Living in hope despite...

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

Easter Sunday

In all parish churches in the Philippines, a beautiful para–liturgical ceremony called salubong (meeting) is done very early in the morning (usually at 4:30) of Easter Sunday. The men and women gather separately. At the appointed time, the women walk in procession behind the statue of the sorrowful Mother while the men behind the statue of the Risen Christ.

When the two statues meet at the designated place (usually in the town plaza or in front of the church), a little girl dressed as an angel is lowered from a platform and pulls out the black veil of the Blessed Mother and replaces it with a while one. Her black dress which is put over an elegant white dress is then removed. Then the “angel” intones the joyful Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) and the choir takes over:

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluja!
For He whom you were chosen to bear, alleluja!
Has risen as He said, alleluja!
Pray for us to God, Alleluja!

The salubong depicts a tradition in the early Church that after Jesus was raised from the dead, He first appeared to Mary. And why not? Mary loved Him as only a mother could and she suffered the most during His passion and death. Thus it was only proper that appear first to her and make her the first to receive the joy of His resurrection.

This beautiful ceremony affirms the people's faith in the resurrection which today's gospel describes in terms of the “empty tomb” (Jn. 20: 1-9). At that time, Peter and John, did not yet understand that Jesus was to be raised from the dead. Entering the tomb and seeing it empty, John, writing about his reaction, said, he saw and believed.

What did John see that made him believe? Just like Peter, the “empty tomb.” But John saw beyond it because he looked at it with the eyes of love. Thus for him the burial clothes and spices that littered the tomb were signs that Jesus had truly risen and that He was what He claimed himself to be — the Son of the Father, God–Made–Man, our Savior and brother. It was because of his love that the darkness of unbelief had been overcome by the “light” of Easter.

For many of us, Easter answers the most fundamental questions asked since time immemorial: What is the meaning of life? Is life just a vain struggle for some joy and satisfaction that is terminated by death or are we born only to suffer? After suffering, what? After death, what? What is evil and sin? Can we triumph over them?

These questions become more relevant when we experience deep personal crises. They are relevant now that we are experiencing extreme difficulties brought about primarily by the deteriorating economic condition prevailing not only in the world at large but specially in our country. This exacerbates the already immense poverty we see all around us. And because of this, we might be tempted to lose hope, to despair.

This should not be. By His resurrection, Jesus has shown us that life is not a meaningless puzzle. With it, we can find answers to life's questions ” personal and societal ” and act accordingly. Thus because He had conquered sin and death with His resurrection, pain, suffering and even death accepted and offered in faith and love, constitute a passage to exaltation, to a new life.

The message of Easter is this: Yes, we are poor. Yes, we have suffered and continue to suffer. But despite all these, we continue to hope, we remain a hope–ful people. Why? Because Jesus has risen. For if our Savior and Brother has triumphed over evil and even over death, then we, people of hope that we are, can do likewise.

With the Risen Jesus in our midst and within us, we can go against our evil inclinations and the established evil practices in our community and country — consumerism, vested interest, graft and corruption, etc. We can help work for their elimination by refusing to be a part of the system.

Finally, with the Risen Christ we can contribute our share in making this world a better place to live in especially by living the Risen Christ's values of truth, justice, peace and love. More concretely, we can make ourselves and our community better by living the Risen Christ's values of truth which includes honesty in all our dealings with others; of justice which includes giving others their due and working hard for the upliftment of the poor among us; of peace which includes resolving conflicts through non-violent means; and love which includes respect and understanding for all and sharing with those who have none.

Doing whatever good we can will certainly go a long way in making the values of the Risen Christ reign in our midst. May Mary, the first to enjoy the fruits of the resurrection, be always our guide and model!

A Blessed Easter to all!