THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE, LOVE AND JUSTICE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Acts 10:34.37-43; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9]
There is in each one of us a desire for justice and everlasting love. This is what distinguishes us from other animals. As human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, our conscience seeks truth and our heart seeks love. Without justice and love, life has no meaning. We feel devastated when falsehood triumphs over truth, injustice over justice, hatred over love. Indeed, many of us give up on life and on relationships because we find that life is not fair to us. Those who are evil and powerful seem to be more prosperous and are enjoying life through their unscrupulous ways whilst we suffer injustices and discrimination because we seek to do things the right way. Most of all, they seem to be able to get away with such evil deeds while we suffer in silence.
Hence, when we watch movies where the good man dies tragically, we leave feeling disheartened, discouraged, hopeless, sad and even disillusioned. We feel indignant when good characters in the movie come to a sad end or are killed in the process of serving the truth. Such movies only discourage us from doing good or acting justly because it does not seem to pay. More so for those who do not have hope for retribution beyond death. We feel justified and happy when the wicked are given their just dues and the good are vindicated and rewarded. That is why most movies have happy endings because we all want to see good triumph over evil at the end of the day. Otherwise, we lose hope in goodness.
So, we can feel with the apostles and the disciples of Jesus. It was then surely not good for them. It was the darkest moment of their lives. They walked and lived with Jesus, their master for three years. They thought He was the Messiah promised by God and announced by the prophets. This was what Peter said to Cornelius in the first reading. “You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.” But their hopes in Jesus to restore the Kingdom of God were completely dashed with His death on the cross.
So it was a disastrous end. It was totally illogical to see their master who was innocent, bruised, scourged, humiliated, nailed to the cross like a criminal and killed because of the conniving of wicked and sinful men. Where was God then? Why did not God stand up for His Son if Jesus were the Son of God or at least the Messiah? Why was there no justice? Why must good people always suffer and evil people thrive? We would have also been devastated like them and lost faith in God. With all dreams and hopes destroyed, we would have given up fighting against evil and doing good. We might have said, “well, there is no use.” We cannot fight with the evil and injustices in the world. We might as well resign ourselves to the situation, or join them like the rest of the people. Today, many of us are sucked into the secularistic, relativistic and individualistic culture of the world, because we are unable to stem it. Our conscience is numbed by the gradual conditioning of the world – that living a promiscuous life is acceptable; pornography and adultery are the realities of this world.
But even when we say such things out of discouragement and anger, yet our hope never dies. Because if we have lost all hope, then there is no reason to keep on living. Deep in our hearts, we hope that justice, truth and love will prevail, and goodness triumph over sin. The women who came at dawn to the tomb of Jesus showed that there was a glimmer of hope and light still left in them. They never lost hope in Jesus. With that little light, they went to look for Jesus. Lo and Behold! They found the stone removed and the tomb empty.
Yet, they were confused and mystified instead of celebrating when they found the empty tomb. In the midst of their pain and anguish, the stone of anger, disappointment and sadness prevented them from seeing the new and surprising reality. Their minds were closed and preoccupied with their sadness to see the greater things that the Lord was doing, bringing good out of evil. So long as that stone is not removed, we cannot enter the tomb to see the Risen Lord. If we want to see the Risen Lord, we need first to remove the stone of anger, hatred and pride from our lives. If people cannot accept the reality of the resurrection of Christ, it is because their hurts and disappointments, and most of all, their intellectual pride, hinder them from being open to the presence of the Risen Lord in their lives.
This explains why when the tomb was removed; they were still unable to see the Risen Lord. Even when they did, they became even more unsettled than ever. It took them time to understand and appreciate the events that took place earlier on. It was a gradual awakening to the fact that the Lord was Risen. Peter could not make sense of the event. He was dumbfounded. The linens that were placed there neatly suggest that Jesus’ body was not stolen but it was as if Jesus had woken up from His sleep and tidied His bed and then left the tomb. As if such signs were not amazing enough, they were surprised by the angel’s announcement. “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” In Mark’s gospel, the women “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.” (Mk 16:8) St John remarked, “Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
We too now must follow the way of the early Christians in coming to faith in the Risen Lord. Like them, we might not understand the events that happened in our lives. But if we are docile and humble, we will come to appreciate the events in the light of faith. God will gradually reveal Himself and His divine providence in all that happens to us in life. We might have felt that God has abandoned us or is oblivious to our pain and misery. But in truth, He has always been there as He did for Jesus when He was on the cross. The Lord raised Him from the dead. This was the testimony of Peter and the apostles, “yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses.” We might not understand and see the big picture yet, but if we cooperate, God will reveal to us His plans for us.
In raising Christ who was condemned as a criminal, God endorsed Jesus as the Son of God, and all that He said and did. With His resurrection, everything makes sense to us. His death was thought to be a tragedy, but it was God’s way of destroying death forever by raising Jesus up. His suffering was not an end in itself but the way to fullness of life. Death is not the last word. Neither is hatred which is overcome by love. In His resurrection, we see that justice and truth prevail in the end. The just and good will ultimately triumph in the end. So if we feel that doing good is useless as things do not seem to change but become worse, we need to cling on to faith in the resurrection. In raising Jesus from the dead, St Peter said, Jesus our judge will render justice to all. “He has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.”‘
So we must have faith like John, the disciple Jesus loved. We read that John “who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.” Only with faith, can we proclaim that Jesus is Risen. The empty tomb is just a sign but it is an empty sign without faith. We need to give meaning to that sign. That meaning is supplied by faith. So if we want to make sense of our life, our suffering and our pain, we need to go beyond the tomb and cling onto Jesus, the Risen Lord who gives us hope and joy. We must see things from the eyes of God and not with our human eyes. Only in this way can we live beyond this world as St Paul said, “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.” This is our ultimate hope, to be with Christ forever and share in His glory as we share in His death.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
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- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
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