Headline: THE AUTHENTIC EASTERTIDEPosted on: 2016-03-31
He conquered death
Rejoice! Jesus is risen!. Alleluia he has conquered our greatest foes; fear and death. He said very eloquently: I am the resurrection. Whoever believes in me, though he die, he shall live" (Jn. 11:25). He also said to his disciples. "In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world (Jn. 16:33). That reassuring message rang even stronger when St Paul declared "...if Christ had not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith" (Jn. 15:14). It is a more palatable message. That is why we all as Christians at Easter celebrate our belonging to the victory team the winning party of Jesus.
He exalted the cross
There is however another message that should never be forgotten. Jesus did so much before, and after his death to teach it to us: "Never ignore the cross". So many people today interpret the resurrection of Jesus as a complete break and detachment from his cross. Only the believing and the discerning would see that the opposite is the case. That is why the letter to the Hebrews admonishes us, "Let us look to Jesus the founder of our faith, who will bring it to completion" (Heb 12:2). It is the same teaching as Paul gave in his letter: "Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ had" (Phil 2:5). Therefore in addition to the lesson of love, generosity and forgiveness and peace which Jesus left his followers, he also left a big summons to the cross.
He healed the cross
Jesus showed that thoughts of the cross must always feature on the horizon of every disciple. Firstly in Eastertide we must remember that Jesus did not fly supersonic to the resurrection. He went by every station marked on the way of the cross. When he said to us "I am the way the truth and the life", he must have meant that we follow also in his footsteps. What Jesus came to do is not to eliminate the place of the cross but to give it meaning. That is why he said severally "If anyone wants to follow me, let him carry his cross (Matt 10:38, Lk. 14:26). Nothing reinforces more the permanent role of the cross in Christian life than what Jesus did when he showed himself to his disciples after his death. He showed them the wounds which he got on the cross, those wounds were healed but nonetheless present. He showed himself again to Thomas and even asked him to touch his marks. (Jn. 20: 19-29). In fact it was Thomas who did us the favour of highlighting the cross as the identity of the resurrected Christ. "Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn 20:25). Eight days later, Jesus came back to them and demonstrated that Thomas was right. The lesson still is: "Never forget the cross". (1Pet. 2:24). What Jesus resurrection did was in fact to heal not to eliminate the cross. That tree of death became the veritable tree of life and its signs of damnation became the signs of salvation.
No doubt whatsoever
The cross remains the guarantee of our hope that, all the troubles of the world notwithstanding, the one who went on the cross for our sake will make it all right. One person who had no doubt about the place of the cross is Saint Paul. Long after the resurrection of Jesus he wrote: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim his Gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ. The language of the cross remains nonsense for those who are lost. Yet for us who are saved, it is the power of God" (1Cor. 1: 17-18). He then gave the same message to the Galatians: "But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).
In the world, not of it
The world of today, with its denials, false pleasures and its means of quick-fix gratification seeks to steer us away from the cross of Christ but it is from it that our salvation ensues. If you are one of those who are weary of seeing the cross and the crucified in your church, home or life you need to have a rethink (Matt. 16:24). The singer of one of the most popular Good Friday carols was certainly wiser than most people of this generation. "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross...so I cherish the old rugged cross till my troubles at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown". So, to reach the resurrection, take the way of the cross. Embrace the cross wherever it may show up, in your family, relationship, workplace or church. Jesus did his part and earned the Easter alleluia. You and I have to do ours. Such is the wisdom in Catholics venerating the cross of Christ and exclaiming so many times, especially during Lent: "We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world". Only in that transformed cross can we find meaning to all the suffering, misery and woes of our humanity and world. Have an authentic Eastertide!
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