The Filipino and the resurrection of JC
“ON the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away…What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in the semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.” G.K. Chesterton (The Everlasting Man)
Filipino Catholics, still the majority of their country’s population, openly confess faith in Jesus Christ who “suffered, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day.” It takes very little imagination, however, to realize how wide the gap between the faith they profess and the realities they live in and are responsible for. The Savior laid down his life; Filipinos live with killings and cheapened human dignity. Obedience to the Father’s will was the Savior’s food (Jn 4:34); open flouting of the Commandments is part of the Pinoy’s daily fare. The Savior died, in the words of Dylan Thomas, to “rage against the dying of the light”; Filipinos make friends with the darkness. The Savior rose from the dead; Filipinos continue to lie inside tombs of disdain for life, injustice, poverty, fear, indifference, false values and standards. The Savior’s resurrection ushered in Easter; Filipinos prefer to stay at Good Friday.
Where have we gone wrong? Might not the answer be that we have been misunderstanding the resurrection and Easter? Listening to the Scriptures and looking at the Risen One, we are taught that resurrection is not resuscitation. It is not going back to a previous earthly existence, like the cases of the dead son of the widow of Zarephath restored to life through Elijah’s prayer (1 Kg 17:17-24), or the daughter of Jairus raised to life by Jesus (Mt 9:18-26), or of the son of the widow of Naim (Lk 7:11-17), or of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44), and of the miraculous life-restorations by the apostles in Acts 9:36-43; 20:8-12.
Isn’t what ails us the fact that after Holy Week we just go back to our previous earthly lives and preoccupations, setting aside and completely casting out the new life brought us by the Risen Jesus? Isn’t our problem the fact that after observing external holy acts we simply return to our old lives of corruption, hatred, apathy, self-centeredness, pride, revenge, scorn for human life and dignity especially of perceived enemies and “non-human people eaten up by drugs and criminality”? Aren’t we guilty of celebrating resuscitation rather than resurrection?
Again the Scriptures and the Risen One teach us that resurrection is a complete transformation of one’s existence, both corporal and spiritual, such that it arrives at the fullness of life beyond the known limits of time and space. When the Easter message we are listening to merely underlines salvation from the drug menace, criminality, poverty, abuse and oppression of the OFW, corruption and social injustice, should we applaud or, rather, ask ourselves if we are getting the whole and complete picture? Are we into Easter or only the trip to social upliftment? Yes, it is true that Filipinos must dream and work for a just and prosperous society. But to say that this is all to the Easter message is to betray not only Easter itself but also what the Filipino truly deserves.
The road to the resurrection uncovered the culture of death cultivated by the Pharisees, the scribes, and the crowds that went from “Hosannah to the Son of David” to “Crucify him…his blood on us and our children”. It exposed the complex trail of treachery by a Judas, the cowardice of a Pilate, the ignorance of a Caiaphas, the shortsighted buffoonery of a Herod, but also the constant, suffering faithfulness of Mary, the women followers of Jesus and the beloved Disciple himself.
Ah, therein lies our hope. With the Judases in our midst, there is also the tiny mustard seed of Mary and the Beloved Disciple in us, restlessly waiting to sprout into flowers and the coveted fruit of boundless life, righteousness and joy.
This may seem an empty boast. But it is scarcely so, if we remain mindful that the Risen One accompanies us in this long, perilous but thrilling journey.