Mass at Calvary Chapel Church of the Holy Sepulchre Pilgrimage 2016
Friends, brothers and sisters, Happy Easter! Are you happy?
I am happy not because I can now rest from the busyness of many things that Lent and Easter involve or entails, but because Easter is a time of JOY. I am happy not because all this busyness of Lent and Easter do’s will soon be over but especially because of all of you here tonight/today celebrating this wonderful celebration of our Christian faith and tradition.
Yes, there is so much detail in tonight’s liturgy as you would notice, but I loved every detail of it.
I am so happy too to welcome into the Faith and into the Church 14 new members who would be baptised, confirmed and to receive their first Eucharist today. Welcome to the family.
Brothers and sisters, what DOES EASTER MEAN FOR YOU PERSONALLY?
For me, Easter is a celebration of God’s forgiveness, a celebration God’s faithfulness to his promise, and a celebration of Christian hope.
First, Easter is a celebration of God’s forgiveness of our sins in the sense that not only God forgives us 70 times 7 times, but that he would even pay the punishment our sins himself not by any amount of money but by the very life of his only begotten Son.
Someone says: ‘The devil knows us by name, but he calls us by our sin. While God knows our sins, he calls us by our name.’
In Christ, God calls us now ‘redeemed’ by the blood of his Son, Jesus. St Paul would remind us in the letter to the Romans (Rom 6:3-11), “we must realize that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin.”
In the death of Jesus on the Cross, God is telling us a wonderful message: ‘We are to die for’.
Just look at the person sitting beside you and say: ‘You are to die for!’ That’s the Easter Message Jesus has for each of us today.
Second, Easter is a celebration of God’s faithfulness to his promise. One notable thing on Easter Vigil is the series of readings from Old Testament. Yes, it is long, or could be longer even. But when we reflect on those readings we realize that it is about the truth that God is always there for us and with us in our journey through life. It is not just about God’s personal concern for his people but also on his faithfulness to his promise.
God remains faithful to us even if at times, we don’t care about him. God never abandons us even if at times we tend to abandon him.
God never forgets us even if at times we tend to forget him.
God never prefers anything over us even if at times we prefer anything over him and that God loves us even if at times we are not lovely.
Third, Easter is a celebration of hope. We see in Jesus that though he went through unimaginable sufferings, mockery and humiliation, even these terrible things do not have the final say in his life- the resurrection does.
The risen Lord assures us now to remain in hope even if at times we have to face challenges, trials and difficulties in life. Christian hope means to Hold On, Problem Ends or Hang on Pain Ends.
We need hope more today in the midst of the many things that may weigh us down. We have been bombarded by many negative events happening around us.
Just today, that news of attacks in Sri Lanka killing more than a hundred people and injuring many others, leaving families grieving and places of worship destroyed, safety in hotels compromised, is just one example of things that may weigh us down.
Christian hope would point to us the image of the Cross- Jesus may have died there but that wasn’t the end of him. It ushers in a new life not only for him but for us as well.
Because of Christ’s resurrection, the Cross ceases to become a sign of punishment and becomes a positive sign. As Christians therefore, we are to live as positive-minded people and surrounded by positive-minded people.
To grow in Christian hope we need to take in on ourselves the question of the Angels to the women in the tomb: “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he is risen”. (Cf Luke 24:1-12).
This means of course, we must not lose sight of Jesus in our lives. St Paul would mean this in his Letter to the Colossians to ‘look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is.’ (cf Col 3:1-4) This means also we are to focus our endeavours and aspirations on what is life-giving for us. I would call this, our Easter EGG: to devote our ENERGY to what is GOOD and GODLY.
One other source of hope for us is the evidence of the empty tomb.
Now this is a challenge because according to the gospel the tomb is empty. I don’t mean that we hope for nothing.
Let us however, look at what’s left in the empty tomb. According to the other gospel narrative on the resurrection (John 20:1-9), when Peter and company arrived at the tomb they saw the linen cloths used to wrap Jesus before his burial, on the ground. And they saw also ‘the cloth that has been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.’
Now the way it is being rolled up is significant.
It is told that in the Jewish custom at the time when the Master is eating, his servant would be standing near observing and always ready to clean the table when the master finished his meal.
If the master is finished with his meal, he would get up and after using the napkin to wipe his mouth, beard and fingers, he would get up and just leave the table ‘napkin’ crumpled on the table. This is a signal for the servant that he could now clean the table.
So friends, Jesus not only rose from the dead. He will come again. Let us prepare ourselves for his coming again then by the ABC of Easter: Adore the Risen Lord always, Be a living presence of Christ in the world, and C– care for one another. Amen.
I wish you all a meaningful and joy-filled Easter celebrations. Drive safely and drink moderately. Happy Easter Everyone.