MANILA, Philippines – "Remember Yolanda. Remember Mamasapano. Remember the frustrating unsolved problem of government corruption. Remember the loneliness of our loved ones toiling abroad. Our memory is full of broken hopes and dreams. The litany of frustrations is endless. But we have hope."
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas issued this message for Easter Sunday, April 5, the most important Christian feast that marks the rise of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Villegas referred to two of the Philippines' biggest problems in the last two years: Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the strongest storm to make landfall, which killed at least 6,300 people; and the botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that claimed the lives of 67 people and thrust the Philippine president in his worst crisis.
In his Easter message, Villegas said Christians should "return to the joy that comes from the Gospel and from sharing the Gospel."
"That is a joy that comes neither from a covetous heart nor from the frivolous pursuit of pleasures, nor from a blunted conscience. It comes rather first and foremost from a renewed personal encounter with the risen Jesus Christ. That is the goal of Christianity – encounter with Jesus Christ in joy," Villegas said.
Villegas, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, explained why Easter "is the greatest and most important feast of our faith." He said, "If Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is irrelevant and meaningless, dry and dead."
"Easter beckons us to go beyond the customary greetings and feasting. We must continue the mission of the risen Christ by being ready to bring His message to more people," the archbishop added.
Resurrection 'not an excuse'
In a separate message, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the risen life of Jesus "is our hope, the pledge of our future glory."
"But Jesus’ resurrection does not cut us off from our earthly life and concerns. It is not an excuse to ignore and to be indifferent toward our world. Rather the light from Jesus’ resurrection makes us see more clearly the truth about our complex human condition while urging us on towards a glorious future," Tagle said.
The cardinal cited a biblical passage that quotes the risen Jesus asking his disciples, "Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts?"
"The Risen Lord offers the same questions to us especially in moments of fear, doubts, distrust, and grieving. He leads us to our hearts so we could reflect, explore and find meaning. Outbursts of panic, phobia, worry, and sorrow need the calming influence of reflection and meditation. The Risen Lord asks questions that make us pause and look into the reasons (or lack of reason) for our terror and anxiety. Let us listen to Him," he said.
Tagle added, "To the disciples still unable to believe that He was indeed alive and standing before them, He asked, 'Have you anything here to eat?'"
He said: "The glorious Lord comes to us through our humble, simple, poor and suffering brothers and sisters. Even while possessing all authority and power, he deems it worthy to reside among the lowly, those who lack basic necessities of life. He invites us not to allow worries and cynicism to blind us to the needs of the poor among us. Let us behold the Risen Jesus in every needy person, and see a neighbor, a brother or sister." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.