Keeping Easter Alive – Pedro Walpole, SJ

John 20:19-31

Marikina sunrise

How has the week gone for you?

Last Sunday, for a time, we emerged from the Gospel passion narrative, from the suffering in life around us into deep desires and hopes, sharing in the resurrection, the loving mercy of God. Yet the world in the last week has not changed. How am I able to keep “easter” as action alive in me?

Maybe I have experienced some uncertainty at times. Uncertainty is evident in the Gospel at Easter. Yes, Easter was and is a time of uncertainty! Nothing had changed around the disciples’ situation. Fear was even more tangible after the Passover because they had thought so much about it and the scenes of the crucifixion played repeatedly in their minds. Three times they expressed unbelief – the apostles not listening to the women coming back from the tomb, the two men returning from Emmaus who dismissed the stories as tsismis, and then doubting Thomas. Even after Jesus appeared to them. As soon as he left, they locked the door again, returning to insecurity. Jesus is not amongst them in the way they can put him between them and the world. The only way forward they saw was to argue according to the custom and the law. That was their assurance, not it was not yet founded in the Risen in Lord.

Then and now, in our own times, we have to close our doors, but do we also close the doors our hearts? The apostles were afraid to let the hope out of their hearts. They were afraid to acknowledge that side of themselves that lived freely in Jesus, allowing God to be God and experiencing God within so he could be lived out. The times of covid and Easter have much in common. Easter was not a perfect world, it was confusing and vulnerable: what to do, what to believe and how to live this out? As someone said to me, “I am soul sick these days. Not physically sick but it affects me the same.” The world order has not changed; the only difference with Easter is how we are within, how to be able to acknowledge the Risen Lord.

There is so much e-filler (electronic media filler) in our homes/offices these last weeks. The danger is that I, as a person, get lost in the uncertainty and doubt. Either I, as a person, don’t contact others, or I get overtaken in the family traffic of the day and my world falls apart. Family preparations are very important for meeting the needs of the day, and a lot of time may be spent laying it out. Explanations are readied, options discussed, but when it’s not working for someone, it’s just not working! It is not a matter of reason and quickly, the uncertainties of context surface as the problem, spoken or unspoken.

On the other hand, as a professional, I am accountable – if I do my job well this week, if I can work from home. Obviously, I am not living up to my ideal these days, I am not able to act as I would and again, uncertainty creeps in. Yes, I banked on normal interactions in a month’s time, added two weeks and now another two weeks to that and now maybe another… But who am I as a person? My responsibilities are not my person and I must park them each day and live with gratitude.

I have wonderful memories of people and lands that fill me with hope at other times, not just in terms of success or effectiveness. And I realize these anew by sharing them on Instagram and Facebook, and hearing words that echo my feelings. As persons, we share love; for older people, they often share the loss yet it is alive in them. For those who have just lost loved ones, they need to be consoled again by love. As persons we share hope, hope with the youth in forming a vision beyond these times. And then there is faith. In all three, there is no power – just presence, openness, listening and willingness to respond.

The world fools us at times regarding our lives. We are who we are – lovable, faithful, hopeful. Precisely in the very areas we lack, we are loved by those around us. We can acknowledge in humility our powerlessness and our love is made complete by others and in God.

Peter’s letter (to all Churches) is written long after the Resurrection and Pentecost. Here, we have jumped ahead in the timeline. Peter recounts the community living in Jerusalem when they understand the Spirit from within and how they prayed, broke bread at home, and shared what they had with the entire community. Here God is life, experienced in living life, not just proof.

Can you take a moment to see what is happening in our world? Are we not trying to do this today and feeling we are not doing enough, at a time when we have never done so much all together? Our trials today are a humble celebration of humanity – the goodness of humanity. Do we not see everywhere that people are trying to care for others, precisely when we cannot meet? Is this not the message of Easter that we experience? If this can be our expression, locked down, without access or adequacy, but we care in every way we can for neighbor and for stranger, is this not the making of new relations, deep commitments, is this not to be believed? Is this not a new normal we can live by again in new ways as we go forward?

Going further, yesterday’s Gospel reading was: “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.” (Mark 16:15). Yes, we may well have found deeper moments and deeper message these days in our vulnerable living. But also, if we are in Manila, for example, we have a vision of the skies over Marikina, how clean! Yes, we know the scientific and industrial realities of this, but it is also a spiritual vision of what can be, of our care for creation. Along any street in Manila, it smells clean, a reminder of how we can care for all life including our own. Once the smoke comes back, we will adapt to it in three days – that is the window of change we have before we forget, give up and close down in a different way, the way of BAU! Our very senses – smell, sight and touch – will adapt in three days to the dirt.  We will cough a little longer, but will we chose to forget? If we care to remember in the returning fumes, we can hold that vision open, hold our hearts open and seek the fresh breeze, and live out that commitment to change whatever the trials; it means that we seek the Good News live and be a source of hope for all in creation.

People need to live recognizing the political and the economic situations, the services and professions. And then there is the person, the human spirit, celebration of food, poetry, art and youth, the same spirit that shares the gift of life in faith, hope and love. We do not live by domination but in symbiosis and by every word that comes for the mouth of God. Today is the celebration of Divine Mercy.  Divine mercy is always present, but we need to allow God yo save us, we need to allow God to reach others, to live through us and not be determined by our small ways. If God’s glory is humankind fully alive, why do we measure the way the world measures instead of engaging without fear and with an open heart!

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