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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Believing and Living the Story

Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection Sunday, April 12, 2009 (Jn 20:1-9)

By Dean Louis Bascon

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

The Lord is truly risen, Alleluia! Today, the Church celebrates the greatest of all feasts, the feast of the Lord's triumph over sin and death, the Solemnity of Easter. Indeed, the importance of this great feast in our faith is so great that its celebration is extended for eight days until next Sunday, the Octave of Easter. It is further extended for seven weeks, the seventh Sunday being Pentecost Sunday, making the Easter celebration a season, the Easter Season.

The resurrection of Christ is the central point of our faith. It gave peace and hope to the apostles who where then very afraid and despairing. Had Christ not risen from the dead, our faith is in vain and death would have triumphed over love. But, as it was, God proved His love to be more powerful than death, indeed, tougher than nails!

The Gospel for Easter Sunday narrates to us how Mary of Magdala was surprised at seeing the first symbol of the resurrection, the empty tomb. Thinking that the body of her Lord was taken away, she ran to tell Peter and John (the beloved disciple) what she saw. John, the first apostle to arrive at the tomb, was also the first to believe. He believed upon seeing only the empty tomb and the burial cloths. He believed even if he did not understand perfectly. We too, as Christians, believe in the resurrection.

But more than being a major tenet of Christianity, the resurrection of Christ is also a challenge. Indeed, it is true that we who believe in Him will also be resurrected. But for us to experience resurrection, we must also suffer like Him. We need to strive for holiness amidst a world of sin, even if it means being persecuted for it. That is precisely what Jesus did and is calling us to do. He was hated by the world (Jn 15:18) because He did not conform to worldly ideals. But He showed the world that He was right through His resurrection.

If we follow Christ, the world will also persecute us as it persecuted Him (Jn 15:20). We too will have to suffer much if we choose to be holy. But we should not lose hope, because we know how this story would end - in our own resurrection.

The Gospel presents to us the symbol of the empty tomb. This tomb is empty because the "deadly things" have been destroyed by Christ's redemptive act. Christ is no longer in the tomb, because death cannot hold Him. Death will not be able to hold us too if we do not take pleasure in the "deadly things" - and what is "deadly" but sin?

Yes, Christ is risen and we believe it! We rejoice in the Lord's day! But more than just believing in the resurrection, as the beloved disciple did, we are challenged this Easter Season to live the resurrection story, to die to our sinful selves, to empty our tombs, to endure sufferings brought about by our striving for holiness, so that we may resurrect like our risen Lord.

Happy Easter to all! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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