Easter (Fr. Simham)
I remember a wonderful story of Easter Sunday. Its about a parish priest in a village who went to the pub on Easter Sunday. Don’t be shocked. It was not to celebrate Easter, but because he found no men in the church for Sunday mass and the women told him that they were in the local pub celebrating. So he went in to talk to them. There were many sitting at the bar ordering a drink. He was concerned about their spiritual well-being and so He asked one, “Do you want to go to heaven?” He said, ‘yes!’ Then the priest said, ” Go stand against the wall.”
He asked another man if he wanted to go to heaven. He also said, ‘yes’, and the priest told him to go and stand against the wall. And the third who said ‘yes!’ and the group was increasing. And he reached a particular man who said no. The parish priest was stunned. The priest almost shouted at him and asked, “What? you don’t want to go to heaven, when you die?” Then the man said, when I die, yes. But I thought you were getting a group to go right now!”
Well, brothers and sisters, Today, we celebrate Easter and remember a great event that happened around two thousand years ago and enabled us to go to heaven. It is the resurrection of Jesus. So important is the resurrection Jesus to Christian faith that it was the initial kerugma or proclamation of the church. It is the back-bone of Christian faith. And it not a story or a myth told by the disciples. The reason I believe it is looking at the facts surrounding it.
Look at what happened at the garden of Gethsemane after the Last supper. There the soldiers and Judas appear with their swords and lanterns to arrest Jesus. As Jesus was arrested none of disciples dared to stay with him. And a young man (Obviously John) who was caught, left his linen cloth and runs away naked (Mark 14/52). Peter who followed him from a distance to see what was happening, denied him three times saying that he does not know him and has nothing to do with him.
And again, there was no one at the burial scene. It’s the generosity of Nichodemus and Joseph of Arimathea that help Jesus to have a tomb and decent burial. None of them who ate and drank with him were there. And they were not even bothered to go and see him on the morning after Sabbath. It is the women who go to see. The disciples were afraid to be associated with him. This shows that they never expected to see him rise from the dead.
Now these same men after few days, stand in front of three thousand men or more and tell them you killed Jesus and God raised him up. Is it an imagination or hallucination? It cannot be. Simply for the fact that it was not told to the strangers.
They were not telling this to the pagans who do not know about Christ, but they were telling it to the Jews in Jerusalem who were to see all that happened. See, for example, I can tell you that in my village in India all men have a long nose like me. You may believe it. Is it not? But I cannot tell this in my own village or diocese, because it is not true. People who live there, know my village and can verify it. In the same way, the disciples could have come to Aberdeen and told the story if it is not true, instead of saying it in Jerusalem. But the very fact they said it to the own people who crucified him, and in the place where he was crucified, shows they were not telling a story.
Secondly, they who were so scared and loved their own lives would not have dared to risk their life unless something convincing happened. Look at St. Peter’s words to Cornelius in the first reading (Acts 10/37-43) “God raised him from the dead ………..We are those witnesses. We ate and drank with him…” I think they would have not died to propagate a story or myth which is of no profit to them. Because they saw him in resurrected form, they were so willing to die for him, because they too will rise again like him.
So Resurrection for me is a certainty. It is not a wishful thinking. If it is so. That what does it mean for us today?
First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, was killed, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives and He sits today at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The living church has a living Head.
And, In this battle of life and death, death does not have the last laugh. Because its conquered. With St. Paul we can say
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?” Death is dead. That is the truth we celebrate today and let us rejoice in it. Amen.
Fr. Showreelu Simham