The Obispo Maximo’s Message on Easter | April 9, 2023
DEARLY BELOVED PEOPLE OF GOD
In the Iglesia Filipina Independiente
I greet you all warmly in the traditional greetings of Easter: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” And wish everyone a joyous and meaningful celebration of Easter this year despite the continuing season of pandemic among others. May our gathering in corporate worship this Easter Sunday and throughout the Easter Season celebrate this immense joy and proclaim the liberating message of the Lord’s resurrection to overcome sad and death-dealing situations prevailing in our today’s time.
The continuing pandemic, however it is degraded, combined together with deteriorating socio-economic and political situation in our country and in the world, has compounded to dampen our national life and casted darkness over our chances both in our present and future. As people, we appear hopeless and destine to just accept and come to grips to reality that indeed nothing can be changed, that darkness and death prevail, that life goes in static, that everything is, like the famous Filipino cliché, “same as usual.”
Mary Magdalene and the other women found themselves in the same situation; in fact the two gospels (John 20:1–18 and Matthew 28:1–10) – being the prescribed readings for the Easter celebration – agreed to describe that the women were going, literally and figuratively, still in darkness because it was still dawning on that morning of the first day of the week when they visited the tomb where the Lord Jesus was hurriedly buried in that tragic Friday afternoon. They seemed to accept the reality of the death of the Lord Jesus as they came to perform the last rite of cleaning his dead body. They seemed to come to grips to the reality about the violent and oppressive rule of the foreign rule of the Roman empire in collaboration with the ruling religious elite in their society. They seemed to expect that what awaited them was “same as usual,” expecting that the tomb was still sealed and had to wonder how they would roll on the stone covering the tomb. They seemed to lost hope – or forget – that God can pull great surprises.
But in Easter, we are shown that God’s power, though working in silence, is changing things and transforming situations so that hope and life may come to the open and define all human existence within the perspective of God as demonstrated in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. For in God, death has been rendered stingless and has no more power over God’s people. God “has taken away” death; it is “not here” anymore! God’s power has supplanted it with life and by his grace has enabled hope to spring out, so that God’s people may not walk in darkness, live in despair and lose sight in pursuing life in its fullness. In Easter, God’s great love is made more sharp to demonstrate not only the reason for sending his well-beloved Son to the world but also for raising him up to witness to that love which could prevail over death and sin. For as Pope Francis says “God is love and he has defeated evil.” In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, God’s love is being wrapped up by life and hope, made open for our embrace.
Truly, “the resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless” (Joseph B. Wirthlin). But as we celebrate this joyful season, may it be clear to us as God’s people that Easter is not simply the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it is largely our living out with him being the resurrected Lord so that we shall persist and endure to proclaim life and live out hope in our day to day living. Hence, in both gospels we heard the divine imperative to go and to tell others about the life that conquers death and the hope that defeats despair and the love that overcomes evil. We are asked to go forth to radiate the wonder of his resurrection and manifest in our words, deeds and actions that we are part of that Easter community that fights off darkness, sin and evil wherever we find ourselves are and whenever we are expected to do so. Borrowing the words of Pope Francis, “We proclaim the resurrection of Christ when his light illuminates the dark moments of our existence.”
Indeed, we affirm that Easter is the demonstration of God that life is essentially spiritual and timeless, and hope is basically a driving force, for “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain” (Heb 6:19 NRSV) as we “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23 NRSV). Easter tells us then that life is to be seen and understood in the light of hope emanating from Christ’s resurrection and to be interpreted and shown in the ideals of love, justice and peace. For after all, as one author said, “Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life” (Craig D. Lounsbrough).
Again a happy and joyous Easter to all as we declare that Christ is risen indeed in us. Stay all safe and be kept in God’s liberating power and life-giving grace.