Yesterday, we celebrated Easter Sunday, the greatest feast of our faith. It is on this day that Jesus fully accomplished his mission from the Father. By his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death, and won for us our salvation and our new life in him.
Our celebration of Easter this year was made extra special because, on this day, the Church opens the celebration of the 500 Years Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. We remember the first Mass in Limasawa celebrated on Easter Sunday 500 years ago. A few days from now, we shall recall the first baptism in Cebu, conferred on King Humabon and his household, along with hundreds of his subjects.
Our quincentennial celebration is primarily one of thanksgiving for the gift of faith which we received through the Spanish missionaries. I truly believe, and I say it to our people, that our Christian faith is God’s greatest gift to us, Filipinos. We can best express our gratitude to God for this inestimable gift by living it.
For faith is more not just belief in God (in the true God taught to our ancestors by the missionaries). It is deepened in a relationship of friendship with him. It is practiced in discipleship, and lived as a life of mission. In truth, faith is about living God’s life – the life he shares with us in baptism, the very life Christ won for us on Easter.
When the inconsolable Mary Magdalene reported to the apostles that “they (had) taken the Lord from the tomb,” Peter and John immediately went out to check. John outran Peter and arrived at the tomb first, but did not go in. Only when Peter arrived and went in, did John do likewise. They did not find the body of Jesus, but only an empty tomb and burial cloths.
The gospel comments that the beloved disciple “saw and believed”. Although he did not see Jesus then – as later Mary Magdalene, Peter and the rest of the apostles would – he saw enough to remember the prophetic words of Jesus about his resurrection. The absence of Jesus in the tomb is the primordial proof of his living presence among us.
Once, a skeptical reporter taunted G.K. Chesterton, a firm believer of the resurrection, with a sarcastic question, “What would you do if the resurrected Christ were standing right behind you?” The reporter was taken aback, when Chesterton replied, “But, he is”.
“Christ is alive! …He is in you, he is with you, and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One… Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!” (Christus Vivit 1,2) These powerful words of Pope Francis addressed to the youth and to all of us perfectly captures the meaning of Easter.
Christ lives, and he wants us to live – no less than his own life of grace and holiness.
The highlight in the official launching of the 500 Years Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines is the Opening of the Jubilee Door in the Cathedrals and designated Jubilee Churches of our dioceses. The meaning of this rite is simple but profound. It is an invitation to enter into “the mystery of God who is rich in mercy and who unceasingly calls us to salvation”. We enter through “Christ the sole door to salvation and the one way that leads to the Father”.
As the Jubilee Door is opened, so we can enter and receive God’s plentiful graces to strengthen our faith, it is also opened so we can go out and bring our fortified faith to share with others. For this is the ultimate aim of our Jubilee celebration, as expressed in its theme, “Gifted to Give”.
A Happy and Blessed Easter to all!*