POSTSCRIPT / April 12, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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There’s no other path to lasting peace and joy

THE GOOD NEWS!: Christ is risen! This joyous message echoes around the world today, proclaiming the triumph of life and love over death and hate.

We still have to hear the Easter message of Benedict XVI at noon (Vatican time) today and receive his blessing ‘urbi et orbi’ (to the city of Rome and to the world). But as the message is timeless and universal, we can safely listen to the Pontiff’s words spoken same time, same day, same place last year:

“Christ is risen! Peace to you! Today we celebrate the great mystery, the foundation of Christian faith and hope: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, has risen from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. We listen today with renewed emotion to the announcement proclaimed by the angels on the dawn of the first day after the Sabbath, to Mary of Magdala and to the women at the sepulcher: ‘Why do you search among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here, he is risen!’ (Luke 24:5-6).

“It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of these women at that moment: feelings of sadness and dismay at the death of their Lord, feelings of disbelief and amazement before a fact too astonishing to be true. But the tomb was open and empty: the body was no longer there. Peter and John, having been informed of this by the women, ran to the sepulcher and found that they were right.

“The faith of the Apostles in Jesus, the expected Messiah, had been submitted to a severe trial by the scandal of the cross. At his arrest, his condemnation and death, they were dispersed. Now they are together again, perplexed and bewildered. But the Risen One himself comes in response to their thirst for greater certainty. This encounter was not a dream or an illusion or a subjective imagination; it was a real experience, even if unexpected, and all the more striking for that reason. ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘peace be with you!’’ (John 20:19).

“At these words their faith, which was almost spent within them, was rekindled. The Apostles told Thomas who had been absent from that first extraordinary encounter: Yes, the Lord has fulfilled all that he foretold; he is truly risen and we have seen and touched him! Thomas however remained doubtful and perplexed. When Jesus came for a second time, eight days later in the Upper Room, he said to him: ‘Put your finger here and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing!’ The Apostle’s response is a moving profession of faith: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:27-28).

“‘My Lord and my God!’ We too renew that profession of faith of Thomas. Humanity today expects from Christians a renewed witness to the resurrection of Christ; it needs to encounter him and to know him as true God and true man. If we can recognize in this Apostle the doubts and uncertainties of so many Christians today, the fears and disappointments of many of our contemporaries, with him we can also rediscover with renewed conviction, faith in Christ dead and risen for us. This faith … continues on because the Risen Lord dies no more. He lives in the Church and guides it firmly towards the fulfillment of his eternal design of salvation.

“We may all be tempted by the disbelief of Thomas. Suffering, evil, injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent such as children who are victims of war and terrorism, of sickness and hunger, does not all of this put our faith to the test? Paradoxically the disbelief of Thomas is most valuable to us in these cases because it helps to purify all false concepts of God and leads us to discover his true face: the face of a God who, in Christ, has taken upon himself the wounds of injured humanity. xxx

‘By his wounds you have been healed’ (1 Peter 2:24). This is the message Peter addressed to the early converts. Those wounds that, in the beginning were an obstacle for Thomas’s faith, being a sign of Jesus’ apparent failure,… have become in his encounter with the Risen One, signs of a victorious love. These wounds that Christ has received for love of us help us to understand who God is and to repeat: ‘My Lord and my God!’ xxx

“Dear brothers and sisters, through the wounds of the Risen Christ we can see the evils which afflict humanity with the eyes of hope. By his rising the Lord has not taken away suffering and evil from the world but has vanquished them at their roots by the superabundance of his grace. He has countered the arrogance of evil with the supremacy of his love. He has left us the love that does not fear death, as the way to peace and joy. ‘Even as I have loved you — he said to his disciples before his death — so you must also love one another’ (cf. John 13:34).

“Christ is risen and he is alive among us. It is he who is the hope of a better future. As we say with Thomas: ‘My Lord and my God!’, may we hear again in our hearts the beautiful yet demanding words of the Lord: ‘If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him’ (John 12:26)…. Let us become apostles of peace, messengers of a joy that does not fear pain — the joy of the Resurrection!”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 12, 2009)

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