Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Al Cariño
April 20, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

If Jesus lived today, the international media, complete with pictures and video footages, would have treated the resurrection as Breaking News and and perhaps would have written it up with a screaming headline as follows:

Woman, two others find empty tomb!
Jerusalem - Early Sunday morning, a woman named Mary of Magdala went to the tomb to mourn the death of Jesus called the Nazarene and believed to be of the line of King David. She found the large stone which covered the entrance of the tomb removed. After she reported what she saw to Peter, the leader of a ragtag band called "apostles", he and a young man named John raced to the tomb. When they arrived, they only saw strips of linen and a burial cloth. Otherwise, the tomb was empty.

Recall that when Jesus drove the merchants from the Temple, He said pointing to His body, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." There is now talk that Jesus has risen from the dead.

Last Friday, the Nazarene was put to death by crucifixion after Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator in Jerusalem, was pressured to do so by the religious leaders of the Jews.

And why not? After all, it is not everyday that there is news of a person rising from the dead. And considering the reputation Jesus built over three years as a teacher ("no one has spoken like this man"), the miracles He worked and His promise that He would rise again, His resurrection will not pass unnoticed. Not only that, there will be regular news updates with interviews of witnesses, talk shows, commentaries, news analysis and so on.

CHRIST IS RISEN! For the believing Christian, this is the greatest news ever. For it is on this good news (gospel) that his faith is anchored. Take away the Resurrection and Jesus would only be one of those run-of-the-mill charlatans. Worse, He would be the biggest fraud ever for He did not come across with a promise so outlandish - to rise from the dead. But with the Resurrection, Jesus proved what He claimed Himself to be: the Son of Father, God-Made-Man, our Brother and our Savior. This is what we celebrate today.

John in his gospel develops the theme of light vis-a-vis darkness. Jesus comes as "light" that shines in the darkness and "darkness has not overcome it" (Jn. 1:5). The liturgy of Holy Saturday highlights this theme in the Service of the Light.

The Gospel reading (Jn. 20: 1-9) talks about the "mystery of the empty tomb". At the end of the reading, John, speaking for himself, said that he saw and believed. At that time, he and Peter did not yet understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. But seeing the empty tomb, he believed. The "light" began to shine on him. He believed that Jesus would not remain buried in the "darkness" of the tomb.

The empty tomb, though very important, is not enough. It is not an absence that we seek but a PRESENCE. The Easter gospels tell us of this presence. Where? In many places. Outside of the tomb, Mary Magdalene met Jesus after which she excitedly told the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." In the upper room where after Jesus showed His followers His hands and side, Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" On the road to Emmaus where the two disciples reflecting on their encounter with Jesus, said, "Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?" These are definitely real experiences of the Risen Lord's presence.

Experiencing the presence of Jesus changed their lives for good. They began to love and ceased to be timorous. They considered it their glory to suffer in His name. They proclaimed the Easter Message, Jesus' Gospel of Love, in the open, far and wide.

With His Resurrection, Jesus is victorious over death. He is called the first born of the dead whom we are to follow: "I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance." Following Jesus is not just being baptized and coming to life agian with the grace of baptism. In between, we have to join ourselves to God by goodness, love and faithfulness. This is the difficult part. This can mean a lot of dying to ourselves as we follow in the footsteps of the Risen Jesus. When we fail, we rely on His divine mercy.

For us, the challenge of Easter is to follow Jesus in love. This is what His post-resurrection appearances did to His disciples. This is what Jesus is asking from us now. When we respond, when we also begin to love Jesus and in Him, our neighbor, then His Resurrection will finally begin to have meaning in our lives. For then Jesus has become the Light of our lives.

May the Risen Lord bless all of you always!