50 Days of Easter – Arnel Aquino, SJ

John 20:19-31, Divine Mercy Sunday

How many days is the Advent season? 23 days. How many days is the Christmas Season? 12. What about the Lenten Season? 40 days. And Easter, which, by the way, many Catholics forget is a Season, too, like Advent, Christmas, and Lent? How long is Easter? 50 days! Easter is the longest season in our Christian life. Now, do you ever wonder what we should pray for during the Easter Season? I mean, we know more or less what to pray for during Advent, Christmas, and Lent, right? During Advent, for examples, we pray that God prepare us for his Son’s birthday. During the Christmas Season, we thank God for all the blessings, especially for our family. During Lent, we ask forgiveness for our sins. But what about Easter? Is there anything particular that we pray for during the 50 long days of the Easter Season? What should we pray for, anyway? I’ve wondered about this myself. So, I figured, let’s look at the Resurrection stories. If we see what Jesus does and says as a Risen Lord, maybe we’d have an idea what to pray about during Easter, the longest season of our Church life.

Take our Gospel for today, for instance; what does Jesus do? Binisita niya ang mga kaibigan niya. Very typical of Resurrection stories: Jesus visiting his friends. If you remember, he first appears to Mary Magdalene. On another occasion, he catches up with Cleopas while he and his friends walk to Emmaus. Then, he shows up at Lake Tiberias just when Peter and friends come back with empty nets. And, notice, each time Jesus shows up, hindi sila nakakarinig sa kanya ng anumangpanunumbat. Instead, Jesus is always, like, “Shalom,” peace; twice in today’s Gospel, in fact. Then he goes, “Tomas, halika. Ako talaga ‘to. ‘Eto nga yung mga sugat ko, o! And on that evening on the way to Emmaus, Jesus says something as innocuous as, “What are you discussing as you walk along? Anong latest?” And strangest of all, when appears to his hiding friends, he asks: “May makakain ba kayo d’yan?” He asks for food! So, the story goes, “they gave him a piece of broiled fish—inihaw na isda! And he ate it in their presence,” na parang isang karaniwang kaibigang umuwing galing kung saan saisang hamak na araw. If you still don’t think that’s strange, remember Lake Tiberias? Jesus even cooks for his friends! Ipinagluto pa niya sila ng almusal!

Now what kind of person does all that, what kind of person says all that—especially after an excruciating, definitely unforgettable Calvary? What kind of person greets friends with “peace,” even if they’ve abandoned him and left him for dead? What person even asks for food, invites friends to eat with him, and even cooks breakfast for them? In other words, what kind of Risen Lord does not threaten his friends with damnation, or strip them raw with a litany of reproaches, or kill his enemies as God raises him supreme? That kind of person is a grateful and joyful person, a grateful and joyful Lord. Everything that matters to him at this point is that the Father has raised him from the dead. Back in Calvary, the cross is empty, if it’s still even standing; so is the tomb. But here stands Jesus, back to life, body and soul, never to suffer, never to die ever again. So, when the Lord himself noticed that he was alive, imagine how his heart, his soul, his body, his whole being was all bursting with gratitude and joy! Na makita mong buhay ka pa rin, kahit na alam mongpinahirapan ka, pinadugo, ipinako sa krus, namatay, inilibingtapos ibinangon ka, at ngayon, buhay ka na naman! Imagine the gratitude and the joy that must have filled the Lord to bursting. From now on, the Resurrection is now his everything. Risen-ness is what’s going to matter most from now on, not death, not abandonment, not offense, not the tomb. Jesus must’ve been bursting with joy and gratitude that little else mattered.

All this is not foreign to you, dear sisters and brothers. You know what this feels—this power of gratitude and joy. I’m sure there were time when you were so grateful and so happy, it was all that mattered. Remember the last time you felt hugely blessed? Noong punung-puno ka ng pasasalamat at ligayakahit may problema, kalungkutan, paghihirap—‘di po ba nangibabaw pa rin ang pasasalamat at ligaya? And when our hearts are bursting with thanks and joy, like Risen Jesus, do you notice, we don’t want to spend that time alone! We show up! We run and want to be with friends! And what’s usually the best way to spend gratitude and joy with friends? Just like Risen Jesus, eat with them! Kainan! But wait, Fr. Arnel, what if they’re the very friends who abandoned you, denied, betrayed, and left you for dead? See, that’s what I mean. When you’re so thankful and so joyful over a huge blessing, never mind! When we are in that space of joy and gratitude, the last thing that enters our mind is to blame, scold, punish, manumbat, magturo, magbilang ng pinautang ng loob. So, no, not even the greatest offense of our closest friends can overshadow a huge blessing from God. Remember, sisters and brothers? That’s why, like Risen Jesus, when we’re hugely grateful and joyful, we could only say, “Shalom!” “Kain tayo!” “O, almusal, sige lang!” “Eto mga sugat ko, o. Sariwa pa. Pero hindi na masakit.”

So, there’s my long answer to the question: what should we pray for during the 50 days of Easter? We pray for the grace to be grateful and joyful—because God has always raised us up from all the deaths we’ve had to suffer, especially for people we love. Lagi tayong nakakabangon. Lagi tayong ibinabangon ng Diyos. Also, during the 50 days of Easter, we can pray to be so grateful and so joyful that we find it much easier to forgive: forgive people who hurt us, who bear false witness against us; people who hold us to past faults and doubt if any goodness could still resurrect from us. Pinapadali po ng dakilang pagpapasalamat ang dakilang pagpapatawad. A person who can forgive enormously is very likely a person who thanks enormously. The opposite is also true. One who forgives little is very likely one who thanks little. But let’s not forget, dear sisters and brothers, that our Risen Lord is a grateful, joyful Lord. We are an Easter people, not a Good Friday people. Being Easter people then, we can pray for 50 days to be more and more…and more grateful and joyful. “Shalom! Kain tayo! O, almusal, sige lang! Eto mga sugat ko. Sariwa pa. Pero hindi na masakit.”

*image from the Internet

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