Celebrating Life in the Midst of Death
YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXlX5tpiBXY
“He saw and believed” (John 20:8). John, the Beloved Disciple, saw the empty tomb, and he believed his Lord had risen from his death. But this is counterintuitive. How could someone look into an empty burial space and imagine the possibility of a new life? Could he be under hypnosis or experiencing an illusion?
What is Easter, if not life rupturing death? We understand death as the end of everything related to life. So, if Life ‘is,’ Death ‘is not.’ One of the big fears we all have is that we will be NOTHING after this life. Have you ever tried staring into nothingness? How did you feel? Being someone with an acceptable identity is essential to how we live, so we dare not dream we could be absolutely nothing.
But when John looked into the empty tomb, it was not empty to him. Nothingness was not what he came to perceive. Although the body of his Lord was not there, the burial cloth that wrapped his body and the linen used to cover his head were neatly placed in the tomb. Hence, it was most unlikely that the body was stolen in a rush. Instead, John recalled what his Lord had talked about rising from the dead. And he believed.
When we look around Hong Kong and the world today, what do we see? Do we see suffering, hatred, helplessness, hopelessness, destruction and death? Try to look a little further and go a bit deeper. What else do we see?
People of goodwill reach out to the refugees from Ukraine, offering them temporary housing. Frenzy but low-profile diplomatic efforts from different fronts are trying to slow down and, hopefully, to stop the atrocious invasion of Ukraine. With tears and conviction, many faithful pray earnestly for God’s intervention in the cases of the suffering Ukrainians and COVID victims.
The crux of all these efforts is an underlying but crucial belief that goodness will triumph over evil because the Risen Christ has conquered death and its master, the evil itself. We are experiencing the residual effects of that evil that will no longer exist at the end of time. Imagine!
In Hong Kong, ordinary citizens donate face masks and antigen test kits to those who cannot easily access them otherwise. Caterers are giving out free meal boxes to those who cannot afford to have nutritious food for themselves. People give bigger tips to the struggling service providers as encouragement. And the list can go on.
These are efforts to soothe, console, rebuild, give hope, be helpful, and be life-giving. Nevertheless, one should not forget the meaning behind these efforts – light comes after darkness, and life follows death.
In the midst of the Covid-19 for the third year in a row and facing its 5th wave (or emerging from it), it may be naive to convince ourselves that we should celebrate Easter. Yet, we should because this takes us closer to the experiences of the first Easter. Christ is risen, and those who have seen him had told us about his rising from the dead (Luke 24:23-25).
Those who think there is nothing to celebrate in this Easter, would be repeating the words of Thomas: ‘Unless I can see him and put my fingers in his wounds, I will not believe.’ But, Jesus responded to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed.” (John 20:29).
So, my friends, Christ is Risen, Alleluia! Blessed are we who are holding onto the promise of Easter, daring to hope and believe!
A hope-filled and life-giving Easter to you, our sinful yet holy Church, and our ailing world!
+ Bishop Stephen Chow, S.J.
29 March 2022