12 April 2010

That Which Makes Sense of It All

Easter Sunday – 4 April 2010

Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; I Cor 5:6b-8; Jn 20:1-9

The resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate today, is more than just the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jesus and the prophets of old. The resurrection is the one event that makes sense of it all.

St. Paul says in 1 Cor 15,14: “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is empty; your faith, too, is empty.” It is the cornerstone upon which the logic of our faith stands, the central event of the entire history of salvation.

Because of Easter Sunday, the sufferings of Good Friday are given its true meaning. What Jesus went through was no ordinary death or a mere outcome of a religious-political conspiracy. What Jesus willingly submitted himself into, in obedience to the Father’s will, was a sacrifice for us and our salvation.

Because of His resurrection, all the prophets and martyrs, before and after Christ, have not died in vain. The mighty and the lowly, all who labored to build the Kingdom of God or made their place and time a better place than when they found it (which in some sense means the same thing), all of them, and those following in their footsteps now, have not labored in vain. Because of His resurrection, we no longer suffer sickness, or poverty, or persecution, in vain.

Through him the past makes sense. Acts 10,43 (in the First Reading) says: “To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Through Him the present makes sense. Eph 3,17-19 contains St. Paul’s prayer that Christ who dwells in our hearts will give us “the strength to comprehend, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that (we) may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Through Him the future makes sense. Eph 1,9-10 says: “He has made known to us the mystery of his will… that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times: to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.”

The resurrection is the culmination of Christ’s saving acts on earth through which we are saved, through which we become adopted children of the Father, through which we have fullness of life, and be resurrected at the end of time. In the end, everything becomes one with Christ. The resurrection confirms our faith, and gives us hope of this happening.

Here’s an Easter story…

Three friends decided to take a break on the beach on Black Saturday. They had a little too much to drink and were drowned at sea. They found themselves at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter tells them they can enter the gates if they can answer one simple question.

St. Peter asks the first man, "What is Easter?" The man replies, "Oh, that's easy, it's the holiday in December where we have Simbang Gabi and Noche Buena, go to parties, and exchange gifts..."

"Wrong," replies St. Peter. “You have much to grow in your faith. Off you go to purgatory.” He proceeds to ask the second man the same question, "What is Easter?"

The second man replies, "Easter is the time of the year at the end of Holy Week when we go to reunions, or to the beach, and do Easter egg hunts…"

St. Peter, shakes his head in disgust, and promptly sends him to purgatory. Now he looks at the third man and asks, "What is Easter?"

The third man smiles and looks at St. Peter in the eye. "I know what Easter is. Easter is the most important of all Christian feasts, because we celebrate the life of Jesus who suffered and died on the cross for us...”

“Go on…”, says St. Peter, obviously pleased at what he was hearing after the two disappointments.

The man continued: “He was buried in a cave which was sealed off by a large boulder… Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out, and he will join in the Easter egg hunt, or maybe go to the beach because he slept for so long and missed Christmas…”

Hopefully, everyone here knows what Easter is about :)

Then again, maybe it isn’t wrong to ask: What does Easter mean to us in a practical way? How does it impact our everyday lives? What do we mean when we say we are an Easter people?

The answer lies in our next activity right after this homily. The Renewal of our Baptismal Promises is Easter put into practice. Basically, we renew our promises that we will be true to our faith.

Faith should be understood in its two-fold sense of being God’s initiative first, and man’s response second. God has already shown us the “the breadth and length and height and depth of His love”, the resurrection of Christ being its greatest expression. What then is our fitting response?

St. Paul says in 1 Cor 5,7-8 (in the Second Reading): “Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

And so every year at Easter Sunday, we renew our baptismal promises in sincerity and truth. We present ourselves like a fresh batch of dough – after the penances and piety of the Holy Week – ready to become bread for the feast.

By saying “I do” to rejecting Satan, his works, and empty promises, we profess to turn away from our old self, our self-centeredness and narrow-mindedness, our cynicism and apathy. By professing so, we embrace the life-long task of conversion from our sinful habits.

By saying “I do” to believing in God as proclaimed in the Creed, we profess our unconditional trust in Him, even and especially when our following His will involves great difficulties or the risk of being misunderstood, ridiculed or persecuted. By professing so, we open our entire being to where His will leads us, just as Jesus did.

This renewal of promises is no mere question-and-answer exchange. This is our vision and mission as Christians. From this we take our plan of action, especially as we go back to our regular lives after the Holy Week.

Our fidelity to our baptismal promises makes us able to proudly and joyfully proclaim: “We are an Easter people! Alleluia is our song!”

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