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Jesus, risen, give us life!

Some years back, a blockbuster movie tried to convince us that Jesus was not God but only a human being, married to Mary Magdalene. The movie is no longer in the news. But Jesus is still the big news of all time!

The following year, another film tried to convince us that men found the tombs of Jesus and his wife and relatives. They found his coffin and his bones, they said. The film did not change the world for the good. But Jesus today, stands as the greatest novelty of all. Jesus is not in the tomb. The tomb is empty. He is risen. He is alive!

It is interesting to note that men of today are trying to destroy our faith in Jesus, our Lord and God. While there are positive feature stories in magazines, television and film about other religions, almost all you hear about Jesus and Christianity, especially our Catholic faith, is negative and without inspiring value. To be Catholic and to be strong in our faith is truly getting difficult and challenging.

These days however, we have gained added strength and vigor from the Lord himself. We followed him from his Passover meal with the disciples to the courts of earthly kings who condemned him to death. We followed him to Calvary and saw Mary weeping at the foot of the cross. And then, our hearts told us, this cannot be the end of it all. There is so much more to Jesus than just death, even the noble death of sacrificing for others. In our hearts, the Holy Spirit whispered: He is alive and he is powerful and he is active in our midst!

This evening, we proclaim with might the same statement that emboldened the early Christians to go and share the good news. Jesus is risen from the dead. He rose from the dead because he is the victor over death. The Father has resurrected our Lord who is now the source of the Holy Spirit for us all.

What happened after Jesus died on the Cross? We are often silent about the passage that happened between the Cross and the empty tomb.

First, Jesus joined the ranks of the dead. Do we even realize what we mean when we say: ‘He was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into the dead. On the third day he rose again.’? He visited the dead, the men who died before him and were waiting for him, like the patriarchs, the prophets and the friends of God in the Old Testament. He joined them and opened the gates of heaven for them. Jesus was in total solidarity with them. In the silent period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Jesus was busy freeing the dead and bringing them to life eternal.

Who would like to be with the dead? We would rather visit the dead and pray for the dead when there is a wake. But listen to the cries of people who lament their loved ones’ passing away: Bakit mo ako iniwan? Isama mo na ako. Sasama ako sa iyo. Huwag mo akong iwan! Mabuti pang mamatay na ako. (Why did you leave me? Take me with you. I’m willing to go with you. It’s better to die, now that you are not here.) My grandmother had only one wish after my grandfather died. That was to die and join him, to whom she has given her heart and entire being.

People who know how to love know the meaning of solidarity; not mere compassion or empathy, not just pity or sorrow. Solidarity! And Jesus exhibited the most solidarity when he decided to join us in our death so that he can free us and give us life once again. Holy Saturday is silent not because God was dead in Christ. It is silent because the rejoicing happened in a place we cannot see. But there was real rejoicing.

Second, Jesus rose from the dead in power! This is the Easter proclamation: Sin is not the final word. Evil is not the champion. Hatred is not the slogan of humanity. Sadness is not our plight.

Easter proclaims Jesus risen and powerful to give life to the dead and also to us who live in hope of seeing him and experiencing him. How does this happen? It happens when we open our hearts. The empty tomb became a source of joy because Jesus showed his power within it. Our hearts must be like the empty tomb also. The power of Jesus must shine within and he must hold central place there.

In Lent, through prayer, fasting and sacrifice, through confession and devotions, we have unloaded the garbage of our hearts before the Lord. If you have done this, you know what I mean. You know what joy there is in following the Lord. If not, then we have wasted another year of our lives.

Yes, the power of the risen Lord is within us who listen to Him, receive Him in the sacraments and follow Him in our daily life of failure and struggles.

The resurrection is our one hope and the inspiration of our lives. St. Paul says to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:12-20) that the Resurrection is the power that moves us and strengthens us in our daily lives:

“But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

A man approached me one day to tell me that he was confessing his sins for the first time in many years. He suffered terrible problems in life and lost his faith. One day, going to Mass, he heard the priest proclaim that the love of God wants to enter his life. He thought about this and decided he will return to the sacraments. He confessed his sins crying for joy because at last, he said, I found my true friend!

This is a Resurrection story; a resurrection miracle.

Yesterday after the procession a man came to me to thank me for giving him the opportunity to serve the Lord again in the annual Good Friday procession. He said that before, Holy Week was not important to him. But he was invited by a friend to try serving the Lord in Holy Week and he did this every year since. His life has experienced tremendous blessings. He was blessed spiritually and materially.

This is another Resurrection story; a resurrection miracle.

The media can ignore Jesus all they want. The secular world can downplay his influence in our world. but Christians will continue to proclaim and live the mystery and power of the Resurrection of Jesus. by his Resurrection, he embraced the dead hoping in him and brought them life. He brings life to us as well, not only at the moment of our death, but every moment of our lives.

Open your hearts to the Lord. Let your hearts be empty of everything so that Jesus alone can reign. Praise the Lord, and rejoice in our Savior.