Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Hope of Life

Two thousand years ago, the first Christians, a handful of men and women who had followed and accompanied Jesus of Nazareth during his public ministry, confessed excitedly that the Crucified One, “the one you killed by hanging him on a cross”, had changed their lives. He had delivered them from their former way of life and transformed them into new men and women, with a new mentality, a new way of life, of seeing, of being and of working in the world.

They confessed a change of life out of which they believed, confessed, proclaimed and celebrated that Jesus is alive, that Christ has risen, that the final word of God the Father concerning the life of his Son is not death but life. They confessed that the resurrection of Christ means the triumph of life over death, of good over every manifestation and experience of evil in the world. Jesus’ Resurrection opened to every man and woman of good will a new horizon, a possibility of hope, even where there is no hope, an opportunity for life over every kind of failure, evil, and death.

Transformed by the death of the One they now proclaimed as alive, precisely through the transformation of their lives, the first Christians launched into the world to share and preach with deeds and words the Good News of the Resurrection. They placed in writing their confessions of faith, together with historical data that occured in their small believing communities, fraternal and Eucharistic.

All of this means that the Resurrection is, rather than simply a foundational doctrine of the Christian religion, an experience of new life, transformed life, abundant life, life that is opposed to any manifestation of evil, sin or death. The Resurrection that we confess and celebrate is a conviction that sustains and is manifest in a new life style through which Christians commit themselves to the construction of a better world, that is to say, more divine in its profound humanity.

Through the Resurrection and against every manifestation of evil, every inhuman and dehumanizing expression, every aggression against humanity, and all that affronts the image and likeness of God in his creatures, every individual Christian and all of Christianity together rises up to protest. We propose instead the possibility of a world that is more equitable, more just, more united, more livable, more fraternal, more humane. We propose a world with hope in the life whose foundation is in God, who reveals himself as the God of abundant life, in and through the Resurrection of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Resurrection, then, is a confession of faith. It is a celebration. It is the supreme liturgical feast. But it is, above all, the personal and ecclesial commitment of every Christian to be daily in and for the world, in the space/time of hope that finds itself in the midst of desperation. It is a sign of joy in the midst of sadness, a space for mercy in the midst of so many forms of selfishness, division and violence. It provides for an opportunity for peace in the midst of war, pain and death. This is the evangelizing task of the Church. In this is found the Church’s reason for being and existing. This constitutes the Christian community’s identity and their mission in the world.

Never more opportune, never more timely, but never more committed is the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ—and of ourselves with Him and in Him—in a world in crisis, in a society pressured by new men, weak structures, novel philosophies, all in need of transformation. Never more than today do we need to live and share all that it means to confess that Christ is alive! Thus, the Easter celebration is a song of hope, but above all, it is a challenge to the evangelizing task of the Church in the world. To confess and celebrate the Resurrection reminds us as Catholics of the everlasting commitment to be in the world as islands of consolation, mercy, forgiveness, hope, and life…in the midst of so many inhuman experiences, so many forms of violence, indignity, dehumanization, corruption, and death.

Pascua is a Hebrew word that means “passing.” We have come to understand this word to mean “passing” through the Red Sea to freedom, “passing” from death to life, from sin to grace, from life without Christ to life in Him, from hatred to love, from indifference to united commitment, from a world without God to a world where, in the power of the Resurrection, humankind is enabled to strive toward its grand potential as God originally intended.

May this year’s “pascua” or Easter celebration mean the renewal of our principal Christian commitment in a personal and ecclesial way: to be for a world in crisis the signs of new and abundant life that God offers in Christ. Happy Easter!. For, as the apostle Paul says: “If Christ was not raised from the dead, our faith is vain and our preaching is also vain”.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

His Life Clarifies Our Life

Holy Week is the greatest week of the year for Christians, especially when we come to the Easter Triduum. It brings together the liturgical themes of Lent with the pillars upon which our Christian faith is founded, our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, as we commemorate and celebrate, in a tight unity, these events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The door of entry for Holy Week is Palm Sunday, when we commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. and read the drama of the passion and death of Jesus in anticipation of the soon to come Easter Triduum. This Passion reading serves to remind us of the suffering and condemnation of the Innocent One whose death authenticates a lifestyle that He lives and proclaims as an example of happiness. We learn to offer our life for those we love instead of keeping it selfishly since “he that saves his life loses it, but he that yields and surrenders his life for the gospel saves and wins it for eternity.…” And we learn to receive the Resurrection, by which God the Father validated the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, as “the way, the truth and the life” in Jesus, for each and every man and woman of good will.

In the Catholic liturgy of Holy Week the entire life of Jesus is presented to us as a model of humanity, as the first vocation to which we who recognize ourselves as creatures and children God the Father in Jesus Christ should all aspire; for “the mystery that is man is clarified in the mystery of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ”. (GS 22)

Thus today, the hopes, the pain, the suffering and the evil that every person lives out in the daily experiences of life—especially during Holy Week and specifically on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday— are illuminated through the pain and the suffering of the One from Nazareth who, confidently, lays his life and destiny in the hands of the Father (“…Thy will be done, not mine”). The Easter Vigil, then, illuminates our thirst for eternity, our hope, our longing for transcendence, our dreams of a fuller life, our projections for the future that are not fulfilled in the here and now of temporal living.

The Resurrection, the confession of faith in the triumph of life over death in Jesus, at the same time proclaims the final and definitive destiny of mankind, that death does not triumph, but rather life; that desperation does not triumph, but hope; that evil does not triumph, but the merciful goodness of God. Yet that confession of faith presses and commits us to build by our deeds and words, through our attitude and behavior, spaces for abundant life in the here and now. The fullness of life that we expect in the future begins in the now of our daily hopes. The new heaven must begin with a new earth.

Holy Week retraces, as no other liturgical event, the paradox and mystery of human life in the particular life of Jesus of Nazareth. Along with it comes all the paradox of the Christian mystery, especially power out of weakness and salvation out of lunacy, both illustrated in the hard wood of the cross. For we, as Paul says, preach Christ crucified, a scandal for the world, but for us “power and strength”.

Let us live this Holy Week, not like people who are passing through a museum of two thousand year old antiquities, but as those who remember the deeds that occurred in the person of Jesus, which today come to life and appeal to us because his passion, death and resurrection illuminate our sufferings, our struggles, our jobs, our projects, our loves, our pains, our surrenders, our triumphs and failures, our longings for a more just world, more human and fraternal, our death and our life opened in hope, to the God of abundant life.

May we derive from this Holy Week, while commemorating what Jesus lived, and all that happened to Him two thousand years ago, power and strength to brighten our personal and communal lives and open us to the celebration of the liturgical Easter and the definitive Easter that we hope for and are building in the now but not yet of our present history.