“The Purifying Power of Resurrection”
April 1, 2018
Acts 10: 34-43
Psalm 118: 14-24
1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
John 20: 1-18
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Rejoice! Christ is risen!
Sharing from a sermon from the 4th Century Holy Saturday entitled “The Harrowing of Hell” which depicts the descent of Jesus into hell, Jesus said to the occupants of hell particularly Adam, “I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of My hands, you who were created in My image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.” Death doesn’t have the last word, but Jesus does! The last word is LIFE! God’s will for us is life. He did not mean for us to be left in a place that is desolate, a place that is full of death, suffering, sorrow and hopelessness; but God meant us to live the fullness of His life.
In today’s gospel, Mary’s supposed Jesus as the Gardener. She was right for Jesus is the Gardener of the new creation. The first gardener was Adam and he was faithful for a while, then, he sinned and failed in tending the garden of God. His vocation was to take care of it, to expand it, and to make it grow. He was not to exploit it or to abuse it. He failed, and so the second Adam came, the new Gardener. Jesus said in John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus was also talking about Himself. Jesus was the seed sown in the earth on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This seed fell to the earth and died, but the new garden brought Him forth as the first fruits of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
1Corinthians 15:20 in The Message Translation says, “The truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.” The Good News translation says, “The truth is that Christ has been raised from death as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised.” Easter is the guarantee of our resurrection. We need to rejoice because Jesus guaranteed that we will follow in the long line of those who will follow Him in His resurrection. He was the first seed of the new world, and He opened this new world to us – everlasting gates of life. This seed has now become the new Gardener to help the other seeds to come to newness of life and flourish.
Jesus is restoring the garden that has been ruined that became a wasteland of sin, of hatred, of enmity, of hopelessness, of anything that is contrary to life and of anything that is associated with death. Jesus is making all things new! All that was called good is now being made new because they have been damaged, marred, and now Jesus is making each of them new.
John saw a vision in Revelation and he saw a vision of the new Jerusalem, river running through it, the tree of life on either side bearing twelve kinds of fruit, and its leaves was for the healing of nations. Here is the Gardener at work – cultivating, blessing, keeping us, and cultivating resurrection life in us. We are the planting of the Lord. We are His field, His building, His farmland, His garden. David said, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of the Lord: I trust in His constant loving-kindness forever.”
Sometimes some plants may look like dead or there is no hope in them. Jesus would say to us, “I can fix this.” Nothing is beyond hope because of Easter. We just need Jesus to tend us, to take care of us. Eventually, He will no more let sin nor sorrow grow or thorns infest the ground, and He will make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found. He is restoring plants to health because salvation is health. It is a process. The Alpha and the Omega will be faithful to complete this good work that He has started in us. He gets His hands dirty with humus, soil; He washes our dirty feet and cleanses us. He is not afraid to get His hands dirty. We may have lots of weeds and thorns, but Jesus can fix these.
Like Mary, we sometimes don’t recognize that Jesus is in the garden, but He is! He is constantly working. Sometimes, we weep because we think He is not there, and we say, “Jesus, why has Thou forsaken me?” In Good Friday, we were assured that He is not going anywhere. He does not forsake us, leave us nor abandon us. He is there. If we are in the garden, the Gardener is there. We are like an olive tree firmly planted in the house of the Lord. Stay in the garden. There may be a lot of garbage, but every good garden has a compost pit. The compost is used as a fertilizer by the gardener. Stuff happens, and we happen to step on them. However, God is not responsible for this stuff. The gardener is not responsible for the stuff because it is ours; it is our dirt; it is our contribution to the compost pile, but the gardener uses it as manure, as fertilizer.
God accepts us with all of our stuff, with all the dirt in our feet; with all the stink and everything that is disgusting. He accepts all and He washes us. He forgives us. It doesn’t matter whom stuff comes from. It doesn’t matter whose stuff comes out from. What matters is that God uses them. They are there so that the works of God may be displayed. In John9, the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” And Jesus said, “It is not that he or his parents sinned, but it is so that God’s works may be displayed through this.”
Through our stuff, through our dirt, through that which disgusts people, God turns them around. He is not disgusted with them. God causes all things to work together for good. At times, He pulls out His shears and He prunes the plant of weed and thorns. It is not a pleasant experience; it is sometimes painful, and an experience of loss. Sometimes, we are overgrown with thorns of ego, of pride, of self- centeredness, of hatred, of negative things, and things not needed for our growth, so the Gardener prunes it. Being cut back is not a pleasant experience, but remember, the Gardener has only the best interest in mind – in our growth and our fullness. Jesus says, “Every branch that does not bear fruit is pruned by Me so that the plant may bear more fruit.” It is not punishment, but it is for our good.
We are in Christ now! We think about inheriting original sin – the sin nature that we inherited from Adam. St. Paul says in 1Corinthians 15:22, “As in Adam all die, so also (in same way) in Christ all will be made alive.” In Adam, there is death; in Christ, there is life. We have had a change of status. We were in Adam, but no longer. Now, we are in Christ. We changed status; we changed position. As we were in Adam, in death, so now, in the same way, we are in Christ, sharing in His life and we will be made alive in Christ.
We should not look at the legal status that Easter brings. We can says, “I am a child of God,” and wallow in the world of death and in sin. Imagine the prodigal son in the pigpen, having his birth certificate in his hands waving it and saying, “I am a child of God,” but still staying in the pigpen. What use is one’s birth certificate in the pigpen? His sonship is meant for him to be in the house of his father enjoying the presence of his father and having a relationship with him. This is what being a son is – not having a piece of paper and staying in the pigpen. Be a son!
The Sacrament of Confession is sometimes mistaken as a restoration of position. Once a sinner, now, in Christ. It is also called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because the point is not a change of status or of position, but actual reconciliation, a restoration of relationships. We are not after the position; we are after the actual. Thus, we can say, “status: in a relationship with our Father.” Forgiveness is the beginning of salvation, not its fullness. Reconciliation is the fullness of salvation. Being saved is not being forgiven by God, but it is having a relationship with God that has been restored. This is the true meaning of the fullness of salvation.
God has always seen us as sons whether we sin or not. Whether we are dirty or not, in the eyes of God, we are His children. The question is: do we enjoy our sonship? Are we in His house eating at His table and enjoying His presence? Reconciliation has nothing to do with how He sees us, but us actually coming back to a relationship as sons with Him, living in His house, staying in His garden, allowing Him to tend us and to take care of us.
If we are in the garden, the Gardener is there. Stay in the garden. All that was made good in creation that has been ruined is being made new at the Resurrection. The Gardener, the Cultivator, the Keeper will never die again because sin’s dread sting for us He bore, died He once to die no more. He will forever make the new earth flourish and increasingly grow. This is the future! This is Easter! This is the way it is in the kingdom of our God. Hallelujah!