EASTER MESSAGE OF THE OBISPO MAXIMO

“HE HAS BEEN RAISED; HE IS NOT HERE!”
Easter Message of the Obispo Maximo

 

The days leading to Easter were days of sorrow, grief and sadness. These were, literally, days of death and mourning, not only as brought about by the mode and spirit of the observance of Lent and Holy Week but more so as brought about by the killings and death of many human lives taking place around us, whether in the domestic or in the overseas. Many of these killings and death in the overseas were attributed to the so-called senseless attacks due to culture of racism and terrorism that undermine the worth and dignity of human persons and the safety and security of the innocents in many states long known to have peaceful societies. Most of the killings and death in the domestic were factored by the so-called culture of impunity reinforced by state officials that continuously instigate and openly prod in public the state security officers to terminate the human lives of those which by mere suspicions were connected to drug proliferation in the country and of those which by mere allegations were branded as local terrorists and to have connections with the long-running armed group that espoused people’s movement for genuine change to take place in the country.

In the midst of these killings and death, we, God’s people, seem not to care and be disturbed; many of us resort to silence and passivity; most of us submit to the domestication of our minds, spirits and wills by the ridiculous justification of the amoral apologists of the powers that be. Always in this situation of killings and death, our grief and mourning leads us to resign to helplessness. We tend to echo the powerlessness of Mary Magdalene and the other women in that early morning: “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb” [Mark 16:3]. This state of powerlessness tends, in most cases, to paralyze us, to render us immobile and dysfunctional, but, oftentimes, this leads us to divisiveness that will in turn encourage all the more the culture of impunity – and even that of the culture of racism and terrorism – to prevail upon us. And what is worse is that, with this feeling of powerlessness, we can be manipulated to join in the bandwagon that aims to create a political system and governmental structure that will become legal instrument to perpetuate authoritarianism and tyrannical rule which sadly thrives on fear and silence and helplessness among people.

We seem to become comfortable living out our faith in God in this kind of situation. We seem to be at peace with ourselves in this reality for our continuing journey to search and find the Lord Jesus in our midst. We look for him in the situation of grief and mourning, and resign to the fact that he is still among the dead, inside the tomb, which is our way of underestimating God’s power to be at work even in the darkest of the tomb and in the eerie silence of the hopeless. But thanks to the ever creative and powerful God that through Easter he has jolted us like that of the earthquake that shook the guards early in Easter morning [Matthew 28: 2-4] to confront us with the reality that death and tomb cannot contain him for his purpose in the Lord Jesus for his people. The gracious God has stored for us in Easter a power beyond expectation, a power that unpacks great surprises for the world to see and experience that in him, through the risen Lord, grief and mourning cannot be the mode and fashion to search and find and establish deep, alive, and meaningful relationship him, and that domestication, helplessness and powerlessness cannot limit his people to create meanings in their lives and fulfill his intention that they shall be his people living, struggling and in continuing journey, for abundant life, for genuine peace and for social justice.

The glorious Easter enables us that in the risen Lord Jesus we can claim God’s power to change things as they are, to transform our deplorable situation, to shift away from given perspective. The power of Easter embraces us to walk towards a new situation, a new reality, a new way – that is no longer in the midst of grief and mourning, of killings and of death since this has already been changed, transformed and shifted because the victorious Lord Jesus has overcome it and is no longer found there to be used as theological justification for the sad situation to persist to prevail. The power of Easter unshackles everything that binds life to the tomb, that covers the living to be hidden among the dead: the tremendous power of Easter overwhelms the forces of tomb and death and demonstrated to the women that their powerless is not true because they have him as their God who is powerful than any powers that be. This is the message that greeted and shook Mary Magdalene and the other women in that early morning: “He has been raised; he is not here!” [Mark 16:4b] that brought them to their senses and enabled them to see with the eyes of faith the new perspective of a bigger dimension in human life and living. The power of Easter clothes the women, and us too, with great, fresh hope to lead on to the way that will point towards the new vision and direction as being God’s people who are firmly anchored on God’s faithfulness to his promise among his beloved people.

And so in this Easter, while we are conscious about the situation of grief and mourning, and of killing and death that abound in our midst, we are also aware that we are a community of faith: we are God’s people, part of the body of the risen Lord, temple of the Holy Spirit, inheritors of God’s kingdom that the Lord Jesus inaugurated, and being such, we have become a community that lives in God’s great hope that sustains us to weather all crisis in our lives and societies, and emboldens us to overcome all forms of situation that will entomb us to silence, to fear and to death. Through the risen Lord Jesus, we are an Easter people, we are a community of the resurrection, and as such we are a people of faith that do not feel comfortable with the death-promoting realities of our time, that we are not at peace with ourselves going on living in a situation where assaults against the basic principles of the sanctity of human life, of the defense of human rights and civil liberties, of social justice and genuine peace, of the integrity of creation, and of democratic and sovereign ways as a nation, are almost the daily, normal fares of our national life. We cannot be God’s people in a situation where we cannot see the presence of God in Christ being upheld and promoted. We cannot be called faithful Christians when we would unduly compromise the gospel of the Lord Jesus, and abandon the basic teachings of our faith and disallow God’s will to determine the purpose of our national life, just because, and simply due, to our loyalty to a singular person who cajoled us to believe the change that he promised.

Easter unfolds before us the God in the risen Lord Jesus who is faithful to us and fulfills his promise to us in a way that surprises us much, following the manner that Mary affirmed in her life: “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” [Luke 1:54-55]. Easter provides us the picture to behold a God in the Lord Jesus who is wholly true to his own words. He said: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. [Mark 10:32-34]. The gospel of Mark here describes to us our God in the Lord Jesus who is bigger than all pains and sufferings in the world, rising over gross mockery and humiliation in order to fulfill the promise that was long foretold and proclaimed.

Easter affords us then the opportunity to see that God, by rising up the Lord Jesus from the tomb, has opened to us the way towards him and live out fully a life that he intends to be since creation. And this is a life free from the forces of death and a life that desires to be free, to be liberated from all forces of death, into a life that characterizes us all in our society as truly to belong to an Easter God in Jesus Christ, to an Easter community with the risen Lord, to an Easter society that hopes and struggles for a new humanity.

To this great opportunity made possible by the gracious God in Christ Jesus, let us unite ourselves as a church to thank him as we pray:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Wishing the whole IFI community – domestic and abroad – a truly meaningful celebration of Easter – a celebration that truly inaugurates liberation of God’s people from all forces of sin and death. May God almighty, through our risen Lord Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, pour out his grace upon us all, to renew us as a church towards faithful witness. Happy Easter to one and all!

 

+ RHEE 
Obispo Maximo

1 April 2018

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