Saturday, April 7, 2012

“That they might have abundant life”

With the solemn reality of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Christians we commemorate the principal confession of our faith. We celebrate the fact that although “you killed him by letting sinful men crucify him... God raised him from death, setting him free from its power” (Acts 2,23-24). For if Christ did not rise from the dead our faith is vain, our preaching is vain and our hope is also vain (Cf. 1 Cor 15,17).

This confession of faith is that which connects us and identifies us with the apostles, with the early disciples, with the first century believers and with Christian of all ages and all parts of the earth. This confession of faith is what determined the character and the identity of Christians in the world as men and women of hope. For in the resurrection of Christ life triumphed over death and –for that reason– we know that the final and definitive destiny of man in the Father’s plan is not death, chaos, nothingness, absurdity, or failure, but life… and not just any life, but abundant life (Jn 10,10).

But this confession of faith, in order to be authentic (and not just from our lips) must be born today out of the same vital experience that was born in yesteryear among the first Christians: a transforming experience in their life through which they bore witness as new men and women (Cf. Eph 4,24; Matt 9,17), renewed in their mind (Eph 4,23); that is, with new criteria, with life based on the logic of the gospel and the wisdom of the cross, and not on the world’s logic (Cf. 1 Cor 1,21; Jn 8,23; Jn 15,18-21)… a transforming experience that caused them to proclaim throughout the world that He who was dead is now alive, he rose again and lives today among us.

Such a vital and transforming experience was evident among the early Christians and must be experienced, proven, manifested and preached today in the life of those who –like Christ himself– address God as their Father, (Gal 4,6; Rom 8,14), see themselves as his children and the brothers of all, by fulfilling the Father’s will, his mandate to love.

Today, the same as two thousand years ago, Christians are asked: What have we done with the One who rose from the grave? (Cf. Jn 20,2ff). Where can the world find Jesus Christ, the One who lives forever? This is the reason the confession of faith in the resurrection requires and commits us to present the living Christ in the world through the testimony of our transformed lives, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this way, the presence of the One who rose again becomes a reality in the world today through Christians that bear witness to the life of Christ within them and who cry out with Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20).

Society around us today seeks for possibilities and spaces of life in the midst of a “culture of death”. Such a search challenges us as Christians, all men and women who believe in the God of life that is eternal, full and abundant (Cf. Jn 10,10), believers in God who triumphed over injustice and death and offers us endless possibilities of new life.

Resurrection is the meaning of Easter. Paschal is a Hebrew word that means “passage”, transformation, change, conversion.

· Passage from death to life when we love each other (1 Jn 3,14).
· Passage from hate to love.
· Passage from sadness to joy: “A joy that nothing and no one can take from us” (Jn 16,22).
· Passage from selfishness to service and solidarity.
· Passage from egotism to a generous surrender of our life for the gospel (Lk 9,22-25).
· Passage from anger to forgiveness.
· Passage from iniquity to justice.
· Passage from competition to friendship.
· Passage from darkness to light.
· Passage from slavery to the freedom that belongs to the children of God.
· Passage from sin to grace.
· Passage from the old to the new.
· Passage from the condition of a slave to the life of a son.

Finally, if resurrection is abundant life (Cf. Jn 10,10, eternal life (Jn 3,16) and salvation, and if that full life and salvation is synonymous with happiness that every man and woman desires and hopes for, then Christ, his gospel and the entire saving, paschal and Christian reality is integrated in our life and responds to the fundamental question of humanity: the incessant search for happiness.

Christ saves us because he brings us happiness, teaching us to live his very life: the life that belongs to the children of God and the brothers of all, that enables us –in love- to enjoy a more friendly and just society, with justice and solidarity, equity and peace. There is no divorce between faith and life, between Easter and our daily experience, because the resurrection of Christ –and that for which all of us hope in Him- is the happiness that we seek and find in the everyliving One. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why did he call God “Father…”

“…Now the leaders wanted to kill Jesus for two reasons. First, he had broken the law of the Sabbath. But even worse, he had said that God was his Father, which made him equal with God.” (Jn 5,17-30). With this phrase, John the Evangelist sums up the conflict that Jesus faced with the Jewish authorities of his town and of his times (high priests, scribes, Pharisees, elders, etc.). A conflict that in the end issued in his passion, death and resurrection. Thus this phrase also introduces us to the celebration to the most holy week of the Christian calendar and specifically to the celebration of the Easter weekend.

He said that God was his Father: All the deeds of Jesus, all his words (parables), all his ministry together constitute good news for men and women of good will: the creator and God of the Old Testament is a compassionate and merciful Father “who takes no pleasure in the death of the sinner but desires that he be converted and live” (Cf. Mt 22,32-???), who “makes the sun rise on both good and bad people” (Mt 5,45), “who gives good things to people who ask” (Mt 7,10-11) and who – in Jesus – is the one who has come “to call sinners rather than good people to himself” (Mk 2,17).

Which made him equal with God: Jesus is the Son in the image and likeness of his Father. He is absolutely divine as well as profoundly and totally human. All his humanity is pure divinity. God’s perfection is realized in him, the perfection to which we are all called: “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect, compassionate and merciful, as the Father in heaven is compassionate and merciful” (Mt 5,48). Those who saw him, saw the Father (Cf. Jn 14,9).

He broke the law of the Sabbath: From his filial relationship with God, Jesus derived all the consequences for his own life and that of his disciples in all ages: We are all brothers (Cf. Mt 23,8), 4,11), with deeds, especially toward those who are most needy (Cf. Mt 25,31ff). With such certainty, he gave preference to his Father’s will, which consists in our loving each other (Cf. Jn 13,34) and he denounced and broke with a relationship with God that was only ritualistic, legalistic, external, cultic and sacrificial that pretended to honor and worship him while despising the less fortunate. For that reason, on many occasions, he spoke in that way, especially against scribes and Pharisees, who in their fulfillment of the law and their worship in the temple despised and avoided their fallen brothers (Cf. Lc 10,33ff):

  • “You hypocrites! You give to God one tenth even of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty.” (Mt 23,23).

  • “Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices” (Mt 9,13).

  • “Leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother” (Mt 5,24).

  • “Whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt 25,40).

  • “We cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen (1 Jn 4,20; 1 Jn 3,15).

  • “You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you”(Mt 18,33).

For that reason, Easter in Holy Week is the commemoration of the Son’s life surrendered completely to the Father’s will: for the establishment of God’s kingdom, as we see ourselves as children of the same Father loving each other as brothers and sisters.

For this reason also, the reading of the Gospel accounts of the passion and death are the realization of the unjust process carried out against Jesus as a consequence of his options: to suffer and die in the same way (Cf. Jn 1,29; Acts 8,32) and due to similar conflicts and motives for which centuries earlier the prophets of his people gave their lives and for those who today continue to die: all those who – like Jesus – offer their life to the cause of truth, of life, solidarity, justice, liberty, peace.

For all that has been said, Holy Week is the commemoration and realization of the life, passion, death and resurrection of the One who understood and taught us that life is won when it is lost, is given as a donation, surrendered, yielded, spent in favor of others and is lost when hoarded selfishly (Cf. Mt 16,25).

Today, as disciples of Jesus, we can experience Holy Week as the remembrance of some past deeds that have little relationship with our present, or as the remembrance of occurrences that today are realized in our own life and in the life of a world that needs men and women who are able to wash the feet of their brothers, sharing the same bread, bearing the cross of others, washing the face and consoling those who suffer the most, in order to provide a space for abundant life (Jn 10,10), resurrection life.