A friend informed me that she was supposed to attend a Golden Wedding Anniversary only to cut it short as the mother of the male celebrant died on Black Saturday. Her anticipation of a celebration was turned into grief as a wedding anniversary celebration turned into a wake for the dead. Such a wave of emotions happening just before Easter!
That is also how our life and our faith appears to be like. There are times we are in jubilee and there are times we are also in sadness. In this Easter moment, we see the rise, fall and rise of emotions over the past week from a triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the deep sorrow over the Passion and Death of Jesus to the victorious Resurrection over death and sin.
The Gospel (Jn. 20: 1-9) tells us the devoted women came to visit the tomb of Jesus early at dawn on the first day of the week. Mary of Magdala saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
Mary is telling them that she “doesn’t know where they put him”, not because the tomb of Jesus is unknown, but because the Lord is risen and is present amongst us.
The two disciples ran to the tomb, saw the burial cloths there, “but the other disciple didn’t go in first; it was Simon Peter who arrived after him, went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
Look closely: what is important here is that the burial cloths are left neatly in the tomb. This suggests that the body hadn’t been stolen because if it were, the cloths would have been taken with the body as well. Their arrangement suggests something else has happened. It is clear that John the Beloved Disciple is the first to understand what has happened and that at that moment, he believed, and that he understood the Lord’s teachings that Jesus would rise from the dead.
The message this Easter is simple, as we take it from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 55: 1-11) read during the Easter vigil:
spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.”
the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
We’ve read these verses over and over again as we attend to the Easter vigil ceremonies. Yet, it is time to renew our commitment to the Lord. May we be like the Beloved Disciple, who, upon seeing the burial cloths neatly placed, believed. We will say, yes we believe, but our faith hasn’t really taken the depth just like how the Beloved Disciple did. This is the beauty of the Liturgical Year, as we are led into the different seasons we get refreshed, renewed, revitalized. And hopefully, a deeper, more vibrant and stronger faith.
The most important moments in our life are those moments that we realize the significant aspects of living. This is when we begin to realize the identity of Jesus: The Bread of Life, and when we see what the saints have seen: The Pearl of Great Price.
Listen to this Easter moment: Jesus wants us to be happy. Even our own burdens, our own challenges can potentially be our source of joy and happiness. And most importantly a source of grace from God. The Savior suffered and died a gruesome death and yet these happenings turned out to be the greatest events of our faith. Thus, if we let God transform us into becoming His own, then we can surely be part of His Resurrection!
This is what Easter should mean for you. Nothing should keep you from experiencing the deepest joys and happiness that God wants to give you. Don’t allow anyone to steal that happiness away from you. There will be difficulties but for as long as you cling to the Lord, He can show you how to persevere amidst suffering, and win despite the challenges. This is the promise that the Easter journey can bring.
“Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed; let us then feast with joy in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5: 7B-8A)