THEME: EASTER: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
READINGS: Acts 10:34,37-43/ Colossians 3:1-4/ John 20:1-9
The words ‘East’ and ‘Easter’ have the same root. East is where the sun rises from. Therefore, East signifies the victory of light over darkness. Similarly, at Easter we celebrate the rising of Jesus Christ, the light of the world (cf. John 8:12). That is, we celebrate His triumph over the darkness of sin and death by His resurrection. Just as sunrise from the East is not just for a day, a few months or a few years but it is lasting, so the victory of the risen Lord was not just for yesterday, but for today and forever. In other words, as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), so is the victory of His resurrection!
Let us now consider the meanings of the three expressions: ‘Easter Yesterday’, ‘Easter Today’ and ‘Easter Tomorrow’. The song, ‘Because He lives’, will be useful for illustrating these three expressions. The song was composed in 1971 by the American couple, Bill and Gloria Gaither.
In the first place, ‘Easter Yesterday’ refers to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on that very first Sunday about 2,000 years ago. Referring to this original Easter, the song says, ‘An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives’. For some doubters, the empty tomb is not a sufficient proof. However, it was an adequate proof for the beloved disciple who entered the empty tomb that faithful day: ‘the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and believed’ (John 20:8; part of today’s gospel reading). Therefore, for us (who were not there 2,000 years ago), the empty tomb and the testimonies of the apostles are a sufficient proof.
The Apostle Peter who together witnessed the empty tomb with the beloved disciple testifies, according to today’s first reading: ‘We are witnesses of all that He [Jesus] did…. They put Him to death…. But God raised Him up to life on the third day and let Him be seen… by the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God – by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead’ (Acts 10:39-41). Beloved Jesus is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Secondly, ‘Easter Today’ refers to this very day, namely, Easter in the year 2020. Beloved, the song by Gloria and Bill Gaither encourages us: ‘Because He lives, all fear is gone’. Beloved, because the victorious Jesus is alive, all our fears, including the fears and worries due to the coronavirus pandemic should disappear. Amen!
Thirdly, ‘Easter Tomorrow’ refers to our life and the celebration of Easter after the current pandemic and ultimately our personal resurrection from the dead. Once again, the above-mentioned song assures us: ‘Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…. Because I know He holds the future’. And with regard to our future personal resurrection, the third verse of the song says: ‘And then one day, I’ll cross the river; I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; and then, as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory, and I’ll know He [Jesus] reigns’. Alleluia!
Beloved, let us reflect further on the first Easter and then draw some more inspirations for our Easter Today and Easter Tomorrow. At the first Easter, the power of the risen Lord blew away the huge stone used to ‘lockdown’ the tomb, and it ‘paralyzed’ the seasoned soldiers guarding the tomb (cf. Matt. 28:2-4). The risen Lord would then appear to the disciples, making the security of their self-imposed lockdown redundant (cf. John 20:19). This means that, because Jesus is risen and alive, no barrier can prevent Him for visiting us. It is an assurance that the risen Lord is with us today in our homes, hospitals, chapels, streets and other places. Indeed, as He assured the disciples, He is with us always until the end of time (cf. Matt. 28:20).
On that first Easter day, the risen Jesus took away the fears of the disciples who had locked themselves. He replaced their fears with His peace and the courage of the Holy Spirit. Thus, He told them: ‘Peace be with you’ and again ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:19-22). Beloved, similarly, today and forever, Jesus wants to take away our fears and give us His peace and the courage of the Holy Spirit. So, wherever we are today, let us open our hearts and minds to receive the peace of Christ and the courage of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the disciples were disappointed and in despair on account of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. For instance, when the risen Jesus joined Cleopas and his companion on their way to Emmaus, thinking that He was a stranger, they lamented: ‘He was crucified. Yet we had been hoping that He would be the one to set Israel free’ (Luke 24:20-21). But then the resurrection of Jesus changed their disappointment and despair into hope. Today and forever, Jesus wants to turn our disappointments and despair into hope. Let us, therefore, confide in Him!
Until they saw the risen Lord, the disciples were not only disappointed, they were sad. But their experience of the resurrection of Jesus replaced their sadness with joy. For instance, the sorrow of Mary Magdalene was turned into joy when she heard the familiar voice of the risen Lord call her name (John 20:16-18; cf. Mark 16:9). Secondly, when the risen Jesus appeared to the sorrowful and fearful disciples in the self-imposed lockdown, they rejoiced: ‘The disciples kept looking at Jesus and they were full of joy’ (John 20:20). Similarly, today and always, Jesus wants to replace our sorrow with joy. Let us, therefore, confidently turn to Him in our moments of sorrow.
Again, on the first Easter day, the disciples soon realized that the resurrection has turned the impossibility to possibility – death has been conquered by Jesus. Today, the Lord who conquered death assures us that bringing the coronavirus pandemic to an end is not an impossibility. The pandemic will certainly come to an end, as we play our parts well. In addition, the risen Lord assures us that any future pandemic or any kind of human calamity will be brought under control in Him.
Once more, the first Easter revealed more clearly to the disciples that Jesus was not only human but divine. He is truly God. Hence, the doubting Apostle Thomas would eventually affirm: ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28). He came to the realization since only God can conquer death, Jesus who conquered death is God. Beloved, Jesus who was God yesterday, is God today and will be God forever. He is, therefore, almighty and can handle all the difficulties of our lives. Let us, therefore, trust absolutely in Him today and forever.
Beloved, Jesus, the Son of God, who conquered death and thus makes the impossible possible, lives forever. ‘Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future; and life is worth the living, just because He lives.’ Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis