New encounters

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

ON EASTER, “I think of that quaint expression people sometimes use in Taglish," Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ of Loyola House of Studies wrote.

“You are very another na." That refers to disciples who encounter the crucified Jesus in a new way.

"He had become another." Luke and John come close to a physical description of Jesus after his death by crucifixion.


Time and space no longer bind Him. He comes and vanishes, even if doors are bolted shut by terrified followers. Nor do they recognize Him immediately, whether on Lake Galilee’s shores or along the road to Emmaus.

The Philippines leads the world in the number of people who believe in God, a University of Chicago research group reports, based on surveys taken in 30 countries since 1991. Here, 94 percent believe in God, followed by Chileans, 88 percent, and Americans 81 percent.

Belief was lowest among East Germans, 13 percent and Czechs, 20 percent. A head count, however, can paper over the deeper fissures. Why is the Philippines, reputed to be the only Christian nation, also among the most corrupt, asked former Asian Development Bank lead economist and UP professor Ernesto Pernia. This disconnect “may have to do with the weak link – or lack thereof – between faith and practice.”

"Split-level Christianity" is how he late Jesuit scientist Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ, called this reality. A politician attends mass on Sunday, then plunders Monday to Saturday.

“Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times,” Christ told a self-confident Peter earlier. So, what transformed them after Easter?

They arrived at an absolute certitude: the Crucified “entered into a radically transformed life, through death, into God’s future,” writes theologian Eamonn Bredin in his book: “Rediscovering Jesus.”

That experience "brought Peter the Rock out of Simon the betrayer, a crucified Paul out of a crucifying Saul, and a church of martyrs out of scattered disciples."

That experience has been refracted over the centuries, in ordinary men and women who live in faith beyond the grave.

Then, there are the giants. In September 1637, a catechist from Tondo, Lorenzo Ruiz refused to renounce his faith. He was executed along with other Christians under the Tokogawa shogunate. In April 1672, Pedro Calungsod from the Visayas was speared to death while working with Jesuit missionary: Diego Luis de San Vitores.

He was named saint in 2012. The language used by Paul and others in speaking of Easter is different. They do not say, "We have seen Jesus again" but "we have seen the Lord and worshipped Him." Even those who proclaim Easter in their lives—Blessed Mother Teresa or John Paul II, who’ll be canonized April 27—stammered to articulate its meaning. Easter "is the ultimate threshold between history and mystery."

“Doesn’t the same thing happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life?” Pope Francis asked in an earlier Easter Sunday homily. We don’t understand or know what to do.

“Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us and asks of us.” Instead, we cower like the apostles. “We prefer to
hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb. We are afraid of God’s surprises.

What was a simple act (by Mary Magdalene and the women) of trying anoint the Crucified’s body – turned into a life-changing event. “Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind."

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 20, 2014.


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