The coach of a team lagging behind in score would usually yell these words of encouragement to his players on the court: “Boys, let’s do it! It’s not over till it’s over.” And this is true. The outcome of a game could be reversed suddenly at the last seconds. And this is precisely what happened to Jesus. On Good Friday, people thought that it was over. Jesus is dead and buried. He is finished. But what they did not know was that there was one more chapter left in the life story of Jesus. “It’s not over till it’s over!” There is victory after seeming defeat; there is resurrection after crucifixion; there is life after death.
The Lord is not dead! He is risen! Alleluia! This Sunday, Easter Sunday, the Sunday of all Sundays, I am sure some people may say, “Yeah, it’s Easter Sunday. So what?” This kind of reaction is becoming common among so many people nowadays. The impact of secularism, materialism and egoism upon the minds and attitudes of people is so strong that spiritual values are now deemed useless and obsolete. So, it is quite important to clarify and emphasize the meaning of this very important celebration. What does Easter really mean for us today? What is the connection of the resurrection of Jesus to our present life in this world?
First, we must remind ourselves time and time again that everything in this world is passing away. Nothing is permanent here. Eventually everything will collapse and dissipate. What will happen then? We just cannot continue ignoring the heavenly and eternal realities. In his Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul earnestly exhorts us: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:1-2). The resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is a future in store for us; there is heaven we can look forward to when this transitory world passes away; there is life after death. We ought not to focus our attention only on this material world.
Second, our life in this world, aside from being transitory, is also a long, arduous journey. At some point in our lives, we have to ask ourselves: where am I heading? Ten or twenty years from now, what will happen to me? When I grow old, what will I do? When all my children are grown up and have families of their own, where will I go? And then, eventually, we face the question: when I die, what happens next? Ultimately, we have to ask: what is the meaning of my life?
In the Gospels, Jesus gives us all the answers. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Bread that gives us everlasting life. He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. He and the Father are one. He is God. He is our salvation. And all his teachings and declarations are all proven true because of his resurrection. Saint Paul declared: “And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” (1 Cor 15:14). If we are looking for answers to all of life’s questions, Jesus has all the answers. We can depend, therefore, on the absolute veracity of his teachings, which will help us find meaning and direction in life. Jesus is the ultimate answer to everything in this world. He alone gives meaning to our life. Without Jesus, we are lost…forever. With Jesus, we will find life in its fullness.
Third, every day we are confronted with our weaknesses and shortcomings, our inadequacies and failures. We look for a source of power to give us strength, encouragement and support. Jesus is the ultimate source of power in heaven and on earth. With his resurrection, he is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and he fulfills his promise to us: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it” (Jn 14:14). This is the reason why, every time we pray at Mass and in many other liturgical celebrations, we always end with the phrase: “We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
Yes, we are weak. But Jesus is our strength. This is what he revealed to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12: 9). In Jesus, there is power, victory, and salvation. The resurrection of Jesus, then, is not something remote and detached from our life. In fact, our life finds its source, power and meaning in the resurrection of Jesus. As God’s people, we gather to worship every Sunday, the Day of the Lord, because we joyfully celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
There is a wonderful Greek word that is used to define memory. This Greek word is anamnesis. The word literally means “remembrance”. In the imperative, it would mean “do not forget”. Where do we see this word in scripture? Take first Corinthians for example, “On the night [Jesus] was handed over, he took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11) The word “remembrance” in the original Greek here is anamnesis.
Jesus is telling us: do not forget. But more to the point I am trying to get at, think about how much love must have been in Jesus’ heart to offer himself for us as food and drink and to be our sacrificial lamb for the atonement of our sins? It feels like a love that we don’t deserve and yet God shares this love with us. And today we celebrate a historical truth without which Christianity wouldn’t have even started let alone spread like it did, the tomb was empty. God’s love for us cannot die.
The liturgies this past week have been a celebration of anamnesis because we humans have a way of foolishly forgetting. And so enter our Gospel reading: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.”
This messenger proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead and told the women to spread the news. And the world has never been the same since.
If anamnesis means “remembrance”, the word amnesia literally means “to forget”. Both words share the same Greek root. The spiritual challenge that is given to us this Easter is to not develop amnesia when it comes to this very specific spiritual truth: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” What this means is: God loves you with an irrational love and God loves you more than you love yourself. Don’t forget that.
No matter what happens to us and to the world, we will always proclaim that immutable and wonderful truth: Jesus is alive; he is risen; he is Lord! This truth gives us hope, joy and assurance of our final victory and eternal salvation. Happy Easter to all!