Breaking into New Realities

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection, 04 April 2021
Acts 10:34, 37-43  +  1Corinthians 5:6-8  +  John 20:1-9
Photo by author, Paschal Candles outside the Lord’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 2017.
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, 
inasmuch as you are an unleavened.  
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with old yeast, 
the yeast of malice and wickedness, 
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  
(1 Corinthians 5:7-8) 

A blessed, happy Easter to everyone in this most unholy time of the COVID-19 pandemic! I know, many of us are at a loss at how can we truly celebrate and experience Easter of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead when those among us are dying or have actually died in this recent deadly surge of corona virus infections.

Unlike Christmas which we could easily identify with the signs and symbols of birth and babies plus the cool climate of December, Easter has always been a problematique especially among us Filipinos now in the heat of the dry season. Making matter worse this year is the pandemic and its ECQ.

Christmas is always delightful. We are always drawn and attracted to the idea and reality that God became a child, making so many things great for us humans.

But, unlike Easter which is so different in the sense that here, God did not enter a familiar stage and state in our human life and existence. On the contrary – which is also its biggest plus factor and enigma – God broke through all human limitations to enter a new realm, a vast expanse of unknown realities that are beyond the most dreaded thing of all which is death!

That is why Easter to much extent is difficult to celebrate because it is hard to comprehend and explain or grasp with our limited reasons and yet, at the same time, it is so real, so true as something we have experienced deep within us!

More than those egg hunts and bunnies now gone – hopefully forever – due to the pandemic, Easter 2021 calls us for a deep, inner renewal of our selves. As we have been saying since Palm Sunday, this may be the holiest Holy Week of our lives in the most unholy time in history as it gives us many opportunities to pray and reflect this great mystery of Jesus risen from the dead.

If we truly wish to find the Risen Lord in our lives in this unholiest time of the pandemic with deaths and sufferings surrounding us, we need to go inside our selves as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, to commit ourselves anew to Christ in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist where we share his Body under the sign of bread.

Recall how last Thursday we were reminded how Jesus perfected and fulfilled the Jewish Passover with his very Body given to us on Good Friday. This Easter after having risen from the dead, Jesus our Bread of Life calls us to discard the old bread that is corrupted and spoiled; Christ has given us himself as our new yeast, new leaven penetrating the dough to make rise in us a fresh and wonderful bread even in the midst of this pandemic!

We have to discard the old leaven – our old selves and way of life in sin – to break new realities in Jesus and through Jesus. Easter is a passing over, a pasch when like Jesus Christ, we dare to cross and pass over life’s challenges and risks to achieve not only we are wishing for but sometimes, we have never even imagined – like the Lord’s rising from the dead!

“The Three Marys” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, from womeninthebible.net.
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." 
(John 20:1-2)

A few days before Ash Wednesday in February, we moved into our new assignments just in time for the start of the Lenten Season or 40-day preparation for this great feast of Easter. I have been assigned as chaplain to Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University and Medical Center in Valenzuela plus its five other branches at Quezon City, Antipolo City, San Fernando City, Cabanatuan City and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

I have been conducting my ministry basically “on-line” like Masses and talks and recollections.

And lately, praying over our sick and dying patients especially this past week with the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Due to the situation at the hospital and in compliance with the health protocols, we have devised a plan where the nurse on duty would text me for those requesting prayers for the sick with details of the patient and telephone number of the guardian. I would then call the guardian to ask him/her to bring the phone near the patient’s ear so I can pray aloud, and most of all, give the much needed absolution and commendation of the dying. Each nurse station is provided with a bottle of Holy Water for the guardian to sprinkle the patient at my signal.

After that, I pray over the guardian and bless him/her.

So far, for the past month since we have been doing this, nobody had called me what have happened to their patients, if they survived or not. I have stopped following up on them because usually, when I asked the guardian how was their patient, they would always tell me “buhay pa po siya” (he/she still alive), as if I were waiting for their death.

However, there were times some of the guardians have called me back to express their gratitude, telling me how they were relieved knowing their loved ones have been prayed for by a priest.

Last Holy Thursday at the height of so many COVID cases, I prayed over two patients successively.

That was very amazing and inspiring for me. They were “little moments of Easter” as people experienced deaths so close to home these days, even in the most surreal way, still believing, still hoping. We too have felt it one way or the other with requests for help and prayers by relatives and friends with patients sick with COVID and with other ailments lately when we felt so helpless, with nothing else to do and contribute except pray and worry.

That is the grace of Easter so abounding in this pandemic. Let us hope that with ongoing inner renewal among us of hoping against hope that love after all conquers death. Always and certainly as we have seen lately.

Like Mary, there are times we see nothing at all and say things we hardly think or process.

We feel at a loss, almost about to give up yet a tiny sparkle of faith and hope keeps us running to others for help whom we think could do something, maybe used by God to change or remedy our “lost” cause or situation.

That is where the grace of Easter is found every day: something very true and real within us keeps us believing in life and meaning, in God through Jesus Christ when all is gone and even lost.

Why still go to the tomb at all like Mary? If Jesus were already dead, what is the use of going to anoint him with oil and perfumes? Was Mary feeling something even so little, so tiny like hope against hope that Jesus could still be alive?

It was beyond her that she was terrified and ran to Peter upon seeing the empty tomb! She had felt that what was deep inside her was true after all, that there is a greater life beyond this that exists – exactly like what we believed – that there is Resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ because he himself we can feel deep inside us!

Like Peter on that Pentecost Sunday, we may not go on a discourse explaining what had happened because we have not witnessed the Resurrection like him but we speak out, we believe because we experienced life bursting forth amidst deaths and losses. Like Peter, we have witnessed so many other things, little moments of Easter that showed us signs of God’s abiding presence and love.

Like the light of the new day piercing through the darkness, there is the Risen Jesus touching us, assuring us, loving us and telling us that Easter is not an ending in itself for it continues now and shall continue until the end when Christ comes again to definitively put an end to death when we live eternally with him in the Father in heaven. Amen.

Blessed happy easter!

Photo by author, Mirador Center of Spirituality, Baguio City, January 2019.

2 thoughts on “Breaking into New Realities

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