“We Proclaim Life!”
April 12, 2020
Psalm 118: 14-29
olossians 3: 1-4
John 20: 1-19
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Today is a very glorious day, a victorious day when Jesus conquered death, gave His life, and open the gates of heaven for all of us.
Jesus Christ went through the worst of human experience on the cross. He suffered in the most imaginable and cruel execution on the cross. On Holy Saturday, He went down to Sheol, to hell, which is the lowest a soul could go. Easter conquered all of these. Easter covered all of us. No one is beyond reach now. God is everywhere. The universe is an infinite vast space, but God is bigger than the universe. In any point of the universe, God is present. Even if we plan to run away from God, we will get tired and may die before we reach to the ends of the universe. God will still be there.
We ask, “Where can we run from God’s love? If I climb to the heavens, You are there. If I go down to Sheol, You are there. Where our sin abounds, Your grace abound all the more.” Thus, we can’t run away from His love.
I would like to quote from an anonymous homily from the 4th Century which was given on Holy Saturday. “God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, Adam, as for a lost sheep...to free him from sorrow. When Adam saw Jesus, he struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all." Christ answered him: "And with your spirit." He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: "Awake, 0 sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Jesus says, “I command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. You who were created in my image, rise, let us leave this place for you do not belong here; for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. If I am resurrected from the dead, you are also resurrected from the dead. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise, I will not restore you to that paradise, but the bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”
Another homily from this century was so good that the Orthodox Church reads it from 1600 years and every year thereafter at the Easter vigil on the evening of Holy Saturday. It was delivered by St. John Chrysostom, whose name means John - the Golden Tongue.
“Come to the feast – you who have toiled from the first hour, you who have toiled at the third hour, at the sixth hour, at the ninth hour, even at the eleventh hour. Let all enter into the joy of the Lord! The first and the last; the rich and the poor; the sober and the slothful; those who have fasted, and those who have not. All partake! Let all enjoy. Let no one go hungry. Let no one mourn because that he has fallen again and again. Let no one grieve. Let no one fear because the universal kingdom of God has been revealed.”
It is easy to misunderstand this as a license to sin, but this is not the point. The point is God’s amazing grace is made available to all. Jesus is the First Fruits of all who have slept, of those who have died. We follow Him. St. Paul said that we are destined to be conformed to the image of the God’s Son. This image is alive! This image, though it died, is alive again never to die anymore. Jesus is what the life of the world to come looks like.
All of us have been reconciled. All of us have hope. All of us look forward to the resurrection of the body, life everlasting, the life of the world to come. Where is this? It is in this place, in this realm, where Jesus is making all things new. All things are being restored and made new. It is the fullness of that is what we call life of the world to come, and it stared on Easter, and we look forward to this.
Revelations says that nothing unclean can enter in this realm. St. Paul says that wood, hay, stubble will burn up. Hence, there is no sickness, fear, violence or death in this place because the old things – greed, hate, lust, violence – are passing away and they cannot enter here. Only life, joy and peace can.
In our second reading in Colossians, St. Paul encourages and instructs us that if we have been raised with Christ, seek the things where He is – in this heavenly realm because we belong to this realm and the kingdom of light and life.
In the gospel, Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for a gardener. She wasn’t all together wrong. She was wrong yet she was right because Jesus IS the new Gardener. The first gardener was Adam who was given the mandate to cultivate and keep the Eden given to him. He failed, and as result, there was a wasteland of sin, sorrow, suffering, hatred, enmity, poverty and death. The second Adam restored this garden. Jesus entered a new creation, a new garden. As Jesus is the first fruits, we follow and we dwell in this land to cultivate faithfulness so that no more let sins or sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.
We throw away the perishable and we put on the imperishable. We do this NOW! Our mission is to give a preview of this life of the world to come. A preview is a sneak peak of a movie – not the whole movie but it is giving us an idea of what the movie is all about. This is what we do! In the Old Testament, Moses sent spies into the Promised Land for them to bring food from this land and show them to the people who are still in the wilderness.
This is our mission. We bear fruit of the life of the world to come, of the land of Promise, and we bring these fruits right here in this imperfect world, in the wilderness, so that those who see them, those who are in the wilderness, will have a picture, a preview of the life of the world to come that is awaiting them. This is so that at this point, they can partake of the its fruits and taste and see the goodness of the Lord even now.
As Christians, we are to be ambassadors or representatives of this Kingdom. We are the preview of this Kingdom. Churches should be like embassies of this Kingdom to this wilderness so that they provide a picture of things to come. This is giving hope to all the people – walking according to the ways and principles of the Kingdom we belong to. On Easter, Jesus made us citizens and heralds to usher in the coming of this Kingdom.
In closing, from Titus 2:11-14, “11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
Our mission, our mandate, our instruction is that we, who have been given salvation, are to live sensibly, to live righteously, to live a godly life in this present age so that we can give a picture in this wilderness of the coming life that is full of hope, full of victory of Easter, full of love, full of peace, of joy, and of righteousness in the Holy Spirit.
May the victory of Easter be with us even in this present age as we look forward to the coming of the fullness of God’s kingdom.
This is the way it is in this present Kingdom and this is the way it is in the coming Kingdom.