Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord
On January 11, this year, I lost my beloved father. Two days later, he was buried in the local parish cemetery. In Kerala, one of the 29 States in India and also a very Christian State, common Catholic cemeteries are rare. This is because from ancient times, parishes have maintained their own private cemeteries for their parishioners. It has huge implications for the survivors. This means that families do not always have permanent individual graves. My family will have my father’s grave only for three years. After this time, his remains will be ritually moved to a common resting place. In other words, my family and I will not have a grave to remember my father. We must find another way! We know the way! We will be compelled to look for my father elsewhere – in heaven. We better believe in the resurrection! After all, didn’t something similar happen at the first resurrection? On that first Easter Sunday, there was nothing in the grave. In the final analysis, there was no grave; only a stone that was removed. Even since that first resurrection, no grave is a permanent grave. Since that first resurrection, we must all look for our loved ones elsewhere. Our destiny is not the grave. Our destiny is a resurrected life with the risen Lord in Heaven.
Today is Easter Sunday, the Lord’s day of Resurrection. Let me offer three practical implications of Jesus’ resurrection.
- Death is Defined by Life. Each of the resurrection narrative begins in fear. On early Sunday morning after the crucifixion and burial, the women went to the grave to complete the burial rituals. They had buried Jesus in a hurry because the Sabbath was fast approaching. At their reaching the grave, they were terrified and struck with fear! They could not find the body of Jesus. I remember that moment between dad still being with us and his passing away. Mom and I were in the hospital room. Just a half-an-hour earlier, dad had opened his eyes ever so little. He had nodded to us when we assured him that we right there with him. A half-an-hour later, as mom and I sat right next to him, dad took six deep breaths and gently passed away. That first moment is a terrifying moment. In utter nervousness and grief, mom and I must have said a hundred “Hail Marys!” If you have been with your beloved ones at their moment of death, you know that it is a defining moment. Yet, for us who believe, death does not define death. Death is defined by life!
- Hope that Rises from Faith. In every one of the resurrection narratives, fear is followed by assurance. Angels appear to the women and the disciples with words similar to this: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” For the first time, the women and the disciples are introduced to another possibility – a hope that rises from faith. Before my dad passed away, it was decided that my beloved mother will move a thousand miles away with my brother. Before I left Kerala to return to my mother, I said to her, “Where would you like to be buried, just in case something happens to you? Would you want to be buried where dad is buried?” Mom said, “It does not matter! His grave will be no more!” Mom was not really concerned that she will not be buried to dad. Indeed, why should she be? If we really think about it, the angels were right! “Why should we seek the living among the dead?” Since my return to Dayton after my dad’s burial, I have had twenty-three funerals. Every one of these funerals have been hard, not only because I have buried some very dear people, but also because, every funeral has been a reliving of dad’s funeral. God just wouldn’t give me a break. In fact, one day I had two back-to-back funerals! It was as if at every funeral God was giving me a knock on my head saying, “Dad is alive!” What would we do without our faith that Jesus has risen from the dead? Thank God for my faith. Because of that faith I could do twenty-three funerals!
- Live Like You have Died! Today is Easter! Is there anyone who is here who does not believe that Jesus rose from the dead? If there is, let me say, “You just wasted and hour-and-a half of your life!” Now, I have a question for those who do believe! Do you believe that you have died and risen again? If you don’t, we have another group of people who is wasting their hour-and-a-half! What do I mean? Today, we are gathered here under the light of this Paschal candle. On the day of our baptism, the minister gave you a baptism candle that from lit from a similar Paschal candle, and said, “Receive the light Christ!” That candle had symbolized that our immersion into the water was our dying to sin and darkness and that our emerging from water was rising with Christ to new life and light. The Christian call then is to live like we have already died and risen. For this reason, believers are a called a “resurrection people.” We are resurrection people not only because we believe that Jesus has risen, but because we share in his very death and resurrection. As Paul says, “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. Today, we are the witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus! The world should in us a people who have died to those things that put Jesus on the cross – sin and selfishness, hypocrisy and self-righteousness, prejudice and hate, pride and arrogance. On the contrary, we live the new life of the resurrection – a life of love and mercy, peace and reconciliation, compassion and goodness, holiness and virtue, humility and righteousness!
In many ways, this altar is the empty tomb! In a few moments, we will enter into communion with the risen Lord in the same way that the disciples and the early church did! As we leave this church and go into our homes, our workplaces, and indeed the world, let us live like we have died and risen.
- Fr. Satish Joseph