“Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”Jn 20:9
Is it Easter already? It is, according to the Liturgical calendar (and probably from the ‘Happy Easter’ messages and posts you have been seeing). Yet, without public Masses and physical participation in the celebrations of the latter half of Lent and Holy Week, doesn’t it feel like like Lent? A Lent that might go on a couple more weeks? I remarked to my family that this past Triduum was a little “weird” as I am so used to a Triduum filled with liturgies and helping at liturgies. I even had notes for 2020 prepared. While the outward celebrations cannot take place throughout the majority of the world, I think that it is important to know that it is Easter.
The ending of today’s Gospel remarks that in a sense, that while a little stunned or seemingly surprised at the empty tomb, the disciples were unable, at the moment to “understand the Scripture, that [Christ] must rise from the dead.” However, it was not not the case for only John and Peter, but also to other characters in the post-resurrection part of the Gospels, such as Mary Magadalene (cf. Jn 20:11-18), the disciples on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) or the apostle Thomas (cf. Jn 20:24-29).
While some Catholics today may say that these disciples of the resurrection story were slow to take in the story of the resurrection, we must remember that these people were the in the “hub” of the controversial execution of this man named Jesus of Nazareth. Some were grieving the death of their “Master”, their friend – someone whom they befriended and for some, closely associated with during Jesus’ three years of ministry. They were still taking in the death of Jesus.
Sometimes, like the disciples of the resurrection story, we become distracted by some sort darkness that we forget about Easter. That is why at the Lucernarium, before the procession, the presider says, “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” (EV 14) That is why we started the Easter season with the dramatic Lucernarium (even when done in the decreed simplified form this year): the Paschal candle lit in a darkened church, as the Light of Christ overcomes that darkness of sin. When we are overcome by darkness, we are not able to be receptive of the Light of Christ and ultimately, we have no space for the Risen Lord.
That is what I suspect this pandemic could be a type of darkness that have overcome some, leaving some in a sense of hopelessness, despair. However, even in the midst of pandemic, let us not forget – the Light of Christ overcomes darkness, life has conquered death… in other words – EASTER IS HERE.
When will this pandemic end? I hope soon… and I think all of you are hoping the same. However, no matter how long this pandemic will last, the most important thing now is to bring the Light of Christ to all people, especially the most vulnerable, those who need our assistance. The only way we are going to get through this time, is if we all spread the Paschal Light to one another. Most years, we literally did so at the Lucernarium. This year, let’s do so in a more concrete way – by way of our very lives.
A couple weeks ago, there was the flame lighting ceremony to inaugurate the Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay in Greece. The flame that was ignited for use during the relay was carefully stored inside special lanterns to transport the flame from Greece to Japan and used throughout the torch relay until the end of the Olympics. Special care is taken to ensure that the flame from Greece is not extinguished to the point that backup lamps are lit with that same flame.
I think how careful the organizers of these Olympic torch relays take care of that flame from Greece is the level of carefulness we must observe for the Light of Christ – to an even greater intensity of care and precaution. We must keep the Light of Christ aflame because whenever the Light of Christ, is present, hope is present in our midst and we cannot despair.
The countless selfless actions of people throughout these days is what keeps the Light of Christ aflame during these dark times. Let us not stop doing that. We need to always keep our lanterns lit so that when Christ comes again in glory, we will be prepared (cf. Mt 25:1-13). Yet, while we anticipate Christ’s coming in glory, we need to live by example to let others know in us that Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Let us not forget that Christ has conquered death by death. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) As an “Easter People”, how St. Augustine puts it, “Alleluia is our song.” While we cannot come together to communally sing “Alleluia” this Easter and contemplate the flickering flame of the Paschal Candle, let us remember that Easter is here. Let us not hold onto the Light of Christ for ourselves, but spread it so that our very lives today may be an “Alleluia” chorus, a sign for all to know that we are people of the resurrection in this time of trial.