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Sunday, 8 April 2012

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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.

Religious faith

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. Paul

St. Peter, the leading disciple

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 celebrations

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.

 

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