2nd Sunday of Easter(A)
May 1, 2011
Let us face it ... Only those deep in denial can claim there is no crisis of hope in our times. Tens of thousands died in Northeastern Japan not too long ago, brought about by a triple disaster, two of which were natural and one man-made: the cataclysmic earthquake, the catastrophic tsunami, and the unfortunate nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Just days ago, a no less catastrophic tornado cut a broad swath of destruction and death in southern USA.
The world today, writes Timothy Radcliffe, is crucified by suffering, violence, and poverty. In our local context back home, more than just material poverty characterizes the "contours of hopelessness" that dot the landscape of our societal lives as Filipinos: a dysfunctional government focused more on revenge than on instituting real reforms that made the massive corruption actually go unabated, if not, become worse; a precipitous ongoing slide on the level of education that keeps its young citizens effectively semi-literate in many aspects; a secessionist rebellion that simply won't go away ... The list is endless. And it goes beyond merely booting out high profile figures that are, rightly or wrongly, associated with past administrations!
But Easter is all about a springtime of hope! It is so because the resurrection of the Lord debunked even the most convincing sign of utter hopelessness - death and its source, according to the Bible, SIN!
Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, there seems to be a shallow attempt to put hopelessness on its head. Fundamentalists, both Christians and Muslims, in some quarters even the so-called "Catholic Talibans" who put all their eggs of hope, as it were, on a shallow return to the splendor of the past, and the ultra progressives who put all their hope on progress and the contemporary culture, simply end up increasing and confiming our creeping sense of hopelessness!
We are a divided nation; a polarized Church; a fragmented people! Hope is tangled in a mess of conflicting ideologies and contrasting loyalties. Hope, indeed, grows grey hairs, as we await the dawn of a new promise, a new beginning, a fresh way of doing politics, a much awaited springtime of a balanced and sound theological engagement with a world so torn and tattered in every way imaginable. We need a new evangelization, as Blessed Pope John Paul II said many years ago. And we need to do it urgently and expertly, given the challenges of a lack of education and a seeping culture of postmodernity where truth has fallen victime to subjectivity and indifference.
Fundamentalists, on the extreme right and extreme left, are actually pushing what the Oakland Chapter of the Dominicans refers to as "the false hope of a faith without ambiguity."
This is the faith of those who claim that the Bible has an answer to every problem there is in the world, including the great ecological disasters that we continue to create. This is the faith that is not at home with paradox, with ambiguity and a bit of uncertainty born of the natural limitations of humanity and the created world. This is faith that shoots straight from the hip, as it were, and one that is capable of shooting down all that runs counter to its sure tenets.
But alas, even the path of Calvary is dotted with ambiguity and paradox. The Incarnation itself, is one characterized by ambiguity and paradox, a God become man, a God who suffers and bites dust, but a God who reveals the true nature of the One and Triune God, who suffers with suffering humanity, who journeys with us even in our pain, and who took on all the limitations of our humanity, that He might bring us to full participation in the life of God forever!
Robert Bolt's famous play "A Man for All Seasons," shows us what this ambiguity of hope and faith is all about. A story within a story, primarily about St. Thomas More, it also tells the story of Richard Rich, young, ambitious, covetous, duplicitous, and rotten to the core. He attached himself to the rising star Thomas More, and one day asked the latter to give him a place in the court of the King. More said he could not offer him a job as courtier, but only as teacher. But the ambitious Rich would hear none of it. He did not want to be a lowly teacher. Thomas More told him: "But you will make for a good teacher!" To this, the crestfallen Rich quipped: "And even if I were a good teacher, who would know it?" He wanted fame, honor, power, prestige and position, along with its perks!
Sounds familiar? Yes ... for it is the story of all of us. But the story ended up with seeming defeat, but which really stands for utter and total victory. One day, the manipulative Richard Rich, at the possible instigation of people in high places, found a perfect opportunity to get to the same high places. In exchange for a false testimony against Thomas More, he was given the plum post as tax collector in Wales. He got what he wanted most, at the cost of someone else's life. By testifying against More, he effectively sent him to the gallows. More died, but not in vain! He died as he lived - a man of honesty and unsullied integrity.
He lost from a human point of view, but he won from God's viewpoint. The resurrection sure means all the world to a great man of that stature. For he died like Christ, wrongly accused, unjustly, undeservedly.
But this is what the resurrection is all about. It has to do with victory in the midst of seeming defeat. It has to do with triumph that may not be forthcoming here and now. It has to do with ambiguity, but not with impossibility. It has to do with seeing through clouded glasses darkly, as St. Paul puts it, but then seeing God face to face one day!
It has to do with hope despite the hopelessness! It has do with believing even if we feel we don't have a sense of belonging in a world that thinks and behaves differently. And it is all about dying, so that one day, we could join the rising, on account of the fact that Christ our Lord, has died, but is risen. In the words of St. Peter, "in his great mercy, [He] has given us a new birth to a living hope."