The Good News of Easter is a Person

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An Easter Reflection from fr Anthony Akinwale, OP, President of the Dominican Institute, Ibadan.
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The Good News of Easter is a Person
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The Good News of Easter is not just a story. This Good News is a person. This Good News is Jesus. He came as suffering servant, bringing the light of salvation, to deliver all men and women from darkness. His message was simple: God is love, and those who live in love live and walk in the light. Those who still harbour hatred and nurture resentment in their hearts live in the dark. In Christ, God offers love, but it is met with hatred. He offers light. And that too is met with rejection. The world operates better in the dark. The world prefers darkness. The world seems to prefer to work on a permanent night shift. We operate better in the dark because there in the dark we can accomplish things unwholesome without people seeing us, without getting caught. Light disables darkness by exposing evil. And we saw this in the gesture of Judas during Holy Week. After Judas had dipped his hand in the dish, sharing a meal with Jesus, he went out. “It was night”. The forces of darkness took hold of him. Judas left the company of Jesus, the company of light, and went into the company of darkness.

To separate oneself from Jesus is to separate oneself from light. It is to enter into communion with forces of darkness. We go into darkness when our hearts are not where Jesus is. But when we live in union with him, we too rise to new life in him.

Despite extravagant religiosity, our country gropes in the dark. It is not just the darkness of power outage. It is the darkness of fraternising with evil. A country where terrorists, abductors, and politicians who sponsor militias are reigning is a country where life is cheap. Such a country is in the dark. Its people and leaders are like Judas, plotting treachery in the night, in the dark of night. But the liturgy of Easter teaches us that the night of treachery was turned into the night of our redemption by our God of unchanging power.

At the end of the long liturgy of the word, the Church bursts into chants of Alleluia at the Easter night. Alleluia is our chant of victory. We did not chant it during Lent. Now we chant it with a significance that is not lost on St Augustine. In his Commentary on Psalm 118, he wrote: “And now we sing Alleluia! How sweet, how joyous a song it is! How overflowing with tender charm! If we were to repeat it constantly we would grow weary of it, but when it returns after absence, what festivity!”

From now, Alleluia shall be our song. It shall be your song and it shall be my song. For Christ has conquered death for you and for me. Alleluia shall be our song for, in Christ, darkness has been defeated. And the victory of the Risen Christ shall be our own victory if we are faithful to the baptismal vows we shall soon renew. In you and in me, the light of the risen Christ will defeat the darkness that hovers over our land Nigeria.

We must reflect on the baptismal vows we renew. These vows remind us that we have become one with Christ; these vows bind us to Christ in the victory of his resurrection. That is what Paul the apostle teaches us in words of incomparable clarity in the Letter to the Romans, read to us at the Easter Vigil. “You have been taught,” he said, “that when we were baptized in Christ Jesus we were baptized in his death; in other words, when we were baptized we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection.”

In the vows of our baptism, we are saying that our old selves have been crucified with Christ, that our sinful body has been destroyed, that we have been liberated from darkness, from lies, from fear, from death. We are saying that in us, Light has overcome darkness. We are promising to cast away the deeds of darkness. We are telling the world that in Christ we are the light of the world.

The Baptismal Liturgy of the Easter Vigil is followed by the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is the Passover feast of the Church. Christ our Passover has been slain. His victory over death is the inauguration of a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth. We rejoice and we share a meal. He himself is our food. He is the one inviting us to share in sacrifice of his body and blood. The newly baptised, and the whole Church, that is, the new creation he has brought into being receive life from the Author of life who gives himself as food.

The Eucharist we receive is Christ who comes into our hearts. The Light comes to dwell in our hearts so that, wherever we go, wherever we find ourselves, we too bear this light to the world. Those who are baptised, those who truly partake of the Eucharist cannot be agents of darkness. If we truly welcome Christ into our hearts his statement becomes true in us: “You are the light of the world”.

The old order has passed away, yielding to the new. The long night of sin has lost its place to the glorious triumph of love in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. Dispelled is the darkness of death. The reign of life begins. It’s Easter!

The news is proclaimed to terrorists and kidnappers, to fraudsters and unprincipled politicians, to all who make life difficult and insecure in Nigeria. Christ is risen!

Let us strive to rise with him so that it may be Easter in Nigeria.

Father Anthony Akinwale, O.P.

 

(05 April 2015)