As Christians all over the world we celebrate the Easter Sunday, we meditate on the following readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9.
The main theme of these readings is the faith after the resurrection of Jesus which became the cornerstone and the object of the apostolic preaching. It is a strong faith which was born after Magdalene, Peter and John and anybody else who wanted to know the whereabouts of Jesus was greeted by the empty tomb.
St Paul explains to us that it is a faith that calls all Christians of all ages to make a difference in their life; the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a call for us to join Him by living a qualitatively new life.
On Easter Sunday the song sung by Christians all over the world is ‘He is risen! Alleluia!’ This liturgical and ancient song is not only beautiful but it expresses well our Easter joy which reminds us the cry of Mary Magdalene.
She was crying of joy as her mind discovered the truth: “Yes, Christ my hope is arisen”. Christ who loved us, died for us, is alive! He has overcome death, and sin, for ever.
We too continue to sing: “He is risen” in the present tense, to emphasize that what our faith celebrates with fervour is not only a one-time happening in the past that affects our present condition in our modern time, but rather the continuing presence of the risen Christ by our side and at every moment of our life today.
And here is the meaning of our Christianity, that faith in the Saviour who is present here with us and not living in a far-off heaven. That feeling, and that belief do enable us to refer constantly to the living, personal and interactive presence of Christ in all our human activities, our encounters and our daily challenges.
On Easter morning everything had to change. The event turned life on its head! “It was still dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb that morning.” This is one of the typical Johannine symbolisms.
The Apostle is telling us that before the faith in the resurrection of Christ, we are all kind of sunk in the deepest darkness of sin, death, meaningless and despair. As Christ rises and he does it existentially for us all, the sun rises on a new day that will never have an evening! Easter Sunday should be a day of real celebration for all of us. It is “the day that the Lord has made”. The question is how you personally plan to make it special.
The empty tomb represents the normal condition in which each believer has to encounter Christ after his resurrection. To know him as Mary Magdalene did after Peter and John departed is not given to us as an experience. Even for Magdalene, it was so short lived! Jesus tells her not to continue clinging to that kind of perception of his presence on earth.
On the other hand, John’s experience is more paradigmatic for Christians in our present situation. John saw -the empty tomb-, with the disposition of the burial cloths apparently undisturbed, as if the body of Jesus had simply been “subtracted” from within them, and for him this was enough. He saw and believed. And that is what he wants us to do: To see and believe.
To see and to believe: that is our way to faith. To see the millennial faith of the Church; the witness of her real representatives, the saints, the credibility of the gospel narratives, of the Church’s dedication to her mission, and above all, to see because God, without forcing us, shows us mysteriously in the depth of our hearts, that it is true, and therefore to believe wholeheartedly that Jesus has risen from the dead; is the life and the witness of the Christian today.
Consequently, anyone who really has this resurrection faith cannot live like the rest any more. It is an experience that must change our life. There must be something new in our priorities and what matters to us; in the time we give to prayer, in how we talk about others and in the way we treat them.
If we have risen with Christ (and we have!), whether or not we are aware of it, sincerity and truth should lead us to be genuine and authentic Christians and no longer hide our Christian reality because in certain environments we are ashamed of it, or because certain of our actions don’t in fact reflect it, or because we don’t bear witness to it by doing all the good it should lead us to do, in our family, social, civic, school or professional surroundings.
Despite of all our weakness, Peter defines our role as Christians after the resurrection of Christ. We too have been transformed from fearful and passive individuals into tireless and intrepid Christians.
And to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ should be to bear witness to what it has done in us. And this becomes evident when we remain open to the intervention of the Holy Spirit.