From Death to Life; He is risen!
Alleluia is our song! Christ is risen! The tomb is empty. These are common phrases that come with this greatest of all seasons in the Christian Catholic calendar. I was feeling moody while reflecting on the joy of Easter as I pended down these reflections. My sadness came from the state of our nation. The endless bloodletting, kidnappings, death and the putrid hopelessness that rents the air. I thought of the priest who was recently kidnapped, Fr. Anthony Dawa, along with the teenage son and wife of his catechist, in Kaduna State; Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban, from Kastina-Ala diocese, who was shot in the head, in Benue State. I listen to youths who are deeply depressed. They make efforts to be Christ-like but the environment is a killer of dreams. I recently had an argument with a professor of Economics about poverty alleviation. He was furious about the phrasing and opined that why are we always negative? Why don’t we phrase issues in an energizing and positive way? Instead of poverty alleviation, why not talk about wealth creation? This was an epiphany for me. It reignited my faith and boostered my conviction in the need to shout alleluia to the rooftops. Our tomb shall be emptied of its dankness; our spirit shall be lifted and we shall be graced once more to proclaim the resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 15:14, St. Paul tells us that “if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith”. The resurrection is the tripod upon which our Christian faith stands. In his letter to the Romans 10:9, Paul continues to ground us and assure us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. Easter is a guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and whoever believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Easter is a feast of encouragement and hope in this world of pain. I thank God for the gift of Christian hope, if not, the rate of suicide in our country would have been more scandalous than we could have fathomed. The hope we celebrate as Christians is that darkness can never have the last say in our lives. Jesus did not shed his blood on the cross for us to live in vain. The captivity of Leah Sharibu rather than dampen our hope will raise more resilience in the liberating name of Christ.
The resurrection has been claimed in some quarters to be a scam. We can allude to some reasons to hold firm to our faith in the resurrection of Christ. i.) Jesus testified to his Resurrection in Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22. ii.) The tomb was empty on Easter day (Luke 24:3), even though we must acknowledge the contrary claim of those guarding the tomb in Matthew 28:13, which seem incredulous considering the discipline of Roman soldiers and the fear that had cowered the disciples. iii.) The disbeliefs of Jesus’ disciples in spite of several apparitions. iv.) The transformation that occurred in the disciples from timid men (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into bold witnesses of the Resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2). v.) The inability of the Jews and Romans to disprove the claim of the resurrection by providing a bodily evidence of the corpse of Jesus.
Our Easter message is simple. We must keep hope alive. We must rise from our ash heap to a more glorious and dignified life. We must work to retrieve our years eaten away by the locust. We shall do a comeback. In a November 12, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated, 10 greatest comeback was chronicled in history. I will highlight a few. Muhammed Ali came back in 1974 to retain his belt after seven years of being stripped of his boxing license to defeat George Foreman in Congo. Germany and
Japan rose from the ash of World War II to become industrial superpowers. Jesus defied his Jewish critics and stunned the Romans with his resurrection; it was the greatest comeback of all time. I dare to add that Nigeria did a comeback in Atlanta 1996 against a Brazilian side that was leading 3-1 in the semi-finals and against an Argentinian side that was leading 2-1 in the finals. The resurrection is our own comeback from darkness to light, from sickness to health, from war to peace, from despair to hope, from hatred to love and from death to life.
Easter, is a call for us to be a people of the Resurrection. We are called to exude joy. In Psalm 118:24, the psalmist says, ‘this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad’. We are admonished to be a people of peace. We are challenged to be transparent people who use leadership as an opportunity to serve and not oppress. Easter is a summon to live always in God’s presence and appreciate His love. Easter is a reminder for us to be grateful that Good Friday was the joke God played on Satan, when Satan thought he had won the battle. Jesus rose on Easter Sunday to declare that the grave does not have the final say in our lives. Let alleluia be your song.
Happy Easter to you all.
Fr. Anthony A. Olaniyan, SMA