Can you ever imagine how the first Easter was like? On the Easter morning the women and the apostles witnessed the Risen Christ. They saw, felt and experience the joy and happiness of the risen saviour. “The Lord has truly risen and appeared…” that was the wonderful news that went round Jerusalem in those days when the memory of Christ’s death was still fresh in the mind of all. This joyous experience was shared and passed on to the early Christian and the faithful for ages. This faith encounter has tremendous impact on Christianity even today.
Today, how can we “Relive” the same experience? Reliving the same moment is impossible. But experiencing and encountering the Risen Christ in a different way today is possible. “Easter” would definitely mean “New life”. There will be a new life for those who try to live a life united with Christ. Easter should bring us new hope, new Enthusiasm, new Vigour, new Zeal, new Mindset and new outlook towards life. This Easter surely can give us radical self transformation if we believe in the power of the risen saviour. And whoever encounters the joy of the Risen Christ will never be the same again. Today we can again sing “Alleluia” that we have not sung all through Lent. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118:24).
Why do we rejoice today? We rejoice because our faith in Christ has been vindicated, truth has triumphed over falsity, justice over injustice and tragedy has turned into victory. The story of the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday is the story of the triumph of falsity over truth, of injustice over justice, of evil over goodness. Jesus was falsely charged of crimes he did not commit, and unjustly sentenced to a death he did not deserve. His good friend betrayed him, his trusted companions deserted him and his number one man denied him. The people he loved demanded his crucifixion and chose to have the bandit Barabbas released in his place. It is a story of betrayal and lies, dishonesty and meanness, unfaithfulness and wicked violence directed against an innocent and apparently helpless victim. All this comes to a head on Good Friday when we see Jesus scourged, mocked, led on the death march, nailed to the cross where he dies after a few hours and hastily buried in a tomb. If that were the end of the story that would be a bad story, a tragedy. But glory be to God it is not.
|Death is not the end of the story. There is one more chapter. This is the most important chapter because, as the saying goes, ‘they who laugh last, laugh best’. And in the last chapter of the story of Jesus, we see him rise from the dead in all glory and majesty. He is vindicated. His enemies are shamed and confused. Jesus regains his eternal glory with the Father. He is the Lord who will prevail over all humankind, his enemies included. For us his embattled followers this is good news. We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song!!
It is good news to know that truth is immortal. We can suppress Truth, accuse it of being a lie, condemn it, torture it, kill it, bury it in the grave but the Truth will rise again in all its glory. Remember this and do not give up on Truth even when everybody seems to give up on it. Do not give up on Truth; do not give up on Justice. Do not give up on doing what is right. George Orwell the famous English writer once said “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it”. True will always be true. Just will always be just. Right will always be right even when the world around us would have it otherwise. We must learn to believe in the sun even when it is not shining, knowing that by and by it will shine again. It is the end of the story that counts. That is why the church asks us today to rejoice and be glad. Even when we are going through very difficult times: through betrayal, unjust discrimination, lies, misrepresentations; even when the enemy seems to be winning the battle in our lives. Today Christ has won and we know that in Christ we shall overcome one day.
Christian Identity in the world today
Christians have always had the problem of how to tell the world who they are. At some periods in history and still in some places in the world, uniforms have played a very important role in announcing our identity to the world. Think of the various uniforms of the various Christian societies of consecrated life, which distinguish consecrated people not only from ordinary Christians but also from one another according to their institutes. In the African Independent churches members usually wear uniforms to distinguish them from non-members. This usually takes the form of white flowing gowns, with headgear and sashes of different colors distinguishing members according to their various ranks. In the mainline churches, however, the use of uniforms or habits has become less popular. In these churches the words of Shakespeare in Measure for Measure, “Cucullus non facit monachum (the hood does not make a monk)” have been taken more seriously.
The quest for uniforms, habits, badges, banners and pinups designed to distinguish believers from non-believers does indeed have its place in the celebration of who are. We are symbolic beings who need to express our faith in symbolic ways. Jesus himself wrestled with the question of how to distinguish his followers from the non-believers around them. But his prescription goes much farther than external habits and uniforms. For Jesus the essential mark of distinction between Christians and non-Christians is not in the way we dress but in the way we live.
Jesus wants the world to recognize us as Christians. We need to evangelize and be witness to the people around us. But effective evangelization and witnessing has less to do with how fluently we speak and more to do with how faithfully we live. In the evangelization of Africa, many missionary groups came early and focused on making converts. Others came later but focused on service to the people, providing needed Medicare and integral education. These latter groups succeeded where the former groups failed. Words are only a small part of our witnessing for Christ. As St Francis of Assisi told his friars, “Preach the gospel at all times and use words if necessary.”
The greatest homage we can pay to the Christian faith is to live in such a way that people can have the glimpse of Christ’s resurrection in us. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the beginning of Christianity. If Christ has not been resurrected from the death, we would not be Christians. Christianity is to be rooted in Christ at all cost for he is the beginning and the end.
The writer is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Imphal, Manipur. Presently he is the Vice Principal of Sacred Heart Hr. Sec. School, Hungpung, Ukhrul. You can reach him at Mtjo89@gmail.com