The Light of Easter amidst the Uncertainty of Social Change

EASTER



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BY Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera OMI


On Easter Sunday, Christians, world-wide, celebrate the Glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the core-truth of their religious faith and spirituality. Jesus of Nazareth thus became an Eternal Galilean who will rule the world and human history till the end of time. The Crucified Nazarene, the carpenter’s son, the authoritative preacher, the healer of the sick and the possessed, the threat of the demons has vanquished the gloom of the grave and the darkness of that cave having emerged glorious in the brilliance of the Risen Life. Death has been defeated, doubts have been cleared, fears have been destroyed, hope reassured, peace dawned as the Divine Teacher triumphed in glory. For all what technology and science can do to prolong life, it would be clearly impossible to resist death and its rampage through humankind. Here lies the radical weakness of human endeavor and the ultimate failure of human resources to ensure life and even succeed in their fight for defeating terminal diseases like cancer, chronic heart disease and Aids, the trinity of death.


1. The Light of the Risen Christ


Easter means a rising and a new dawn. The brilliance of the Light of the Risen Christ fills the Easter Season. The stories of the close followers of Jesus show that they were a distraught lot after the condemnation and the death of their master. A pale of sorrow, fear and restlessness had over taken them. Two days had passed without any sign of their master coming back alive from the tomb. But then, came the third day and it was all changed. Christ was alive. He came in through their closed doors exorcising their gripping fears and dispelling the doubts that had crippled all his disciples. He came to them with the greetings and blessings of peace. He would stalk the beaches of Galilee once again and wait for them to return to land to partake of a meal in the open and windy beach. He would be a travelling companion to them during their journeys, listening patiently to their stories of frustration and sit down to break bread with them in an inn in order to reveal his glory. He would appear to the doubting companions, showing the wounds of his crucifixion, challenging their disbelief and leading them to faith in him as the Risen Lord. The Jewish Sabbath that was Saturday would now be replaced by Sunday, the glorious day of the Resurrection. Fifty days later, the disciples empowered by the Spirit of the Risen Lord, would openly and courageously preach the news about the crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord and would even dare death for his name’s sake. They would criss-cross lands beyond the city of Jerusalem and Palestine to take this Good News to many middle-eastern cities and even reach imperial Rome to challenge its idolatry and immorality demanding that they believe in Jesus the Redeemer and change their lives for the better into a new life-style of holiness, sanctity and righteous living. . Simon Peter who was once a humble fisherman from northern Galilee would choose to be crucified with the head down and Paul the die-hard Pharisee who converted would reach Rome and be beheaded because of his brave preaching. The later Christian believers in Rome under severe persecution from Roman pagan emperors would bravely face martyrdom for the sake of the faith they had in the Crucified and Risen Lord. Under the severe anti-Christian culture of politics and prevailing idolatry of the cosmic pantheon, Christians underwent cruel forms of persecution with the first Popes, practically all of them, ending their lives as martyrs.


It has been said often in Christian tradition, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Faith and so has it been as history of Christianity has unfolded in the first 500 years. However, in the middle ages, it was the golden age of Christianity in the western European continent. Then came the modern and post-modern times, when Christianity stabilized, traversed through various other continents but not without having to face and being challenged inevitably by newer and more subtle anti-Christian ideologies, philosophies and socio-cultural currents of different hues. The greatest danger and threat to religions and religious practice in the modern world is secularism that radically marginalizes them and other social ideologies that are extreme forms of social conflict. But, we also see that a world without religious values is more and more turning inhuman and decadent societies are emerging on our horizons, much to the regret of all wise thinkers, who like to see a humanity become more human and a world becoming more peaceful and secure. Libertine thinking and nuclear arms race are the twin hydras that seem to sway over the world-scene today. They create fear, anxiety and insecurity on the entire world-stage and have to be dispelled, sooner the better with good understanding, solidarity and collaboration among the nations. Dialogue appears to be the language that is most suited for our modern age of diversity in our daily conversations. This planet, our common home, has to be saved together or nations must be ready to run the risk of perishing in its flames together. Collective wisdom and mutual understanding are the two wings that will soar the nations to the noble heights of world-peace and collaboration for a better and safer world. One has to rise from a false provincialism, a die-hard extremism that is the bane of modern world.


2. Christianity: an Agent of Social Change and Tranformation


Our present world has risen from the dust and ashes of two world-wars. It has learnt its lessons that have been bitter, overwhelming and fraught with untold anxiety, fear and suffering. These wars and the present racial, ethnic, religious and cultural conflicts are wreaking havoc on entire nations and their future prospects for prosperity and stability. The spirit of the risen Christ, on the contrary, has gripped his followers world-wide to spread the spirit of solidarity among nations and peoples, peace and concord among warring factions making the world capable of transcending language, ethnic and socio-cultural differences thus leading nations to build a world of good understanding, mutual appreciation and collaboration. Beginning from the time of Constantine the Great emperor on the fourth century AD down to different epochs wherever Christianity had penetrated, it had raised schools and hospitals to serve in the cause of education and caring for the sick and infirm. It has favoured all democratic forms of government and civil life, fostered human rights in favour of human dignity and social justice in favour of human liberation. It readily welcomes an economic system of abundance but with sharing. Compared with the paucity of failures and defects, Christianity has contributed much for a more humane, peaceful and better world throughout the past 20 centuries. The culture of human solidarity that was introduced by St. Paul, the first evangelizer of the ancient nations helping people to sink religious differences, social class distinctions and even gender differences has penetrated even today’s thinking. There is so much effort to make all religions respected, all human beings honoured and the feminine of womanhood restored to its proper dignity with equal opportunities open to them. The modern world can learn from the earliest Christianity that diffused this culture in ancient middle-eastern cities like Corinth, Ephesus and Colossae, and even in imperial Rome and its colonies. This brought in a revolutionary social transformation in that world and this good trend continues unabated ever since, penetrating even the 21st century. World society is clamoring for human dignity, human rights, democratic freedoms, sharing and the care of the poor and the socially marginalized. We need the blending of the wisdom of the spiritual gurus, sages and saints (Gnosis) with that of the skills (techné) of the technicians and scientists to carry the present world-society forward.


Conclusion


Easter has ushered in a new world where courage, hope and solidarity constitute the basic features that can engender a new era. It is a world society whose culture would be characterized by moral and ethical values, respect for human life and dignity with social justice ensuring prosperity for all. The spiritual and ethical concerns would play a decisive role even in regulating socio-political and social life without which it would be extremely difficult, nay almost impossible, to build a society of righteousness and justice. Even medical science must delve into the field of mental and spiritual health. If there’s an area where truth, justice and honesty are to be most desired , it is politics wherein much of greed, bribery and corruption, in fact, the most dangerous social evils, have to be weeded out and eradicated for good by effective reforms and change The primacy of the ethical and the spiritual is non-negotiable. Let us call it simply "a categorical imperative" in the subtle words of Emmanuel Kant, the renowned German ethicist and philosopher. The spirit of the Christian Easter challenges us to spread and diffuse this spirit of hope and solidarity and thereby usher in a new world that is worthy of its creator.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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