Easter and beginning anew

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

When Pope Francis celebrated the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on April 3, 2021, his most inspiring words in his homily were, “It is always possible to begin anew.” Words and three powerful messages which continue to be relevant and much needed today.

Drawing from the Gospel reading from Mark 16:1-7 of the empty tomb’s discovery – same as the accounts of Luke and John with one noteworthy detail of the presence of a young man attired in white, at the tomb, who tells Mary and the other women to tell the disciples, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”

Pope Francis beautifully explains what to “go to Galilee” means. It is to begin anew, “to return to the place in our hearts where Jesus first called us to follow him.”

“In this Galilee,” he continues, “we learn to be amazed by the Lord’s infinite love, which opens new trails along the path of our defeats.”

We are reminded that from the “rubble of our hearts,”  God can create a work of art, from the “ruined remnants of our history.” It also means walking away from the tomb, to take new paths.

The second of Pope Francis’ messages is that as we walk away from the tomb, we should be strengthened by the thought that Jesus “is alive here and now.”

The Pope’s reassuring words, “He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams… He opens new doors when you least expect it; he urges you not to indulge in nostalgia for the past or cynicism about the present. Even if you feel that all is lost, please, let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: He will surely surprise you.”

Draw strength from the knowledge and the certainty of Jesus’ presence in our everyday lives and those who share in our every action, every cross, every triumph. This knowledge brings us to Pope Francis’ third message, that Jesus loves us “without limits.”

With our renewal of baptismal promises at the Easter rites, the Pope reminds us once more, “Let us open our hearts, embrace life anew and receive and share the love given, completely and eternally, by our Lord Jesus – alive, here and now.”

The liturgy of Holy Week is always a profoundly moving experience for me, often feeling that I am experiencing it for the first time. It is always familiar, yet new and spiritually invigorating.

This is tied up with my deep interest in the Church’s history of religious traditions, making me appreciate even more the traditions which have been passed on to us today.

A book I continue to turn to is “Many Books, Many Faiths” by Robert Ellwood and Barbara McGraw.  This history of mankind’s major religions delves into the early days of Christianity.

They wrote that almost all we know of Jesus comes to us through the hands of those who knew Him since He himself has not left us with any written document He himself wrote. Christianity was never an individual religion. It has been communal. The disciples left their jobs and family and formed a new social group around Jesus. Remember that the disciples were always on hand for Jesus’ preaching and miracles and were told about the deeper meanings of the parables.

In the early days of Christianity, the church would meet for worship early in the morning on Sunday (commemorating the Resurrection) because it was just another ordinary workday then. To avoid legal problems and possible persecution, the Christians would meet quietly in private homes and catacombs. It was only in the 3rd century when churches began to be built.

Worship combined scripture, prayer and instruction with the Eucharist, the sacred communal meal commemorating the Last Supper. The mass and the Holy Communion remain the principal acts of worship in the Catholic Church.

I derive much comfort and serenity in the discovery that when I read about the practices and rites of the early Church, much of the Church’s worship and teachings have remained basically unchanging. Its message to me every Holy Week is that true faith and its core values are essential and enduring tenets. These values should be timeless guiding principles and withstand the test of time.

May our Easter this year lead us to beautiful beginnings not only in our personal lives but also for a Philippines that would be more equitable for all sectors, especially the marginalized.  And may the May 9 elections live up to its promise.

*      *      *

Young Writers’ Hangout on April 23 with Roel S.R. Cruz, 2-3 pm. Write Things’ six-day summer workshop “Writefest” (now on its 8th year) on May 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 27 is now open for registration. Open to 8-17 year olds, it will run from 3-4:30 pm every session.

Contact [email protected]  0945.2273216

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