Lights and shadows of Easter
Easter reveals contrasting experiences. They are in fact its lights
and shadows, for in the brilliance of a blazing noon-day sun, both
phenomena are equally possible. It depends on where we stand!
One Gospel text says that the disciples rejoiced when they saw the
Risen Lord (John 20:20). But the same Gospels also mention that the
disciples were crestfallen, sad, sunk in grief and despair as were the
two disciples who were journeying from Jerusalem to the Emmaus village
(Luke 24: 17-24).
These two incidents are but a paradigm of many such multiple
manifestations of the lights and shadows of Easter. There are, for
instance, the contrasting episodes of the shocking denial of Peter, the
leading disciple and the scandalous Thomas, the doubting disciple which
has become almost proverbial.
Though Easter is a joyful event that affirms the glory of the Risen
Jesus of Nazareth, for us indeed a remarkable sign of hope, yet in the
scenario of the present world, the lights and shadows of Easter continue
to be a mixed reality.
Principalities and powers
Though we know that sin has been atoned for, the impact of the evil
principalities and powers have been vanquished and the shadows of the
grave and death driven out for ever by Christ, still the manifestation
of sin and its idolatries continue to stain the redeemed world and even
the Church, which is Godís Chosen people!
The Risen Jesus
There is loss of faith, lukewarm religious practice and scandal at
the heart of the Church. That is why we call Easter a Paschal Mystery
for it is a passing over from darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge,
death to life and finally, from sin to grace. We are all walking daily
this path of conversion and transformation. It is also our Pasch! Call
it an Exodus, if you wish, from the slavery of idols to the worship of
the True God.
The cross is only a symbol of all the evil forces blocking Godís
kingdom which coalesced to nail the Redeemer to his death. But, that
tree of death and shame became the Tree of Life, displacing the tree of
Eden that seduced mankind to sin and shame, making them shy away from
God and hide in the shadows of the bush. Humanity then was not ready to
face God and hold itself accountable for the misdeeds committed in the
abuse of freedom and the idolatry of their own wills and desires.
Much the same phenomenon is in vogue today as well. There is today a
crisis not only of Christianity, but of religion itself and that of
religious faith. A culture of pleasure and rationalism that cleaves only
to material well-being has engulfed the modern mind. It is caught up in
a whirlpool of distractions and illusions diffused by mass media. The
mass media seems to be an intruder into the inner sanctuary of our lives
as individuals and as families. The family fortress is under siege by
many a foe. The sanctuary of human civilisation, which is the family, is
being violated and vitiated in an alarming way by unseen forces. Once
this cultural base is blasted, society just crumbles!
Civilisation of love
Against these evils, the Church proclaims the Gospel of Life and
promotes a civilisation of love. She calls for a renewal of faith and
respect for human life and rights. She fosters interaction between
people of different faiths, cultures, races and political ideologies
spearheading structures and activities of dialogue in the face of
diversity - a de facto social condition, in which we all are obliged to
live today. The face of humanity is much like a multi-coloured mosaic.
St. Paul, the great protagonist of the message of the cross, declared
that Christ, through his cross and resurrection, had reconciled the Jews
and the Greeks, the most known and major ethnic groups at the time the
Gospel was being preached.
He demanded that the new converts give up the old way of immorality
and begin to live a life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17 and Galatians
5:22-25). Writing to the new Christians in Rome, he warned of utterly
dire consequences of Godís wrath on those who refused to live a life of
virtue and continued to give themselves to sensuality, debauchery of all
kinds and social evils (Romans 1:24-31).
St. Peter, the leading
All these misfortunes befall because people try to suppress the truth
about God and exchange it for a lie. Unfortunately, what we notice today
is a protracted and a much more entrenched tendency to even new forms of
evil where sin itself is canonised as legal! These are the shadows of
our modernity and post-modernity that tempt us to suppress the truth
about God and the dignity of every human person not to mention the
integrity of the material world, that handiwork of Godís creation and
hence not to be despoiled.
Yet, we need not panic or be crestfallen like the two friends heading
to the village of Emmaus, distressed and sad while leaving Jerusalem,
the city that tortured and killed the Messiah. For, there looms large
over our horizon signs of holiness, humanity, compassion and love among
people. There are so many works of charity and compassion going on in
favour of the disabled. There are many movements that have taken up the
cry of the poor and the oppressed.
Justice and truth
The media itself exposes crime and social evils. There are living
saints who bear witness to justice and truth: to the truth about God and
manís dignity. There are the contemplatives, the sannyasis, the great
writers, poets and mystics of our time who raise the mind and the heart
of man to the highest and the loftiest of ideals. There is still the
possibility, as Pope John Paul II said, for the two wings of reason and
faith soaring together to the heights of truth and beauty. A flowerís
innate beauty is still a mystery to behold and contemplate.
Innocence of children
The innocence of children is still a parable of Godís Kingdom
according to the teachings of Jesus and they challenge us to spiritual
childhood, the pathway for all adults to taste the blessings of the
Kingdom of God. There is talk of peace amidst the threats of war! The
Spirit has exploded among the laity, creating many movements of holiness
and gospel witness.
Easter compels us to rest in the hope of the goodness of God who is
ready to embrace the prodigals returning home. It reminds us of the good
shepherd who bearing even the stench of the sheep, keeps watch at the
gate to defend the sheep and is ready to dance with joy when he does
find a lost sheep caught in the briers and bleeding. Humanityís wounds
are assured of healing for in the words of St. Peter: ďin His wounds, we
are healedĒ (I Peter 2:24).
The challenge of Easter therefore is to minimise the shadows and
maximise the Light and the illumination of the Risen Lord. Nearer
mankind is to the Easter Light, greater its security that comes from the
Divine. We can then leave our shadows behind, however dark, thick, long
and frightening they may be.
Let God take the lead in guiding us through our wilderness and
deserts, like the cloud by day and fire by night as He walked with the
Israelites on their way to liberation !
The writer is Superior, Oblate Scholasticate, Ampitiya.