Surprising blessings

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico, S.J. (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2013 - 12:00am

“Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Offer your thankful praises!

A Lamb the sheep redeems;

Christ, who only is sinless,

Reconciles sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended

In that combat stupendous:

The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring

What you saw, wayfaring.

“The tomb of Christ,

Who is living,

The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

Bright angels attesting,

The shroud and napkin resting.

Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;

To Galilee he goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.

Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia.”

(from the Sequence of Easter)

We just finished the graduation ceremonies in our high school in Cagayan de Oro, yet I can still vividly remember the reactions of Hanna and Judd, our two top students, when they had learned of one of the great surprises of their lives.

Hanna, upon being announced that she finished at the top of her class, could not believe the thunderous applause given to her by her batch mates. It was such a surprise for her to get so much support from her contemporaries and to feel very much accepted by them as she received the news.

Judd was also dumbfounded with the announcement that he finished second in his batch. He shed tears of joy as he was also in a state of shock. He also had no words to contain what he was experiencing. I just remember him smiling and crying all at the same time. The only words that came from him were words of gratitude and wonder.

 Furthermore, when I talked to the two in a more personal manner and told them that everyone in their batch made it this year, both burst into tears with the added revelation. Never had I seen so much joy from these two people in the past years that I had known them. For them, it was more than what they had asked for or expected. What I saw from the two was not just happiness because of their awards, but rather a deeper joy of seeing their friends and companions finishing the race, and finishing it well. It was a victory for everyone. Their joy came because of the way everyone worked as a team.

This experience reminds me of Easter. When we are surprised at how events come up to our favor, when we expect life to be burdensome and yet does not come out that way, when we expect only so little yet grace and mercy come in abundance, in such, I believe, we are experiencing the blessings of Easter.

In life, we have been trained to be mindful of our limitations. And so, we label. We measure. We count. But Jesus presents to us a love that is overflowing. It is a love that cannot be measured and is at times quite overwhelming. It is a love that does not account but rather rejoices in the freedom and growth of the other. It is a love that oftentimes surprises.

And sometimes, when we are surprised, our first recourse is unbelief, or amazement, or confusion. But in our hearts, there is a felt-understanding of something that is awesome which our minds cannot figure out yet at the moment.

Enter Mary, Peter and John. Picture yourself in their shoes (or sandals). They were considered to be people who were close to Jesus. They broke bread with Him. They laughed with Him. They shared their stories and difficulties-in-life with Him. They witnessed how He let the dumb speak, the lame walk, and those possessed set free. They saw how God’s marvels were present in the years of Jesus’ ministry.

They saw Jesus live.

And in the course of a fateful week, they bore witness to how their good Friend suffered in the hands of His enemies. They saw Him arrested, flogged and given a most difficult time. They saw Him paraded through the streets of Jerusalem like a criminal. They saw Him nailed to a cross while being jeered at by people who did not even know Him and did not even know what they were doing.

They saw Jesus die.

If we try to contemplate what these three disciples must have felt, it will really be quite unbelievable to understand the situation in which they were in. The friend whom they placed in the tomb was gone. The stone was moved. His linens were unbound. It was a moment of bewilderment for them. We could not blame them if they acted so. It was but natural. And we may also find ourselves in the same situation if we lost someone who was close to us.

They saw Jesus gone. . . and surprisingly revealed.

In the few days after Jesus’ resurrection, we hear of the many ways Jesus surprises His friends by his presence. Some will cry. Some will rejoice. Some will doubt. Some will recognize Him by the actions that He does. Some experience a new found hope that comes from this reconnection with Him. Coming as we are, Jesus surprises His friends as he rekindles their hearts in being with Him.

Easter finds its home in our lives when we begin to believe that there is hope despite the trials that we experience — even if it means that we may have to drop our mindsets that limit our deeper belief. Easter invites us to trust in God who continually surprises us in our lives. Easter encourages us to look towards those moments that make us grow and more whole.

It is that time of the year when we end journeys and begin new ones. Perhaps it is time for us to open ourselves to God’s surprises as well? It is normal and fine to be surprised. It makes life even more interesting in a sense. And if we are graced to see and appreciate God indeed living in the stories of our lives, may we give thanks to Him as we remain in Him with grateful hearts.

Wishing everyone God’s surprising blessings and a most Happy Easter!


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