Readings: Acts 10:34,37-43, Ps. 118:1-2,16-17,22-23, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-9

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

Death is a great teacher, yet his students (all of us) are too scared or too busy to pay attention in his class. One day, I was at the funeral of someone I knew very well. It was an emotional ceremony; almost everyone looked teary. I noticed how people gradually trickled away while the body was lowered into the grave. They couldn’t wait for the grave to be completely covered before moving on. After the grave was covered, I went to the reception arena, and it felt like I was seeing a different crowd; there was no sign of mourning. People were eating, drinking and laughing as though it was a wedding ceremony. Is this how quickly the world would move on when I die? Will they even wait till my grave is covered before fighting over food and drinks? This is the reality of life.

That day, death taught me a lesson – no one cares about you the moment they realise they can no longer get anything from you. As one musician puts it: “When you dey hustle, you go dey all alone. When you succeed, they go call you their own, your name go dey touch ceiling, anything you do e go turn hailing” When you are successful, friends are uncountable, but the moment things change, you are on your own. See how quickly Peter denied knowing Jesus after His arrest. See how quickly everyone moved on after Jesus was nailed to the cross. In today’s Gospel passage, John tells us that even the disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. They did not know the Scripture or believe what Jesus said about “raising the temple in three days” (Cf. John 2:19).

Lent is finally over. Am I also in haste to move on with my life? No more Stations of the Cross, no more fasting and abstinence. Am I going to return to my old habits and vices? Mary Magdalene refused to move on. Her actions proved she was a true friend of Jesus. She was among the Women of Jerusalem who wept for Jesus while the crowd cheered and mocked, but when others moved on, she went to the tomb early in the morning (She probably hadn’t slept deeply the previous night). For this, she became the first to see the Risen Jesus. What motivated Mary Magdalene’s actions? How can we become the Mary Magdalenes in our day?

1. Step One – Believe That Jesus Is Risen from the Dead
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity. Anyone who does not believe that the same Jesus who died also rose to life is wasting their time in church. Without this solid foundation of Faith in the Resurrection Power, we cannot please God. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6). Let us face it: many of us do not believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. Why do I say this? We are still worried and brooding over our problems. We still think there are things that God cannot do. We still assume our case is impossible. We do not even look happy. By rising from the dead, Christ has shown us that there is light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of whatever may come our way. No matter how many Good Fridays come, Easter Sunday must come.

2. Step Two – Rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus
If you believe Jesus rose from the dead, you should be dancing and bubbling joyfully. Today's Psalmist sings: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” Why are we not rejoicing? Why are we not glad? Why are we still scared? Why are we not expecting answers to our prayers? We have come before a God who conquered death; why do the threats of our enemies still move us? The third stanza of today’s psalm says: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty deeds. I shall not die; I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.” Tell your neighbour: “I shall not die; I shall live.” Sing: “If you are happy and you know, say Jesus (x3). If you are happy and you know, and you really want to show, shout: ‘Jesus is Risen!’” Yes, today is a day of happiness. It is a day of dancing and gladness because death has lost its sting; death has lost its victory. Death no longer has the final say. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

3. Step Three – Rise With Jesus from the Grave of Sin
What do we mean when we say Jesus has risen to take away our sins? Some erroneously take this statement to mean that no matter how many sins they commit, the death of Jesus has taken care of it. By so doing, they make a mockery of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus died for our sins, but it doesn’t mean that we would no longer stand before the Judgment Throne of God to give an account of our lives. Jesus did not die to give us the licence to do whatever we wish (lose consciousness of sin). In today’s first reading, we heard St. Peter addressing the group of believers: “God raised him on the third day and made him manifest… And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:40-42) Why would Jesus judge us? He took our flesh; He understands what it means to face temptation or to resist the devil. If Jesus were never human, we would say: “God, you don’t understand how weak the flesh can be.” Now, we have no excuse. Brothers and Sisters. Rise and Shine. Rise from sin and shine the light of God. Rise from evil and shine as the salt of the earth.

4. Step Four – Raise Your Thoughts from Earthly Things to Heavenly Realities
Sin does not happen in a vacuum. It always begins from somewhere – from the nature of our thoughts. To rise from the grave of sin, we must pay attention to the thoughts we accommodate. Jesus said: “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20-23). Knowing how powerful thoughts are, St. Paul, in today’s Second Reading, tells us: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2). St. Paul begins with “If”, indicating that not all of us have risen with Christ. Those who refuse to change their thought patterns are still in the grave.

5. Step Five – Become a Witness of Jesus’ Resurrection
What happens when we raise our thoughts to the things that are above? We suddenly realise that we can no longer keep silent. Hence, Peter says in today’s First Reading: “We are witnesses to all that Jesus did both in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem.” Witnessing Jesus is the natural consequence of experiencing something so precious as the resurrection. If I am still afraid of letting the world know that I am a disciple of Jesus, I am still like the Old Peter who denied Jesus before a maid. And worse still, if my actions contradict the values Jesus stood for, I am still like Judas Iscariot, who sold Jesus. As you leave this church today, imagine that everyone you meet does not believe that Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead. Approach them and try to convince them of the resurrection. Do this not just with words but with actions.

How do we make our proclamation of Christ’s resurrection concrete? a. Choose Jesus instead of Barabbas. b. Prioritise Jesus over money. (Do not sell Jesus for 30 silver coins). c. Defend your faith in public. Don’t keep quiet when people ask what you believe. d. Don’t hate or envy anyone like the Jews who wanted Jesus dead by all means. e. Don’t follow the crowd by Pilate; stand by your beliefs. f. Don’t build your faith on signs and wonders like the people who wanted Jesus to jump down from the cross so that they would believe. g. Forgive wrongs patiently, as Jesus said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, help me fix my mind on the things above and no longer or below. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Easter Sunday Liturgical Colour: White. Bible Study: Acts 10:34,37-43, Ps. 118:1-2,16-17,22-23, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-9).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu