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Easter’s Pledge of a New World



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Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera OMI., Ph.D., Th.D.


 


Easter is identified as the Christian festival par excellence. It celebrates the unique event of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the core and the crux of the Christian religion and Faith. History attests that he was condemned to death and crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. However, the third day following, He had begun to show signs of life by appearing to his close disciples within locked doors, sharing meals with them, visiting them in the familiar beaches they used to work and accompanying them on their journeys. The resurrection narratives of the four Gospels of the New Testament Bible relate the graphic accounts of these events. Concluding his appearances, the Risen Lord commissions his disciples to teach all nations, to observe all what he had taught them and empowers the senior most disciple Simon Peter to take care of the flock and tend the sheep He was leaving behind while others are sent out on missionary errands.


The empowerment of the Risen Christ is so compelling that the disciples victorious over their initial fear and skepticism launch out a valiant preaching campaign beginning from the imposing temple of Jerusalem. Three thousand of the crowd that gathered in Jerusalem for the annual festival convert to the new faith and we are told that they initiated a new way of life where all held things in common, no one in want of anything with some even selling off their properties and laying the money at the feet of the leaders. Sharing and care of the most vulnerable were the distinguishing marks of these earliest communities. Slowly but steadily the cultural, ethnic, religious, civil and even gender barriers were broken with all the believers living united and in peace in one heart and mind. The pagan Romans used to be alarmed at their way of life making the remark "See how they love one another!". Thus solidarity flowing from the communion of hearts became the greatest blessing that followed Easter.


Wherever Christianity had gone in its universal history across cultures, civilizations and humanity’s eras, acts of charity had marked their engagement with society. Schools and hospitals were often the first social services they initiated on their advent anywhere. Care of the sick and education were considered as priority concerns in social action. Churches raised highly qualified medical personnel and men and women skilled in education and formation, making them the greatest assets of social betterment. Charity took a heroic form in the work of Mother Teresa in Calcutta


As thinking and reflection developed from the ancient era through the middle-ages to the modern times, Christianity entered the arena of science and technology which are today the twin-pathways to human advancement and progress making headway in creative and innovative involvements with the socio-cultural forces shaping the civilization of the various epochs. The churches today consider man as the way both to the Church and to the Gospel preached by Jesus Christ. Nothing human is alien to the Christian philosophy and living. They embrace the joys and hopes of humanity as their own and engage them. After all, God had become man in Jesus Christ. In the disfigured face of Jesus, the wounds of the world are seen, while in the radiant countenance of the Risen Christ, the hope of a world of new opportunities for life and love are portrayed.


We see in the Gospel-stories how Jesus of Nazareth not only expounded very high spiritual ideals but also touched the sick in healing, drove evil spirits that oppressed people, loved and blessed children, showed compassion to those who were hungry and above all saved the lives of sinners and challenged the self-righteousness of those swollen with pride. He took time for listening to the stories of people, understood their loneliness and helplessness and instilled in those who were feeling wretched and discouraged, feelings of hope. He had come not to judge and condemn the world, but to heal and save the world. He hated sin and evil, but loved to see sinners and the wicked convert and change their lives for the better.


This mystery of divine forgiveness is highlighted in the most touching parables of the prodigal son who returns home and the good shepherd who dances when finding the lost sheep. These stories are without parallel in any religious literature or teaching. God desires and rejoices when humanity achieves unity, truth, goodness and beauty. It is always a better world minus its wars, conflicts, tensions, doubts, suspicions and arrogance. A world of nations treading paths of peace, dialogue and collaboration, where the strong are just, the weak secure and peace preserved is always humanity’s sole but often the elusive dream. Yet to men of goodwill, peace will dawn. Science and technology with all its sophisticated and wonderful feats in the digital revolution must help in conquering decease, alleviating world poverty and ensuring a safe and healthy environment in keeping the planet earth our common home a pleasant place to live and where we can look after our daily needs devoid of any anxiety. Given the diversity of cultures, religious beliefs and political ideologies, the art of peaceful negotiations and painstaking dialogue is a new science of solidarity that we have to learn. Diversity is no impediment to unity. On the contrary, it embellishes unity adding a colourful luster and destroying a stale monotony.


In the life of Jesus, we find the wicked called to change for the better, various religious and ethnic groups brought to reconciliation and the most vulnerable in society assisted and defended. This new tradition had been diffused all over the middle-eastern cosmopolitan towns and villages by the earliest Christian preachers even reaching imperial Rome. It is also the perennial message of the Christian churches today all over the world. The Christian communities drawn as they are from various languages, ethnic and racial groups can contribute a lion’s share in being agents of reconciliation and unity in society today. To this end, the spirit of Easter invites all who celebrate it, to the important work of human solidarity among all nations and to ensure the equitable sharing of all goods. It is in such a social atmosphere that a new world can be born from the present birth-pangs that we notice everywhere of struggle and pain. The Christ of Easter had always on his gracious lips the words: "Fear Not, Peace be to you!" To the extent all fears are exorcised, peace will have a chance. To make such a situation prevail is the most urgent task today for all concerned. We must move towards a worldwide era of peaceful co-existence anchored on mutual respect, trust and sharing of goods.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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