HomeCommentaryPreaching resurrection

Preaching resurrection

Tonight, the gloom of Good Friday is replaced with the news that Jesus is risen!

But in contrast to the death of our Lord Jesus, his resurrection is much more difficult to preach about. Many preachers find it difficult to preach about the resurrection other than to say that it proves the divinity of Jesus. They find it a challenge to draw out concrete implications of our Easter faith to our everyday lives.

Why so? I give at least three reasons. Firstly, it is easy to dramatize the suffering that Jesus went through that eventually led to his death. Preachers, with some flair for melodrama, would ask us to reflect that we continue to crucify Jesus by sinning. “Tan-awa ang dagway sa atong Ginoo, nagkadugo, nitan-aw kanimo nga ayaw na dugangi ang iyang kasakit.” ( “Look at the bloodied face of Jesus, staring at you and telling you not to add to his suffering.”) But the same statement cannot be said when we are celebrating Easter.

Secondly, we often hear the explanation that the blood of Jesus was a payment as ransom for our freedom as children of God. In other words, we were held in bondage by Satan and our liberation was when the blood of Jesus was accepted as ransom. If that is the case, it is only his death that has saved us. The resurrection does not seem to have any contribution to our salvation.

Thirdly, it is difficult to see the triumph of goodness over evil, when in fact evil people are flourishing while the good continues to suffer. How can we honestly say that sin is defeated when people continue to die by the thousands in Ukraine and in Gaza?

How can we believe in the triumph of goodness over evil when someone accused of human trafficking and sexual predation can disregard the law and still be defended by senators of the republic?

And how can we speak of the triumph of justice over injustice when the families of the victims of EJK (extrajudicial killings) are still traumatized while those responsible are not held accountable? The victims continue to seek justice while the victimizers go scot-free.

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And how do we speak of the resurrection today to people who are in physical pain? Pope Francis recounts his conversation with someone who is gravely ill. He tried to console him by saying, “There are no explanations for what is happening to you. God did this to his Son. No other explanation.” But the man answered, “Yes, but he asked His Son and the Son said yes. I was not asked if I wanted to suffer.” Indeed, Pope Francis reflected further, “No one is asked, ‘Are you willing to carry the cross further?”

It even seems to me that our culture does not have any emotional attachment to the resurrection. We have strong devotions to the Santo Nino and to the Black Nazarene. But there is nothing that would even be remotely equivalent to the Resurrection. Do we not want to feel the joy of Easter?

The difficulty of preaching the resurrection is most particularly true if the homily is solely based on tonight’s Gospel reading. In this Gospel reading, the story does not end with a triumphant announcement of the resurrection.

Instead, it is written, “because of their great fear, they said nothing to anyone” (Mk. 16:8). The ending is too abrupt, with the note on the fear of women. It does not say that they told the disciples about the resurrection.

With these challenges in mind, most will simply say that the resurrection proves that Jesus is not just any other prophet: The resurrection proves his divinity. If that is the case, why didn’t the resurrected Jesus show himself to the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross? Why didn’t he return to the temple and tell the authorities that they were wrong?

Instead, Jesus showed himself only to those who already believed in the values that he lived and died for. Furthermore, belief in any form of divinity would only be meaningful if the divinity challenges us to be better persons.

In what way can we see the resurrection as a continuing challenge for us in this day and age? Today, we are challenged to take these people down from their crosses. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that taking the crucified from their crosses is a continuing task.

The resurrection gives us the strength to live and fight for the values that are close to the heart of Jesus and the belief that it is worth all the blood sweat and tears. The struggle for truth, justice, and human dignity may be arduous but it is worth all the pain.

I said a while ago that it is easy for a preacher to say, “Look at the crucified Jesus and bear in mind that your sins have brought him to death.” Indeed, looking at the face of the victim should engender moral responsibility in us (Levinas). But should not we also look at the face of the resurrected Jesus who tells us now, “I am with you in your fight for truth and justice for the lowly, and no matter what, that fight is worthwhile”?

Easter Vigil homily of Fr. Ramon D. Echica

Fr. Ramon D. Echica is the Dean of Studies of the San Carlos Major Seminary. He obtained his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) in 1998.

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