A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John:
“Jesus said to His disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”
Today’s Gospel passage from Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter conveys to us how requisite Our Lord’s Resurrection is as the cornerstone of our Faith. It is through His Resurrection that we can even have faith and hope. It is through this Glorious Mystery that we can truly be an “Easter People, with Alleluia as our song.”
If Jesus never had risen from the dead, Christianity would quite possibly be the dumbest religion ever. After all, as we read in today’s Gospel, we have a Master who promises us that our reward for following Him would be persecution and death – a rather “appealing” promise. We would have no joy to look forward to; we would be hopeless, crabby and pathetic. We would be, as St. Paul said to the Corinthians: “of all men most miserable. (1 Cor. 15:19).” People would look at the Crucifix and say: “That is what happened to their God and that is what will happen to them.” Christianity probably would have not survived the first century.
It is 2013 A.D. and Christianity still is alive and well with over 2.2 billion faithful [of this number, 1.2 billion identify themselves as Catholic]. 2010 Pew Foundation statistics reveal that 32% of the World’s Population considers themselves to be Christian – in many countries like Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, and the Philippines, the data show that approximately 95% of the population are Christian. Why? The answer is simple: “The Lord is Risen, Alleluia; He is truly Risen, Alleluia! Yes, Jesus was Crucified, He died and was buried, but on the Third Day He Rose from the dead. Our Lord’s “appealing” promise of persecution and death is eclipsed by His promise of New Life and Resurrection.
We have Faith, Hope Joy and Love. Yes, we look at the Crucifix and, with the rest of humanity, know that that is what happened to our Master and that is what will happen to us.” Yet, all we have to do is shift our gaze to the empty tomb to know that Calvary in not the conclusion. This is the strength and hope of the martyrs of old and it is our hope and strength as well. We know that when we are persecuted, spit-upon, trod-upon, maltreated, slandered, spoken-ill-of, tortured and yes, even killed, that it is not the end. Persecution does not have the last say; Jesus does and He will raise us up on the Last Day.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trying to demote suffering, persecution and martyrdom to a jolly walk-in-the-park. No, but St. Peter tells us: “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15).” What is the reason for our hope? It is the Resurrection of Jesus. By His suffering and death we have redemption; by His Rising from the Dead we have Hope and New and Eternal Life.
It is for this reason that we can say with St. Augustine of Hippo: “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”
P.S. I wish a Blessed Easter to all our Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic brethren! God Bless You!