Easter is getting real, not “ghosting”

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The Lord Is My Chef Easter Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter-B, 14 April 2024
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 ><}}}}*> 1 John 2:1-5 ><}}}}*> Luke 24:35-48
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 27 March 2024 at Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort, Infanta, Quezon.

More than ten years ago, there used to be a billboard at the C3-Banaue area in Quezon City that said, “True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and only a few have seen.”

I googled the saying and found it was from French moralist Francoise de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680). Nonetheless, we remembered that billboard because in our gospel today, we have heard how the Apostles thought upon seeing the Risen Lord that He was a ghost!

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones and you can see I have.”

Luke 24:36-39

“The Road to Emmaus” painting by American Daniel Bonnell from fineartamerica.com.

This is the last Sunday we shall hear a story of the Risen Lord’s appearance to His disciples; beginning next Sunday, our gospels will be the accounts of Jesus Christ’s discourses at their Last Supper.

It is not really important to count how many times the Risen Lord had appeared to His disciples who in the first place never bothered themselves with it. John explained it last Sunday why only a few of these were written so that we may believe and have life in Him (Jn.20:31). There are two things we find always in these few Resurrection stories that convince us the Lord is risen.

First, there is always the intensity we feel in the Resurrection stories we have. Even though there is no account of how it happened, we could feel in the whole New Testament that it actually happened. It is historical but beyond the physical and ordinary. So real yet surreal. That is why initially, there is the incredulity not only among the disciples but even among us at this time. As we say in Filipino, “hindi makapaniwala” as opposed to “hindi maniwala” because Jesus Christ’s Resurrection opened new possibilities in our human existence that only faith in Him can explain though not fully. It is when all we can say in Filipino is “a…basta!”

From this intensity of His Resurrection, there is always that movement to gather together as a community of the risen Lord’s disciples. Easter is always in the context and setting of a community. See how Jesus would always tell or lead His disciples to gather together as a community, always appearing to them when there are at least two of them gathered like Clopas and companion on the way to Emmaus on the evening of Easter. And we see its effect – once they recognized Jesus at His breaking of bread, they both hurried back to Jerusalem to join the other disciples to share the good news!

That’s the beauty and mystery of Easter. It is so intense, so true we can feel and experience, always leading us to gather together as a community, as a family. It is never selfish nor personal. Do we have the same intensity today as individuals and as a community especially in our Sunday Masses?

From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”

Today’s gospel scene is the continuation of that Emmaus story. While Clopas and companion were telling the disciples their experience, Jesus suddenly came into their room and again, they were startled and terrified.

But Luke added that one word “ghost” that was used twice in this scene: first in v.37, “But they were starteld and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost” and in v. 39 when Jesus read His disciples’ minds, telling them to “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

Sorry for the long introduction as I wish to direct our attention to that word ghost.

When we were growing up, there was a cartoon show on TV called “Casper the friendly ghost.” In Filipino, we always refer to ghost as multo, something scary because like the aswang, they look terrible and would always harm people. That is why the Church later on changed the name Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit because of the very negative connotation of the word ghost.

These days, the young people are using again the word ghost, turning it into a verb form that means so negative: ghosting as in “iniwan sa ere”. At first, I thought to be ghosted is the equivalent of what we used to say “na-Indian” when a date or someone stood you up in a meeting or coming together.

But ghosting is more than just not appearing nor coming to a meeting or get together. It is almost like betrayal or infidelity. Precisely what the youth say, to be left hanging on air not knowing at all what is next. Very disappointing. Most of all, painful as it hurts us deeply when ghosted. The Filipino expression says it all completely, iniwan sa ere which is worst than the English expression “dropped like a hot potato”. To be ghosted is to be betrayed, to be taken for granted, to be discarded like a thing. It is utter lack of respect to another person. Worst, it is lack of life fulln of pessimism and indifference to life itself.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, 18 March 2024.

Jesus Christ is not a ghost. Had never and would never ever ghost us because He is faithful, truly alive and truly present with us especially in our darkest and emptiest moments in life. Many times, we do not see nor recognize Him because we are so focused at how we were ghosted especially by loved ones.

In the first reading, we heard Peter’s second discourse on Pentecost Sunday about the Resurrection of Jesus as the summit of everything that was written in the Old Testament, the fulfillment of salvation history. But at the same time, he was telling the people of how they have ghosted the Lord “whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he decided to release him” (Acts 3:13).

Peter was not accusing the people then or anyone today for being accomplices in Jesus Christ’s death because he himself denied the Lord thrice, remember? Peter ghosted Jesus too but repented. And that was his point to everyone including us today of how may times we too have ghosted Jesus when we sin against each other, when we betray our loved ones, when we are remiss in our duties and responsibilities, when we are unfaithful that people fail to experience the Risen Lord coming to them.

Peter is asking us this Sunday to look into ourselves at how we continue to ghost each other that we contribute to the vicious circle of violence happening in the world that often starts right in our family and community, even in the Church.

That is why the beloved disciple asks us in the second reading “to keep his commandments so that we may not commit sin” by rejecting the lusts of the flesh not only in the sexual sense but in all of our selfish interests. Most of all, to imitate Jesus Christ by living like Him full of love and kindness, always understanding and forgiving and caring especially of the weak and marginalized.

Photo by author, 09 April 2024.

The Resurrection remains a mystery. It is a call for us to be real with flesh and bones not like a ghost. Easter is an invitation to live our lives as Easter people, full of joy and hope in Christ even when the chips are down.

Being real as opposed to ghosting means proclaiming Jesus Christ with our very own witnessing of His loving presence and service to others with our very lives.

Being real as opposed to ghosting is avoiding “back burning” those dearest to us.

Being real as opposed to ghosting is not “bread crumbing”, of being mediocre that we do only the bare minimum.

Easter is Jesus faithfully present with us especially in the most trying and difficult moments of our lives because He assures us nothing can keep us nor hostage us in whatever darkness or emptiness we are in.

Not being able to see someone does not mean that someone does not exist. Many times in life, it is after our loved ones are gone – permanently or temporarily – when we actually experience them closest. That’s because of the Resurrection of Jesus!

Let’s get real by praying:

Lord Jesus Christ,
open my mind and my heart
to Your words;
let me develop that prayer life
You have always been inviting me
to get into a relationship with You;
let me find You in my wounds
so I may find Your glory too;
let me find You in my many hurts
and scars in my heart so I may
find and share Your healing and
comfort with those still in the
darkness of Good Friday
or silence of Holy Saturday;
dearest Jesus,
fill me with life and joy
so that people may see You
in me alive
and not like a ghost.
Amen.
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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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