Friday, 21 April 2017

Easter Sunday Year A 2017

Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia. Yay...

But wait, why am I feeling blasé about it?

Could it be that the same jadedness was cause for Pope Francis, over the Triduum weekend, to berate the Church for her inaction in the face of a humongous humanitarian crisis. Conflict and refugees abound; how do we envision the Resurrection?

Perhaps there is a loss in translation?

According to the Gospel today, Peter and the Disciple Jesus loved, arrived at an empty tomb. They realised that the vacant sepulchre is a potent symbol of the Resurrection--a phenomenon that is both supernatural and natural. Supernatural not because we do not encounter this everyday but because it cannot be explained by categories of this world. And yet, it is natural because it involves the body. We caught sight of that at the raising of Lazarus. He died and was brought back to life. Now, stupendous though that may have been, resuscitation soon revealed its weakness in time because Lazarus would naturally fall again into the embrace of death.

The Resurrection, however, is different. It means that the body is now freed from the laws of nature not because nature is evil but because nature must give way to what had been intended for the human body--a supernatural existence. In other words, the Resurrection opened the gate for nature to enter another realm.

But, somehow or rather, this qualitative difference in existence is lost in translation for a generation breathing the air of global devastation and destruction.

How is that so?

Just recently, Egypt on Palm Sunday saw two attacks by the Islamic State on Christian worshippers as they prepared to enter Holy Week. Now that Easter has come and gone, what about those who are related to the 47 killed in the bomb blasts? What form of Easter would they have? Let us imagine this scenario in a more familiar setting, something closer to home. How about a man who lost his beloved wife on Good Friday? Would it be considered insensitive to joyfully greet him "Blessed Easter"?

Setting sensitivity asides, could this hesitation imply a loss in translation whereby our idea of the Resurrection is revealed to be closer to a material conception than not. It is as if the Resurrection has to be suspended as long as someone is suffering. It is true that the Resurrection is material because it involves the body but have we been so steeped in materialism to have missed its other-worldly quality?

We are not alone in our incapacity to grasp its metaphysical aspect. On Wednesday of the Easter octave, the Gospel will be taken from the Road to Emmaus. The two disciples could not fathom the Resurrection and Jesus along the road responded to their incredulity: "You foolish men, so slow to believe the full message of the Prophets. Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into His glory?" Jesus may well direct to us a similar response along these lines: "The Resurrection is supernatural, therefore, even if the world were to be embroiled in the worst calamity, the Resurrection is a promise given to you and nothing can ever change that".

Poverty is a global plight and along with it, universal indifference which possibly dulls our response to realities crying out for redemption. In the midst of that, the Resurrection stands as real and it is not contingent on a world at peace and without conflict. But because of our materialistic bias, it would appear that the more there are people who lack the bare necessities of life, the less possible it is to believe in the Resurrection. In a sense, there is not going to be a Resurrection unless we have fulfilled the material needs of people who are still suffering.

The Eucharist, therefore, plays a pivotal role in anchoring our faith in the Resurrection. It is true that the empty tomb is proof that something did happened. On the one hand, it could mean that indeed Jesus rose bodily but, on the other hand, it could also be that the Disciples really "stole" the body as alleged by the Jewish authorities. A more solid foundation for the Resurrection has to be established elsewhere—notably the practice of the believing community left by Jesus.

For the last 2000 years, the Church has celebrated her Resurrection faith through the Eucharist or the Mass. Even though the Synoptic Gospels record the Last Supper as a pre-Resurrection event, it is in fact a post-Resurrection reality. The proof is in John's Gospel, the one which does not log the event of the Last Supper. We find proof of the Resurrection in chapter 6, verse 51: "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world". Each Mass we celebrate, when Jesus says "Eat my Flesh and drink my Blood", He is in effect saying to us: "Eat my Resurrected Body and drink my Risen Blood".

The world is definitely in need of restoration. The cry for a world healed of all ills rings out through the voices of the battered, the bruised and the broken. From one angle, the restoration or the equilibrium which we all seek is akin to the "resuscitation" of Lazarus. Whilst it begins here, ultimately, it has to end in heaven. In between here and the Resurrection, maybe nothing will be resolved and yet, it is not a defeat. The Pope at his impromptu Easter homily said to this effect: "Do not stop there with whatever tragedies that behold you. Look beyond to the horizon where Christ is Risen".

Our Resurrection faith is secured by looking for Him in the Eucharist for when they arrived at Emmaus, He made as if to go on but they pressed Him to stay and "while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised Him". Karl Marx called religion the opium of the masses because its function is to make people forget. The Breaking of Bread, au contraire is help us recognise and remember that nothing, not even death has power over us because Jesus is victorious. He is there in the Eucharist for He is Risen. Alleluia. Alleluia.