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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

Easter 2016

 

 

Easter 2016
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, M.C.

“The power of the Holy Spirit was with him” (Lk 4: 14)

Dearly beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Praise the Lord, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

In Rome we have many burial grounds, beginning with the catacombs, so many of them. Some of them are more famous and are visited by pilgrims and tourists, who come to Rome to have a taste of the faith of the early Christians, some of whom offered their lives on the altar of martyrdom. Peter and Paul, the founders of the Church of Rome, were not born and raised in Rome, but they came from Israel, the land of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Bl. Teresa of Kolkata was not born in India, but came to India at the age of 18 and died at the age of 87 in Kolkata. Unlike the apostles, Bl. Teresa of Kolkata M.C. had the white martyrdom. Although Jesus was a martyr par excellence, we still use white vestments to celebrate the feast of Easter. Why do we do that? Please, try to find your answer.  

 

The tombs of the martyrs and saints are not empty, unlike the tomb of Jesus. There are three more big cemeteries in Rome: Verano, Prima Porta and Trigoria. None of the tombs in those cemeteries are empty like the tomb on Calvary hill, in the Holy Sepulchre Church, in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the third day. But going beyond the empty tomb of Calvary hill, I would like to concentrate on a couple of empty-tomb experience of Jesus during his public life until his death on a cross and, if time allows, a few words on the empty-tomb experience in the life and apostolate of Bl. Teresa of Kolkata, our foundress and our Mother.

During these days, if you have some free time, I would like each one of you to write down your own empty-tomb experiences in your personal lives.

One of the first empty-tomb experiences of Jesus when he began his public life was in the synagogue in Nazareth. St. Luke says that Jesus returned to Galilee, and the power of the Holy Spirit was with him (cf. Lk 4: 14). The power of the Holy Spirit never abandoned Jesus, and the power of the evil spirit could never overcome the power of the Holy Spirit from the beginning to the very end of Jesus’ life. This is a very important element to reflect upon. If we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, the power of the evil spirit of discouragement, dissentions, calumnies, false accusations and the like, cannot overcome us. Jesus had all that and more. Bl. Teresa M.C., the spouse of Jesus Christ crucified, shared very closely with him in both the power of the Holy Spirit and in the attack of the evil one.

Instead of paying attention to Jesus’ words, they started saying: Isn’t he the son of Joseph? Instead of giving heed to the truth of the word of God, they were carried away by external appearances. They even wanted to kill Jesus. This was a real empty-tomb experience for Jesus. His proclamation of the word of God and his homily were not only not accepted, but they wanted to destroy him. But the power of the Holy Spirit was with him. The experience of the empty-tomb did not discourage him. He did not give up his preaching and doing good to others (Lk 4: 31ff.).

I would like to discuss only one or two more empty-tomb experience of Jesus. At the last supper, Judas left the upper room, not filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, but of the evil spirit. As soon as Judas took the morsel of bread, Satan entered into him (Jn 13:27).

Here Jesus is faced with a terrible and tragic empty-tomb experience. It was not only because Judas was going to betray Jesus, but because Judas did not persevere in his vocation to be one of the twelve apostles. He threw into the dustbin the incredibly precious gift and mystery of his sublime call to be one of the twelve apostles, chosen to be with Jesus, to be one of his companions and to bear witness to him, like the other eleven apostles who were not all perfect either by any means. Jesus respected Judas’ freedom.

The very same satan, who so easily defeated Adam and Eve, could not defeat Jesus, the new Adam, and Mary, the new Eve, but he got one of the twelve. Satan entered into him, and, led by satan, Judas did what he did. Not only had Judas betrayed Jesus, worse still was that he committed suicide. Here was a real tragedy, a real failure. It is like one of us called by Jesus to be with him, to be his intimate friend, who walks out led by the evil one. For Jesus, the upper room experience was like an empty-tomb experience, but the Holy Spirit was with him. So, he could accept even the hardest blow in his life, especially from his own chosen one…one who ate with him…one who shared his life so closely.

The worst and most tragic empty-tomb experience was still to come, and it came when all the apostles abandoned him. Peter denied him, and the crowd shouted in one voice: “Crucify him, give us Barabbas”. Barabbas was a murderer. Finally, there was the crucifixion. Here is the complete annihilation of Jesus’ power, a total kenosis of Jesus. The all-powerful becomes the all-powerless. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…” Here Jesus’ empty-tomb experience reached its culmination. But still the evil one could not defeat Jesus. He prayed for his persecutors. He forgives the good thief, promising him the reward of paradise with Jesus. To be with Jesus is our real paradise, whether here on earth or hereafter in heaven.

Jesus did not die on the cross in despair, but his last words were: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. The spirit of the Lord never left Jesus. His salvific act was a Trinitarian event. All three persons worked together to create us humans: Let us make man and woman in our image (cf. Gen 1: 26). The same Trinitarian God who created us, worked together to save us from the bondage of sin and satan. “I and the Father are one…”

Only those who go through similar empty-tomb experiences and still persevere can also experience the joy of the resurrection.

Bl. Teresa M.C. went through many empty-tomb experiences in her life. Just to mention a few in passing:

-          Waiting so long for permission from the archbishop of Kolkata.

-          Looking for a house after coming back from Patna…

-          Waiting anxiously for candidates to join her.

-          So many of the Sisters leaving the Society…

-        Her dark night, her aridity in prayer, her many recorded and unrecorded trials, sufferings, misunderstandings, calumnies, false accusations, rejections, moral sufferings, her own weaknesses, her sincere awareness of her unworthiness,…etc.

The resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is the corner stone of our faith. The existence of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church in itself is a real proof of the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus had not risen, St. Peter and Paul would not have accepted martyrdom. If they had not died for Christ, we would not have the magnificent Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul, nor the Basilicas of Mary Major and St. John Lateran, and all the churches, big and small in the world. If Jesus had not have risen from the tomb, we would not have been here. Your presence here, my dear Brothers and Sisters, is a living testimony, a powerful witness of the resurrection of Jesus.

Forty or fifty days are not enough to sing alleluia to Jesus; we need an eternity to do that. Indeed we have an eternity to sing praises and to offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the risen and glorified Lord.

We are on the eve of the canonization of our mother and foundress, Bl. Teresa M.C., which too would not have made any sense if Jesus did not rise from the dead. Every canonization is a reaffirmation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Good Friday without Easter Sunday would have been the worst catastrophe that would have taken place in the world. Thanks be to God we have them both, inseparably interwoven into the fabric of our life and activity. If we do not die, we do not rise. No death, no resurrection. No Easter Sunday without Good Friday. So when we go through Good Friday, think of the Easter Sunday, which will give life, light, hope and encouragement to face difficulties.

Praise the Lord, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. We are an Easter people, alleluia is our song. Let alleluia be our unceasing song in pain and in happiness, in sorrow and in joy. Let the song of alleluia be on our lips until our last breath.

“All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life” (Phil 3: 10-11).

I wish all of you a very happy, holy and joyful season of Easter, which prepares us for the gift and feast of the Holy Spirit.

Love and prayers.

God bless you.