ONWARDS TO NEWNESS AND FULLNESS OF LIFE
Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
Easter Sunday (C)
April 4, 2010
In many parts of the world, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, everything smacks of “new life” budding forth at this time of year. Spring has gone full swing, just starting, or just about to burst forth in total splendor. The dreary cold and dark winter slowly gives way to the vibrancy and sprightliness of spring, promising changes galore. Those places below the equator, while not having to wake up from a cold spell at this time of year, have their own version of “newness” and welcome changes. In places where summer is just taking hold, schools and classes are winding down, beaches and resorts begin to blossom with frolickers, and tropical trees become laden with luscious, juicy and cool refreshing fruits to quench a dry, parched populace, in stark contrast to what nature seems to be doing – lying naturally fallow for a time, only to wake up with fresh energies as the first rains come to break the hot spell and open the womb of the earth.
The same enthusiastic and energetic tones mark the readings today and throughout the easter season. Peter’s courageous and emphatic (known as kerygmatic) proclamation, along with Paul’s profuse use of images to encapsulize this whole idea of new life (old yeast vs. new dough, what is below vs. what is above) are both matched only by a hopeful, though tearful Mary of Magdala rising early “on the first day of the week,” springing forward “while it was still dark,” to witness the majestic opening of the womb of the tomb that has just given birth to the ultimate newness – the resurrection of the Lord!
“While it was still dark,” Mary of Magdala came. It was dark when Judas went out and did the dastardly deed, thus epitomizing the darkness of depravity, betrayal and sin. It was still dark when Mary, hardly able to see her way, clearly beheld the open tomb. The same darkness framed the glorious light of Jesus’ rising, a darkness that did not remain long, for Mary sought to enlighten and at the same time be enlightened by those who, like her, were still trying to make sense of all that happened in so short a time –from the triumphal entry to Jerusalem, to the ignominious death on the cross of their Lord and Master.
People who love do not remain in the dark for long. People who have hope do not stay paralyzed by the darkness of apparent defeat and desolation. She ran forthwith to spread the beginnings of great news to Peter and John, who both also lost no time going to the tomb, running as fast as they could, the younger one outrunning the older, but deferring later to the latter.
People who have faith lose no time in dwelling on losses, but keep focused on the object of their search. The two “saw and believed.”
In our lifetime, there are enough reasons for us to remain in the dark. There are more than sufficient excuses for many of us to do as the apostles did, at least initially, that is, hide in the upper room, “for fear of the Jews.” There is enough terrorism scare along with all sorts of financial and relational insecurities for a great many of us to just sulk in the recesses of our fearful hearts and not to venture out “while it is dark,” to confront a world that is constantly in flux.
Not only is there darkness around us. There, too, is a lot of fear, unbelief, uncertainty, insecurity, cynicism, and moral doubt and ambivalence. And with all this, comes the concomitant erosion of our courage, hope, love and faith.
Today, a fearful world is given a shot in the arm. A world enveloped in unproductive lack of belief and cynicism; a society characterized by paralyzing fear and lack of vision for a future that lies in God’s hands; a world cooped up in the sterility of self-centered materialism and consumerism, now opens its womb through the opening of the tomb of one who has declared: “Behold, I make all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega.” In death, Christ’s body acted as seed that implanted new life. “A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die, for it to bear fruit in plenty.” In His resurrection the earth’s womb was opened and new life burst forth in utter splendor and glory.
The resurrection of the Lord is what gave courage and enthusiasm to the erstwhile fearful disciples. The conditions were not favorable to the cause of the dead Galilean. Rome was paranoid of messiah-like demagogues that abounded during those times. The elders of the temple, the priests and the scribes – everybody who was somebody in Jerusalem at that time, were all wary of anyone who showed potential threats to their power and prestige.
But a risen Christ was no dead Galilean rebel. A risen Christ was not one to make them remain cowering in the dark, definitely not so for women like Mary, and for men with a character like Peter, James and John and the rest of the group left by Judas, who found temporary strength in the glow and glitter of a few pieces of silver. The risen Christ was behind all that newfound strength, courage, boldness and conviction.
The resurrection, therefore, among so many other things, is a shot in the arm of everyone of us, now limping and lame with discouragement, despair, despondency and all forms of partial deaths. The resurrection is the definitive answer of God to a world mired in what the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II calls the “culture of death.”
It should help that, by God’s design, the world at this time of year, as I said above, shows so much signs of newness, freshness and life. Cherry blossoms were at their best last week in D.C. and probably in Tokyo. Farmers and people with green thumbs find immense joy and hope in the land that lay fallow for months after the last harvest in fall. Though many remain as tepid and unenlightened about their Christian faith, still many more find new meaning in their loving and lively attachment to the Church, and to their faith via membership in so many communities of faith all over the world.
Yes, Virginia … there is hope abroad in the land made holy by him who embraced it willingly in his death and burial. This much, Peter, Paul and John and Mary today all tell us with so much courage and enthusiasm. “No more of the old,” they seem to tell us … no, no more of the “old yeast” of discouragement and despair, for Christ “our paschal lamb has been sacrificed.” No more breaking bitter bread made from “old yeast,” no more dining on sour wine of “malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
No more “grief’s gasping, joyless days, dejection,” (G. Manley Hopkins), but onwards now to newness and fullness of life.