of bubonic plague to the time of COVID-19. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken us?”
Alone and forsaken, Jesus bore it all. But the story does not end there. That Sunday, the women followers went to the tomb where Jesus was laid and they found another kind of emptiness there! They were so distressed because the tomb was empty! The Lord is gone, he has forsaken them! But their sorrow and agony would soon turn into joy!
And when Jesus appeared to his disciples who were locked down in fear, his first words were, “Peace be with you!” – assuring them that with faith, there is hope for a better tomorrow, where love can be proclaimed and lived out.
This Easter of year 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19, let us declare that this is not the end of the story –
• that with faith in the God who is with us, we shall overcome, even as our Lord overcame death!
• that there is hope for a better tomorrow.
• and that there is love that can conquer fear; love that can be shared around. John reflecting on this said in 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Like the disciples who were transformed by the resurrection, let us not return to the life as it was. We can build a better world, a more humane, just and compassionate one! After this, we should not return to business as usual, but walk in the newness of life where love, justice and peace prevail.
One of my favorite hymns is “Through the Love of God Our Savior.” Its 2nd and 3rd stanzas read:
Though we pass through tribulation, All will be well!
Ours is such a full salvation, All, all is well!
Happy still in God confiding, Fruitful if in Christ abiding
Holy through the Spirit’s guiding. All must be well!
We expect a bright tomorrow, All will be well!!
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, All, all is well!
On our Father’s love relying, Jesus every need supplying,
Or in living or in dying, All must be well!
This is a reposted Easter message of Bishop Reuel Marigza, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.