By FR. ARIS MIRANDA, MI
April 4, 2021
Psalms 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Colossians 3: 1-4 or First Corinthians 5: 6b-8
John 20: 1-9
For the past six weeks, we have never heard the churches singing or chanting alleluia. Today, in jubilation, we sing praises of alleluia. Jesus, our Lord, is risen. Alleluia! Jesus who was condemned to death, scourged and mocked and crowned with thorns, he who was jeered when he died on the cross, is risen and alive!
For centuries, the people of God had waited for the coming Messiah who would bring peace to the world to reconcile man with God. I could imagine how much joy and excitement the people had of that time that, for almost an unbeatable period of waiting in fear, desperation, and exasperation, the good news has come.
A similar situation can be likened to what we are traversing through since the lockdown due to COVID 19 pandemic and the government’s incompetence in handling the situation. People are exasperated, at a loss, wondering if it will come to an end or we have to live with this invisible enemy in our lives. So much has been promised by the Duterte government, and at the same time creeping voices of his tentacles parroting words to “be calm and be patient, we’ll get over with it soon.” Worst of all, churches are ordered to be closed, especially during the Holy Week, the last bastion of our hope amidst a deep-seated crisis.
How do we proclaim that indeed the Lord has risen? What do we gain from this Easter experience? Is it the will of God so that humanity will turn back to Him? What does this resurrection is telling us today?
Faith-experience of the resurrection
The faith experience of the resurrection is the turning point in the lives of the early Christians. It was a decisive event in history that made the good news – the kerygma – operative in their community. It opened new avenues of development and commitment to re-establish the social order according to God’s design, where peace and justice reign.
The resurrection event is nothing but a decisive act of God in history to restore the dignity of His creations and the re-establishment of a just order in the society – the Kingdom of God experience. Prof. Joe de Mesa said: It is an experience of the “pagbabangon-dangal” of humanity (the human community). How did it happen? Will it happen to us too?
We are all heirs of the resurrection event. We are invited and challenged to keep that inheritance and legacy of our predecessors alive today. The resurrection experience brings us to reflect on three messages of active Christian engagement in the reconstruction of humanity – contemplation on the cross of Christ, giving testimony to the Good News (gospel), and transforming the community into His Kingdom.
Contemplating on the cross of Christ – the way to liberation
It recalls an event during the exodus of the Israelites towards the Promised Land. When the people were discouraged by their journey and began to complain against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” (Num. 21,5). Many of the Israelites died bitten by serpents. “So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent, and he lived.” (Num. 21,9). Looking at the cross of Christ will bring total healing to all forms of maladies and infirmities.
The cross or the event of the crucifixion of Jesus occupies more space in the people’s minds and hearts than the resurrection event. One of the reasons is that many can identify their struggles and sufferings in life to that of Christ. Many of us can attest how we were consoled and healed before the crucifix. What happened certainly was not because of God’s magical wand (letting miracles happen) that touches our pains and wounds, enabling us to feel relief. No amount of magic wand as Rodrigo Duterte desires to arrest the spread of coronavirus that can transform our present condition.
Fixing our gaze on the cross of Christ means embracing with all our hearts and minds what that person who was hanged on the cross believes and lives in all of His Life. Real healing and concrete transformation of our society today can happen only when we take seriously the struggles of Christ here on earth, even up to the point of his death, which is a consequence of what he believes. We are all called to be prophets of our time; called to denounce injustices and announce the good news; called to offer our lives in the service of humanity, especially the deprived and the oppressed. It seems too ideal, but the fact is, some were already ahead of us in giving testimony. Think of those human rights defenders who dared to speak and defend those who have been deprived of their fundamental rights. Think of the activists who dared to expose and offer solutions to the worsening democratic condition of our country.
Giving testimony to the gospel of Christ
The resurrection of Jesus demands tangible testimonies by living our faith and becoming active witnesses of the resurrection. Witnessing is not to give a good example. That is certainly useful, but the testimony is something else. This can only be provided by one who passed from death to life; one who can confirm that his existence is changed and acquired meaning when the light of Easter illuminated it; one who has the experience that faith in Christ gives meaning to the joys and sorrows and illuminates life’s joyful and sad moments.
Mary of Magdala, who met Jesus and experienced his mercy (healing), became a companion (an apostle) of Jesus who supported him in his ministry with others “out of their resources” and traveled with him together with the other apostles. (Lk. 8,2-3). She was a witness to his crucifixion and his resurrection. When she saw the “empty tomb,” she rushed to tell the other disciples and proclaimed to the people that Jesus is risen from the dead. She became bold and courageous in announcing the good news despite the prejudices of her time against women. She might be ignored or be accused by the authorities of stealing the body of Jesus or conniving with Jesus’ mission of bringing a new social order – his Kingdom in this world. Magdalene’s testimony liberated her from the margins of society and became a catalyst of change in her community.
Transforming the community into His Kingdom
The faith experience of the resurrection of Jesus has made possible the constant growth of the early Christian community who went out to encounter even those who are at the margins of the community like the Gentiles. With the boldness of their preaching, the disciples were able to reach out and touch the hearts of those who didn’t believe in the good deeds and healing actions (redemptive actions) of Jesus. God is the only one who uplifts and leads us to Life – Life to its fullness where true justice and peace reign. Indeed, none of them were poor because each one shares according to one’s needs and capacities. (Acts 2,44-45).
Good works are manifestations of the new life. They are signs of Jesus’ presence. They are like fruits that can sprout and grow only on a living and thriving tree. (Col. 3,1-4). The resurrection experience had made them authentic members of the Body of Christ (the Church) wherein they are no longer preoccupied with earthly concerns (selfish acts which led to injustices and destruction) but of the concerns of “the above” (actions that build communities and reinforces human fraternity and solidarity).
The pandemic unveils an undeniable fact of life that we are all interconnected. Whether human beings, animals, or the various forms of creations, each has a common mission – to restore the original design of God’s creation. The resurrection experience should motivate us to reconstruct the “bridges” rather than isolate and deprive others of their liberty and fundamental rights.
Whoever does not believe in the resurrection considers the gift of life an absurdity, madness, because, beyond this gift, one sees only the signs of death. In the light of Easter instead, the authentic disciple “begins to understand” that the Life of Jesus given to all of us introduces one into the bliss of God.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).