– REV FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
YOU ARE WITNESSES TO THIS
Yesterday, someone said to me, “Father, belated happy Easter!” In response I said, “There is nothing belated about Easter yet. Easter is too big to be celebrated only one day. For us, the celebration of Easter lasts for 50 days and so you can continue to say ‘happy Easter!’ until Pentecost Sunday, and you do not need to add ‘belated.’”
Talking about the resurrection of Jesus, let me share with you, the story of something that happened on Good Friday, which is not recorded in the Bible. It was a conversation between Pontius Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea. Pontius Pilate was the governor who sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion, while Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man, a member of the council of elders, who gave his tomb out for Jesus to be buried in. The story has it that his tomb was the best in town, the envy of many. Someone even commented that his tomb made death desirable. He invested a lot in the tomb. So, on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate invited Joseph of Arimathea to dinner. At the dinner, Pilate said to Joseph of Arimathea, “Joe, what am I hearing about you? Is it true that you gave your tomb for the burial of that impostor that we crucified today? Have you forgotten how much you invested in that tomb? What a waste of resources? Joseph of Arimathea responded, “Your Excellency, don’t worry about that, the tomb is still mine, Jesus is not going to be there for long, he’ll be there only for the weekend.” On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, Mary of Magdala went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus and there she met two Angels who were like receptionists. She asked them of the whereabouts of the body of Jesus and they said to her, “Oh, you’re looking for Jesus! He already checked out about two hours ago, his reservation was just for the weekend.”
My dearly beloved in Christ, today’s gospel passage presents the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, appearing to his disciples again right after he appeared to Cleopas and another disciple on their way between Jerusalem and Emmaus. In his speech to them today, we find three very important points. First, the reality of the resurrection; second, the necessity of the cross; and third, our responsibility as Christians.
On the reality of the resurrection, I find it funny when modern scholars, present day skeptics and unbelievers question the story of the resurrection. I find it funny when present day skeptics present the story as a figment of the imagination of the early followers of Jesus. It is clearly recorded in the Bible that the disciples of Jesus were not a group of naïve and uneducated people who took this story, hook, line, and sinker. On the contrary, they doubted the resurrection, they questioned it, and Jesus had to prove it. In today’s gospel passage, to show them that it was not a ghost, that they were not hallucinating, Jesus had to show the marks of his wounds. He had to ask them for food, and they gave him baked fish, which he ate in their presence. Ghosts do not eat. If today, you are skeptical and you think you can prove it wrong, you are too young for that, it was resolved over two thousand years ago; you can consult those who were skeptical ahead of you.
On the necessity of the cross, in his speech today, Jesus made it clear that the cross did not come as an interruption, as something that came to stand in the way of the plan of God. Rather, the cross came as part of the plan of God for the glorification of Jesus and for our Salvation. In the first reading, Saint Peter in his speech also shared that nothing could stand in the way of God’s plan. Any attempt to stand in the way of God’s plan would end up speeding up the actualization of that plan. The wicked ones crucified Jesus to kill his mission, but that ended up aiding the actualization of God’s plans for the life of Jesus. The same applies to our story as followers of Jesus. When God is making a statement about us, when God is preparing something for us, if the enemies come to add a period/full stop (.) in the middle of a sentence, God goes under the period/full stop (.) and adds a comma (,) the period becomes a semicolon (;) and then God continues His sentence. “All things work together onto good for them that love God” (Romans 8:28). It pays to serve the Lord!
Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to be witnesses to the resurrection. Jesus said at the end of this gospel passage that we are witness to this. A witness is one who speaks from firsthand experience of what has happened. As Christians, we experience the power of the resurrection every day in our lives. The responsibility is on us to share that with the world. How well are we carrying out this responsibility? Unfortunately, not so well. We have become very timid; we now tell the world that the world can shut us up. Today, we step out to pray, to make the sign of the cross, the world tells us that it is offensive, and we say, “Sorry about, we will no longer pray in public so as not to hurt someone else.” As priests, we dress in our clerical wear, as nuns, we put on our habits and the world says it is offensive, we then apologize and take them off. We stopped reading bible in schools because we don’t want to offend others. Gradually, we are allowing the world to put out the light that Jesus has given to us. Each time we do that, we are telling the world that the story that the world has is more important than the story of the resurrection. People in the world dress almost nude, and we make excuses for them that it is freedom of expression, but we cannot fight for our own freedom of religious expression. We must wake up from our slumber for there is nothing that is more powerful than the story of the resurrection. Jesus already warned us that if we are ashamed of him before human beings, he will be ashamed of us before his Father in heaven (cf. Luke 9:26). Let us pray that the power of the resurrection may continue to conquer the evil agenda of the world, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.