Ancient Church scholars were adept at bridging the Old and New Testaments.
Easter is the heart of our Christian life. That is why Easter is celebrated not just during the 50 days of Easter season. Every Sunday is, in fact, the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord.
At creation, God set apart the 7th day of the week, Saturday, as the Sabbath. Yet, when the early Christian church began gathering together for corporate worship, they chose the 1st day of the week, Sunday, as the regular day of their gathering. Sunday was set apart because the Lord Jesus Christ defeated sin and death, leaving his borrowed tomb empty, on a Sunday morning. That was the first Easter. Since then, the church has set apart every Sunday as a celebration of the resurrection.
Every Sunday is Easter Sunday. In the midst of our daily struggles and difficulties – poverty, despair, war, violence, sickness – we gather for the Eucharist to proclaim Jesus’ victory. We, the people of God, who have received the new life in Christ in baptism, is fundamentally, a freed, redeemed people.
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ the future kingdom is present. Christ’s resurrection is the beginning and promise of that which is yet to come. Christian life and salvation are first fruits, living in the promise of the future of God in Christ.
The sublime dignity of being a victorious people, however, comes with great responsibility. Sadly, many of us choose to suffer than to live out the demands and responsibility of a freed and redeemed people. Just like many of the Israelites who was freed from slavery in Egypt, wanting to get back to Egypt and remain as slaves because it has been the life they have become comfortable with. Sometimes being free is harder than being a slave.
Indeed, many of us would just accept what is happening around us without a fight, as if already regarding ourselves as losers and victims. Centuries of being colonized, both by foreign colonizers and local powerful politicians, have led us to deeply imbibe a defeatist attitude. Fr. Emmanuel Santos, a Filipino professor in Rhode Island, USA said: “Even our religion which is often regarded as a source of strength and hope, is the same religion which create a weakening mentality of victimhood. ‘Learned victimhood’ is the greatest tragedy of Filipino religiosity.”
Yet, in order to have genuine change, if we are to truly live out being redeemed people, we have to overcome this defeatist and loser attitude. Christ’s victory over death smacks off any defeatist attitude.
Jesus Christ our Savior’s going through suffering, death and the effects of sin showed us back to the goodness of all creation and that all will be well. Easter empowers us to believe that no matter how much evil is taking place around the world, good will triumph over evil. In the midst of suffering and death, of injustice and oppression, of violence and war around the world, there is a way which leads us to the reign of God where justice, love and peace will prevail in the end. It is this greatest event which propel us Christians to give hope and meaning to a chaotic world filled with meaninglessness and helplessness.
Gladly, there are growing signs of resurrection in our country today. There is an increasing realization among our people that real transformation will not come from the self-appointed messiahs vying for the highest post of the land promising the illusion of change in our county. Little by little many of us are claiming responsibility for the mess where we find our country today and that true change can only come if each one takes responsibility for one another.
This is the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. We are to proclaim the Easter message with courage and zeal. Remember the zeal and passion Mary and the apostles, and the early Christians showed in proclaiming Jesus resurrection after they experience the all-powerful event of Jesus rising from the dead.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us so that we may no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of our lives. From the waters of death and sin may we rise with Him to renew our lives and the face of the earth.
Tonight is the final day of our triduum which we celebrate through the liturgy of Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil, the mother of all liturgies, is the most beautiful and the longest liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church.
This is the most blessed and most joyful night of the year as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. This is the night when Jesus redeemed us from the slavery of sin and all the destructive elements of our life to a life of freedom. This is the night when the light of God encompasses over the darkness of sin. As proclaimed in the Exultet or Easter Proclamation sung just after we took our places following processing in from the Easter fire.
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!
This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth,
and we are reconciled to you!
At Easter vigil, we do not just look up to Jesus and proclaim, He is risen! On Easter vigil, we will also proclaim to ourselves: I am resurrection, you are resurrection, and we are resurrection. As St. Augustine proclaimed: We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song! We are the children of Easter morn. We are redeemed by Christ from death and sin. This is our deepest and truest identity as a people. We celebrate and proclaim this most solemn truth in the Easter Vigil through the renewal of our baptism.
Indeed, Jesus wants to raise all of us into new life but sometimes we don’t want to be raised up. We stay imprisoned within ourselves, and entombed in our old ways which gives us false security. Or perhaps, we have allowed people to continue to pull us down to the pit of hell with them. We have created many tombs in our lives. We have allowed many things in our lives which kills our spirit, hardens our hearts and freezes our will so we remain dead. We have chosen this part—to remain in hell and remain dead. The saddest thing is when we have become comfortable in hell. And we don’t want to get out of hell anymore.
Thus, even though Jesus has risen, sometimes the world does not want so much to believe as many of us do not live as victorious and resurrected people. The German atheist philosopher, Frederich Nietszhe, once said, “I might have been able to believe in the message of Christ if Christians looked resurrected.”
Ours is an Easter religion. We do not deny our own frailties and failures. We do not deny the evils that surround us: the wars that have killed some 100 million people in our (last) century; the poverty that grips more than half of the human race; the hunger that kills millions every year and ruins the lives of millions more; the discrimination that divides the human family into contending parties.
We do not deny these miseries, but we refuse to surrender to their power because of our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Sinfulness will be transformed; suffering will be vindicated; death will be overcome; a new life will arise: that is the Easter message of the paschal mystery.
Tonight, the most important of all nights for our faith, we call upon Jesus to open and break the gates of hell in our lives. Let us ask Jesus to “harvest” our spirits deadened by the shackles of hell we have made for ourselves. Let us call Jesus who has risen to arouse us out of the tomb of our selfishness, apathy, pride, insecurity, fear, anxiety, and many other death-giving and pathetic mindsets. Like Jesus may we rise up to start anew and recreate our lives and our world under the blessings of God’s abundant grace.
“Let us feast with joy in the Lord.” Just as Christ passed through death to resurrection, so too will we and the whole world pass through its suffering to the glory of a new life.
So now, let us rise up with Jesus, and live out our liberation!
Happy Easter to you all!
While the men were sleeping, the risen Jesus first appeared to women. This is perhaps the first surprise of the resurrection of Jesus—the first witnesses of the resurrection were women.
All 4 gospels recount that women were the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. Mark narrates that “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him” (Mark 16: 1). Matthew relates that “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning; Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (Matthew 28: 1). Luke presents us with a number of women at the empty tomb: “The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James,” as well as the unnamed “others who accompanied them” (Luke 24:10). While John tells us that the risen Jesus appeared only to Mary of Magdala (John 20: 14 – 17).
Why would Jesus first appear to women at a time when women were not considered credible witnesses? This difficulty perhaps confronted the early Church. At least for the apostles this was a problem. This was acknowledged by Luke: “Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them (24: 10 – 11).
What does this surprising detail about Jesus’ resurrection tells us about how to live the Easter spirit?
The first hard lesson of the resurrection of Jesus is that we are all called to witness the resurrection. True, we have not seen with our eyes the resurrection of Jesus but as the risen Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John: 20: 29). This is the whole purpose of our 40 days of preparation in Lent—to rise up with Jesus and made new again in God’s abundant grace and thus become true witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.
The second lesson concerns the fact that it was to women that Jesus first appeared after his resurrection. There must be a good reason why God made his risen Son known first to women and only later to the Apostles. This challenges us to take a hard look once again at women’s place in the church. Even as Pope Francis asks us to develop a deeper theology of women, the Church still struggles today to give women their due voice as witnesses to our risen life in Christ.
The attitude of Mary of Magdala and the other women may also teach us something about witnessing to the resurrection. The women witnesses who have no status, no power, and no wealth perhaps made them more open and receptive to the great mystery of Jesus’ resurrection. After all it has been shown in God’s story of salvation that it is to the weak and humble, like Mary, that God first reveals and acts out God’s mission. Witnessing to the resurrection does not involve status, power and wealth and calls us to embrace the women witnesses’ disposition of humility and willingness to God’s intervention in our lives.
The third lesson has got to do with the difficulty that the women encountered in testifying to the risen Lord—they were met with scepticism and rejection even by the apostles themselves. The difficulties of the women in giving witness to Jesus resurrection are also experienced today by many Christians who are persecuted because of their faith. They are experienced by Christians who stand up for truth, justice and peace in the midst of complacency, violence, falsehood and injustice. They are also experienced by Christians who lead simple, selfless and authentic connections in the midst of the consumerist, selfie and shallow connections of digital culture. They are also experienced by Christians who demonstrate their Christian identities and values in the midst of the secularized and capitalist world.
Witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus will always be difficult. But like the women in the gospel today, we do not need to have power, status, nor weath. We just need to be constantly open to God’s surprise.