Finding Jesus in Easter darkness

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe in the Octave of Easter, also Divine Mercy Sunday, 19 April 2020

Acts 2:42-47 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< 1 Peter 1:3-9 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< John 20:19-31

Carrying around our parish the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday afternoon since lockdown began.

I have almost forgotten – and it is only now amid this extended lockdown – that I have realized the first Easter happened in darkness! We are in the same situation with the Apostles when Jesus rose from the dead.

What we need is to “quarantine” ourselves more, our heart and soul within to see and recognize our Risen Lord among us like during that first Easter.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:19-23
Stained glass at the back of our parish church depicting the appearance of the Risen Jesus with Thomas, aka, Didymus. Photo by author, 02 April 2020.

Jesus always comes in darkness to bring light of peace

In our reflection last Holy Wednesday, we have mentioned how Jesus was born during the darkest night of the year to bring us that light of hope and salvation. The same is true with Easter when he resurrected in the darkest part of the day just before dawn.

Jesus indeed is the light that bursts and pierces through the darkest darkness of the world and of our very lives, our sinfulness. This is the reason we also celebrate this Sunday the Feast of the Divine Mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

Through his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus is the only one who can penetrate through whatever blockages and imprisonment we have or we are into like sin and evil, pains and hurts in the past that filled us with so much guilt.

In his Divine Mercy, Jesus had come to give us our life back complete with the gift of freedom that we have all lost to sin and evil.

And that is why on Easter, Jesus gave us his greatest gift of all which is peace or shalom in Hebrew that means wholeness or holiness. To be whole literally is to have a good relationship with one’s self, with others, and with God.

Vatican II asserts in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:

Peace is more than the absence of war: it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing force not does it arise out of despotic dominion, but it is appropriately called “the effect of righteousness” (Is.32:17). It is the fruit of that right ordering of things…

Gaudium et Spes, no. 78

Righteousness in the bible means justice that is also equivalent to holiness which is, to be filled with God, not necessarily to be sinless. That is why after greeting them with peace the second time, Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit, an imagery that reminds us of the story of creation when God breathed on the first humans to have life.

At Easter, we were breathed on again by the Risen Lord to renew our lives, to fill us again with God and be closest to him in our breath and thus enabling us to be free again from sin and evil, free for God and for others.

What a joy to read these days due to lockdowns worldwide that the Sierra Madres and Mt. Samat can be seen again from the metropolis or the Himalayas from India after 30 years due to clearer skies with less pollution. Or, the lions in Africa’s wildlife parks lazily sleeping without being disturbed by humans.

These are proofs that there is life indeed amid the darkness of this pandemic when Jesus restores life and balance, making everything new and alive again!

Peace and mercy, unity and mission

At his Supper before his arrest, Jesus prayed to God our Father that we may all be one – ut unum sint – like him and Father (John 17:21) are one. This would be partly fulfilled on Easter and eventually at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when the Church is eventually launched.

It is in our faith that we enter into communion with the Father in Jesus Christ and with one another as a community, as a church.

That is why it was a beautiful imagery of Thomas eventually joining them the following Sunday not because he lacked faith; he had faith that is why he came to see and experience Jesus. And that faith bloomed upon encountering Jesus again that according to tradition, Thomas preached the good news to India where he died a martyr by being skinned alive.

We have always said in our previous reflections that whenever and wherever there is faith, there is always union and unity with God and others.

Eventually, from every unity and community, there is always mission.

In our first reading today we have heard how the early Christians were one in their faith, always praying, that is, celebrating the Eucharist from which flowed out their mission.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

Acts 2:44-45
Easter in our Parish amid COVID-19.

In his entire life, we have seen that Jesus had always been clear in his being sent, that the words he had spoken and things he had done were not all his but from and by the Father.

Watch closely John’s narration of after the Lord’s Resurrection:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

John 20:19-21

After giving them the gift of peace and filling them with his breath of life to signify they have been forgiven for their sins and failures when they left him on Good Friday, Jesus is now drawing them into his great mission: As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

This is the defining and definitive characteristic of the Church, of any community of disciples in every age, most especially in this time of the corona virus pandemic.

Our mission continues in the darkness of COVID-19

Churches may be closed, public Masses are banned but the mission of proclaiming in words and in deeds the good news of the Risen Lord continues very loud and clear.

Detractors would always malign us, would spend for trolls just to ask “where is the Church in this time of crisis” but the people know best that we have never been remiss nor even flinched a single second whenever disasters strike anywhere in the world.

In the darkest moments of history in the past up to the present, the Church as a community of disciples of Jesus has always shine so brightly in Christ standing up for the poor and oppressed, the marginalized and forgotten, the sick and the hungry, those suffering in the most far-flung areas with its extensive networks of parishes and BEC’s.

This is also the reason why people always malign us in the Church about what we are doing amid the poverty and sufferings of the world: we work in silence because we are merely being sent by Jesus Christ. Like him our Lord and Master, whatever we say and do are not ours but the One who sent us, the Father in heaven.

We merely represent Jesus Christ who represents the Father and guided by the Holy Spirit, together we forge onto the darkness of this pandemic despite the many sufferings we go through, “tested by fire so that we may prove to be for the praise, glory, and honor of revealing Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7).

This is who we are, disciples of Jesus sent to proclaim his love and mercy especially in the midst of all darkness.

This Sunday amid the darkness and threats of COVID-19, let us join the psalmist in his song, “Give thank to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting” (Responsorial Psalm , Ocatve of Easter).

A blessed week to everyone. Stay safe but keep working for the Lord! Amen.

Easter Vigil in our Parish, 12 April 2020.

Photos in the collage clockwise: Malolos Diocese Social Action Center, Inc. with Caritas Manila spearheading relief operations in Bulacan; Sisters from the Daughters of St. Anne walking through fields and mountains to reach out to our poorest of the poor; trays of thousands of eggs to be given away to fisherfolks in Binuangan, Obando by Fr. Ramon Garcia III; last two photos, beneficiaries of the 10-m Php worth of Gift Certificates given throughout Bulacan before Holy Week that included everyone even those from other faith and beliefs.

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