Bearers of Light and Hope – Nemy Que, SJ

Easter Sunday 2020

Sun

__________

The sun shines on everyone!
It shines on both the good and the bad, on the rich and the poor, on the happy and the desolate.
It shines even on those who try to hide from its light.
And it shines most brightly on those who reflect its light.
The sun belongs to everyone!
It shines in the east, as it also does in the west.
And even when it sets somewhere, it also rises elsewhere.
Our Lord risen from the dead is the sun rising in our life today and lighting it up as a new creation. No truth is of greater significance than this. That our Lord passed by humanity, embraced it as His own, suffered it and raised it with him in His resurrection.
And we are never quite the same again.

——————————

I wonder how we would be if Jesus did not rise from the dead!

I imagine that the disciples of our Lord would have gone back to their old way of life. All the drama and excitement would have been forgotten after maybe a few days of talking about it. They would have gone back to waiting for the coming of the messiah and they would have died waiting! Wiser now, they wouldn’t be following anyone, especially not a prophet, any time soon. The sun will not be rising on them any time soon! They’d continue living in darkness!

For us, our daily grind would be, yes, just that. More of the same. We’d do today what we did yesterday. We’d be in a place where the sun rises, but we wouldn’t care. Nothing new there. We’d continue living in darkness.

But the Lord is risen! As he promised.

It was still dark when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb alone. What was she expecting to find? Perhaps, all she wanted to do was to keep vigil. Or perhaps deep in her heart, she was hoping against hope that Jesus has indeed risen as He promised. It was, after all, the third day. She wasn’t expecting to find an empty tomb at all. But when she did, she thought that someone had stolen the body of Jesus, so she ran to look for the disciples and told them. They went back to the tomb and saw that it was indeed empty. Deep in the hearts of the disciples they must have been hoping that Jesus had truly risen as he promised. Faith hanging on the edge of reason, the excited disciples went about announcing that the Lord is indeed risen. And this was the spirit that brought them far and wide to proclaim the good news. They began to see everything in a new light.

For us, the resurrection has recreated our world and filled it with hope. Pain and death still exist, true. But they have been vanquished by our Lord’s suffering and death, and resurrection. We’ve been enduring so much pain and suffering these days, but if there’s one lesson we must learn from the resurrection story, it is that we can rise above all this. It is no longer death that defines us, but life, a new beginning.

The challenge for us, children of Easter morning, is what to do with our renewed and refreshed life. The disciples took our Lord’s rising from the dead as a commission to proclaim the good news. Consequently, they suffered for this good news; they gave up their lives for it. But they also gave the good news a home in the hearts of many believers all over the world.

We could do as the disciples did: as children of Easter, we can proclaim the good news, but in our own way and ways relevant to the affliction we are experiencing today. Perhaps, we can begin by inspiring hope in people who seem to believe that things will not be getting any better or find things too turbulent that it would seem the pandemic has taken over human life. Some people these days have to endure the inconsolable experience of parting with loved ones without ever saying good-bye, without being able to comfort them by their beds. Some are not even able to mourn and to have funerals. Jesus had a Joseph of Arimathea to offer a tomb; today, for many of the dead, there is not even a grave for them. But surely our Lord’s resurrection has transformed their deaths into a new life? Just as He promised! And we must believe that they have gone to their Galilee to break bread with our risen Lord.

There is so much opportunity to reach out to others even from home these days. We just have to find creative ways to share our love (Pope Francis). For instance, facebook is full of invitations to pitch in some projects that will help and support those who have been adversely affected by the virus. In one of his Lenten messages, Pope Francis talks about people around the world who are feeling so much anxiety, helplessness and grief. Everyone has lost someone or knows someone who died. Nearly everyone has been touched by loss. We can be bearers of hope to these people. He suggests that we can reach out to them through social media.

Social media, though, can be both a blessing and a curse. When we use it to console those who grieve and suffer, to “be together” with family and friends, it’s a tremendous blessing. But it can also hurt especially during this time of fake news and misinformation. Watch the news and you’ll be warned not to believe everything you hear and read. These days, we need trustworthy health advice from experts. Such could spell the difference between life and death. But sometimes this advice gets buried beneath a barrage of misinformation, disinformation and fake news! As bearers of hope and as light in the risen Lord, it is part of our mission to be more discerning about what to post and share in social media. We should not be unwitting accomplices of conspiracy theories. We should not burden the gullible unnecessarily and make life more difficult for him.

This Easter, as recipients of the grace of our Lord’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to make sense of our life, to find meaning in it, and to write a new narrative. We can, like I said, be bearers of hope and light in the Lord for others. We can also nurture an attitude of “tragic optimism,” a term coined by Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the holocaust (Man’s Search for Meaning). This is the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in our life during these times of inescapable pain, loss and affliction. This is the ability to find good in what we’re going through without denying the heaviness of heart that we are experiencing. This search for meaning can make us more resilient in the face of tragic happenings. It can create in us “positive emotions, like love and gratitude.” It can even move us to greater service. And even more than helping us cope, adopting this spirit of tragic optimism enables us to actually grow through adversity. (Emily Esfahani Smith, NY Times Op-Ed, April 7, 2020)

Let me end with a thought from Pope Francis. This is from one of messages this Lent. He says, “we will celebrate Holy Week in a truly unusual way, which manifests and sums up the message of the Gospel, that of God’s boundless love. And in the silence of our cities, the Easter Gospel will resound. The Apostle Paul says: “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:15). In the risen Jesus, life conquered death. This Paschal faith nourishes our hope.… It is the hope [for] a better time, in which we can be better, finally freed from evil and from this pandemic.” It is a hope and hope does not disappoint.

Amen.

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