Second Sunday of Easter

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

On this second Sunday of Easter, we hear once again the announcement of the Lord’s resurrection. Most Christians today will at least claim some fundamental belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Your presence here is tacit acknowledgement of this central truth of our Christian faith. But many are really just following the crowd on this one, with little if any true personal conviction about this truth. Some more honest folks might actually admit to having some doubts like Thomas did that the person standing before the apostles in that upper room behind locked doors might be the same Jesus who was only recently crucified by Roman soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, and an angry mob. But the lives of Jesus’ closest friends were dramatically altered by this singular event. It became the central focus of human history and the source of great strength for those who would face persecution in the early days of the church. But we now sit 2000 years removed from this historical event, and the persecution of the church today cannot compare with those early days. We have gotten a little complacent and lazy. And a vague or contrary stand on this central belief in the resurrection no longer carries much if any real consequences that might affect our daily lives.

Christ is risen! Christos anesti! The Greeks respond to this declaration with an enthusiastic: He is risen indeed! Alithos anesti! The closest we have in the west to a similar declaration is “God is good!” You respond, “All the time!” “All the time, God is good!” And I am sorry to say, you don’t sound very convincing to me.

If Jesus Christ is risen indeed, and we his followers and disciples steadfastly hold to this conviction like we claim to do, then it must become evident in the way we live, that Jesus’ rising from death to life helps us turn from temptation and sin, that we would reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin, that we would give witness by our love for God and for one another to the dawning day of the heavenly kingdom Jesus announced. But if we look around, there is still much that we can do better. I am afraid we have lots of pondering and self-examining to do.

For instance, too many who claim to be Christian live lives that are seemingly opposed to what Jesus taught and stood for. Some for instance are shamelessly hostile to the poor, the hungry, the uneducated, the unemployed, illegal immigrants, and the marginalized. Instead, they are more welcoming toward the rich, the famous, the powerful, the influential, and the idolatrous (that is, those who worship the false gods of power, money, and material possessions) … all contrary to Jesus’ own example. Some who call themselves Christian are unapologetic advocates and proponents of vengeance and violence and the total obliteration of their adversaries, attitudes that are inconsistent with Jesus’ command to pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, enter through the narrow gate, and take up our cross everyday and follow in his footsteps. Some will even admit to be willing slaves to their sinful tendencies, their bad habits, and their vices, dismissing as harmless and inconsequential the little white lies they let slip here and there, the petty resentments and grudges they carry for many years against family members and friends, the binge drinking, the binge eating, the binge gossiping, even the vicious hatred they harbor against their political opponents. Is it any wonder then that Christianity has lost its radical focus, its stark attractiveness, its central counter-cultural edge? Are the curious and even genuine seekers drawn instead to things about us and our faith that are merely peripheral and sensational often wrapped in mystery and symbolism? Have we gotten too formulaic, too cliché, too stagnant we don’t even know anymore what makes us truly Christian?

If Jesus is indeed risen from the dead, we who proclaim this truth must witness by our lives to that ultimate triumph of good over evil, so we would be the first to shine light where there is darkness, expose selfishness and falsehood where it thrives, seek healing and reconciliation where there is alienation and hurt, and extend forgiveness and compassion where there is greatest need for it. There are opportunities to witness to the resurrection every day. In our lives with those closest to us, are we more eager to point out someone else’s failures than we are to forgive and teach with patience? When we pick up after a family member, or after another parishioner here in church, are we resentful or are we grateful for the opportunity to serve? When we are offended or slighted by our neighbor, are we more concerned to prevent further hurt than we are to exact vengeance or recompense? When we notice the unjust treatment of others, are we more eager to right the wrong than to shame the offender? When we disagree with our parents, our leaders, or our peers, do we give vent to vicious criticism and hitting below the belt or do we seek to understand and contribute our wisdom in charity? When we give to those in need, do we resent their neediness and give from our surplus, or are we genuinely concerned for their welfare? The current state of our political dialogue is also extremely volatile. Do we contribute to the good by diffusing tension or do we enjoy poking the bear and adding to that tension? Yet we miss the opportunity to share our unique faith in Jesus Christ with our sisters and brothers when we simply bow to popular culture, give in to bitter divisiveness, and fail to proclaim the new life we share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

When Jesus gathered with his apostles in the upper room to give evidence of his triumph over death and darkness, there was at least one among them who expressed doubt. Yet doubt is not a hindrance to faith in itself. Thomas gathered courage to speak what the others perhaps only kept to themselves. And when Jesus provided evidence, he embraced the truth. When doubt enters our hearts, we should not fear to take our struggle to those we love, those who share our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, those who walk a path similar to ours, a path of uncertainty and conviction, of struggle and hope, of doubt and faith. And with the courage to embrace truth in mystery, we can become powerful witnesses to the resurrection, but only if we know we possess that awesome truth worth proclaiming. And as Jesus stood before Thomas, he stands before us. And it is only with eyes of faith that we will know truth in mystery and touch his wounds and hear his voice and see his face.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Rolo B Castillo © 2023