The Light Always Shines
Perhaps you will admit it as much as I will do – it is hard to fake it. It is Easter, but it just doesn’t feel like it. Whether it is Church worship, Easter egg hunts, family gatherings or other celebrations, this year Easter feels a mirage, a chimera. Even as I write these words, there is a sadness in my heart that comes from experiencing death and destruction around. Yesterday in the United States alone we lost 2000 people. We saw scenes of mass graves being dug in New York. Around the world the death toll from this awful, nightmarish pandemic has exceeded a hundred thousand people, with almost 20,000 deaths in our own nation. Here then is my dilemma and perhaps yours too. While I fully comprehend the implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; while I believe that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, is alive and is with us; while I believe with all my heart that eternity awaits us, it is impossible to ignore the gloom that overshadows us. Conversely, though, as a man of faith I believe – that no matter how bad it gets, it is impossible to ignore that reality that our world is a world that has been transformed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a man of faith, it is impossible for me deny that our world has not been touched by the rays that emanated from the empty tomb. As a man of faith, I still believe!
With these mixed emotions and sentiments, I want to say three things to the Church today:
Faith is For These Times. The three years after which Jesus began his ministry were incredibly difficult days for him, for his disciples, and for his family. For somebody born miraculously and for someone who did immense good, he faced too much opposition, intolerance, and hate. From being God’s darling, he descended too quickly to be a crucified criminal. It was equally hard, if not even harder, for the people around him. His mother, his disciples, his followers were the ones who bore the raw brunt of his brutal suffering and death. What about God’s promises, now? What about God’s assurances, now? What about life, now? What about everything, now? But it was in those very moments that faith mattered most. Faith was for every moment when things looked bleak. Faith was for those moments when nothing seemed sure. Faith was for the days when everything was falling apart. Faith was for the time when He said, “It is finished!” Faith was for the times when the tomb was sealed shut! So, I say to this to you now – faith is for these times. Thank God for the resurrection of Jesus! Easter tells me to never give up the faith. Faith IS for these times.
The Importance of the Important. Perhaps, these days we have a great awareness of what is really important. Without meaning to passing judgment, let me give an illustration here. I have always been disconcerted by how March Madness intrudes into Lent, and sometimes into Holy Week. I have talked to people who actually felt that Lent or Holy Week intrudes into March Madness. How dare Jesus die during March madness? There is none of that this year, is there? So, what is important? When we are stuck with home with our family, don’t we wish we had taken the time to build our relationships? Now people are spending time as a family, eating meals together, doing chores together, doing puzzles together, playing board games together, laughing together, crying together, we are beginning to realize what is really important. How often have we overlooked that which is really important and focused on the superficial, on the unimportant, on that which is fleeting! God, who we sometimes kept at a distance, now we want to draw close. To live our faith in God together, to build the relationship in our families, to be faithful and caring friends, to respect and love those who keep us safe and healthy - our doctors, our nurses, our health care workers, the people who produce our food, harvest it, and bring it to us, to find meaning our vocations, to be responsible laborers in society – these never looked more important, did they? What we are now, we must always be! I believe this is what Easter teaches us – that in good times and in bad we must never lose sight of that which is important – God and working together for human redemption.
The Light Always Shines! Easter Monday, I will have the first funeral of the Easter season. Before the wax of the Paschal candle settles, it will be time to light it again for a funeral. What an irony! What a paradox! This indeed is the gift of Easter. This precisely is the gift of the risen Jesus. This precisely is the promise of the resurrection! When death and darkness loom in the horizon, there is a candle always burning, a light always shining! We are a people of the resurrection! We are a people of hope! Our faith proclaims that nothing that destroys human life is forever. Thus, even when a global pandemic ravages us, we remember that fear and anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity, death and destruction are never the last word. Jesus’ constant message to the women and the disciples in the very first the resurrections appearance is, “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5,10). The Paschal Mystery reminds us that victory is always within sight; that suffering will lead to healing; that death will lead to eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that there simply IS no other possibility! At the funeral Easter Monday morning, then, I will fearlessly entrust this person into the hands of a God who I know as God of the living! So I say this to the Church this Easter – while you live this Easter season cautiously, let not fear prevail! Like the church of that first Easter, let us be sure of Christ’s presence among us! And like that first Easter Church, let our fearlessness, our faith, and our hope bear witness to the risen Christ!
I wish each one of you, then, a hope-filled Easter. I also wish your families, friends, and loved ones safety, good health, and peace. It is my hope that we well all gather again together for worship, to pray, and to be a community. May our never run out of hope. And may this hope come from our faith in the risen Christ – the one whose resurrection is the greatest and ultimate symbol of life.
- Fr. Satish Joseph