Easter is new existence in Christ

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The Lord Is My Chef Easter Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, 07 April 2024
Acts 4:32-35 ><))))*> 1 John 5:1-6 ><))))*> John 20:19-31
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Retreat House, Baguio City, 2018.

We celebrate today the Octave – eighth day – of Easter which coincides with the Feast of Divine Mercy. Both Christmas and Easter observe an octave signifying eternity because when you count from Easter Sunday to this Sunday, there are actually eight, not seven days. That is why there is no such thing as weekend for us Christians because the week never ends but continues on and on every Sunday.

And that is also the mystery, beauty and reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection that according to Pope Benedict XVI, “a life that opens up a new dimension of human existence” (Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, p. 244).

Photo by author, view the refectory, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 18 March 2024.

From now on, nothing can hold us nor keep us locked in sadness and grief, suffering and misery as well as sin and death because in rising from the dead, Jesus had opened up for us new possibilities in the future not only in eternal life but right here on earth.

Like the apostles on that same evening of Easter, we also find it so difficult to grasp and understand, even believe and explain right away though we could feel and experience deep down within us that Jesus is risen.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:19-22

Photo by author, dusk at Sacred Heart Novitiate, 20 March 2024.

Since Sunday we have the prevalence of darkness and emptiness in our Easter stories, reminding us how often that it is in the darkness of our lives when we find light, when in the midst of emptiness when there is fullness.

This Sunday we find the presence of Jesus but still in an unusual manner. There was still darkness for it was night but more than that was the darkness within each disciple who locked themselves inside the Upper Room for fears from Jewish officials who might arrest and put them to death like Jesus.

Many times in life we feel locked in, imprisoned in some situations, feeling resigned as there is no way out from our troubles and miseries but through faith in Jesus, out of nowhere and without any explanation at all, we find ourselves extricated from our inescapable situations.

When my youngest sister was diagnosed with cancer the other year, she told me how she prayed on the eve of her surgery asking God to simply give her the grace to accept whatever the results of her tests would be. But after her surgery, it turned out her cancer was at its earliest stage that required no treatment at all except constant medical checkups! Last February on her major checkup again, doctors found no traces of cancer in her while her surgery had healed so well.

Hope is not positive thinking that things could get better; in fact, to hope is even to expect things to get worst like when the disciples were hiding in fear, expecting to be arrested too. Or my sister resigning to God her fate, just asking for the grace to accept she had cancer.

But it was in that darkness when Christ came and brought light to His disciples and my sister and our family. Strangely enough, it was after seeing the wounds of Jesus when they rejoiced because that proved that the Lord had risen. It was in my sister’s cancer we found ourselves together more in love and care for each other.

In life, our wounds will remain with us but most important of all for Easter to lead us into new existence in Christ, we must first remain in Him and with one another amid our wounds and darkness around us. And for us to remain or stay in Jesus with each other, we must first come.

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst… Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands”… Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?”

John 20:26, 27, 28-29

Caravaggio’s painting “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” (1602) from en.wikipedia.org.

My dear friends, while praying over the gospel this week, this line by the Lord kept on echoing within me. And every time it would echo, the Lord shortened the sentence like these:

“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?”

“Have you come to believe because…?”

“Have you come to believe…?”

“Have you come…?”

Before we can stay and remain in the Lord, we must first come. Like Thomas.

What he had asked as proofs to believe in the Lord’s Resurrection were not really doubts to be taken negatively. John referred to him being known as Didymus for Twin. We were the ones who gave him that nickname Doubting Thomas. Like us, there are times we feel at a loss like Thomas with our faith and with ourselves when extraordinary things happen to us. It was not that he did not believe but in fact, he wanted to believe more. That is why he came the following Sunday.

Though I have always loved Caravaggio’s paintings, I don’t think Thomas ever touched the Lord’s wounds. Thomas must have been overwhelmed with the presence of Jesus that all he could say was “my Lord and my God” which we repeat during consecration of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood.

Photo by Ka Ruben, Easter Vigil 2024, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Easter leads us into community life centered in the Eucharist. See how since Sunday when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, He instructed her to tell Simon Peter and others of His Resurrection; after appearing to Cleopas and companion on the road to Emmaus, they hurried back to Jerusalem to proclaim the good news of seeing the risen Lord at the breaking of bread; and while they were together which would be the gospel next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again as a community.

In His rising to life, Jesus brought us together, fellow wounded healers to heal each other, to remain with each other amid our poverty and sufferings because together in Christ, that is when we open new dimensions in existence, in living as a community. We grow into an I-Thou person from the selfish ego. That is what the first reading is telling us in how “the community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possession was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

It is the risen Lord who comes and stays among us in darkness and woundedness whenever we come and reach out to others like Thomas in the gospel. Even in our doubts, Jesus comes for us to believe more in Him. That is when great things start to happen, many so unbelievable and too deep for words. Basta.

That is why St. John Paul II rightly made the eighth day in Easter as the feast of Divine Mercy too because it is the love of God poured out to us in Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross when Blood and Water flowed out from His heart as an ocean of mercy for us. This is the love of God John was reflecting in the second reading that was too deep for words to explain except that it is the power that also “conquers the world” (1 Jn.5:3-4). Like St. Faustina in her Diary number 163, let us also pray:

"Help me, 
O Lord, 
that my heart may be merciful" 
by being more loving, 
by coming 
and remaining in Jesus 
among our brothers and sisters 
in their many darkness 
and emptiness
and wounds in life.
Like You, 
Lord Jesus,
let me come
to reach out
to those in doubts
to be Your very proof
of Your having risen
from the dead.
Amen. 
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