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Back Opinion OP-ED Juan L. Mercado Carved in stone
12 Apr 2009

Carved in stone

“No Visitors Allowed,” the hospital room sign read. The wife pressed me gently forward. So,we tiptoed in.

Hooked to tubes, the gaunt man, on the bed, was a friend of many years. His kindnesses to me were many. After  anointing, the priest gave him “Viaticum” — Latin for the “way with you.” My friend would not cross the passageway alone. Hindi siya  mag-iisa.

“I’m  fighting,” he gasped. He was one never to wallow in self pity. A tear trickled down as he gripped my hand. “Good of you to come.”  At a loss for words, I squeezed his hand. Goodbye can be said in many ways.

As we closed the door, Thomas a’ Kempis words resonated. “Man is here today. And gone tomorrow. You’re a fool if you assume you’ll live long when you’re not even sure of one day.”

Easter infuses death -- and resurrection -- with the light of Christ’s crucifixion and rising.

But pre-conceived ideas of Easter trap many of us, notes Irish theologian Eamonn Bredin. Some  assume  Easter  is “little  than  the  simple  resuscitation  of a larger-than-life Jesus.” They lump His rising with that of Lazarus, startling though  that was.

If that be the case, “we have no hope,” Bredin  writes in “Rediscovering Jesus.” That’d be a reprieve, before falling back into death. “If for this life only we hoped in Christ,” Paul wrote,”we  are, of  all  men, most to be pitied.”

Today, four out of every 10 teenagers (aged 13-19) do not believe in life beyond death, a survey of 1,300 urban students by  Philippine Jesuits reports. “Those who believe ‘there is no resurrection’ are majority of the young around us,” Loyola School of Theology’s Catalino Arevalo, S.J. writes

What are the empty tomb and folded burial shroud to these kids? Like the women on Easter morning, will they futilely “seek the living among the dead?”

Luke and John come close to a physical description of Jesus after his crucifixion. Time and space no longer bind Him. He comes and vanishes, even if doors are shut. Nor do they recognize Him immediately, in the Upper Room or on Lake Galilee.

They encounter Him in a new way. “He had become another,” Fr. Arevalo notes. “I think of that quaint expression people sometimes use in Taglish: You are very another na.”

“Their eyes were opened,” the evangelists add, “and they recognized Him in the breaking  of bread”—  description of the Eucharist, since Pilate’s time.

The disciples,too, were from the D and E social classes. They abandoned their master. What transformed them after  Easter?

They  met Jesus after Calvary and arrived at an absolute certitude: this Jesus, who died on the cross, entered a  radically transformed life.  That “brought Peter the Rock, out of Simon the betrayer, or a crucified Paul out of a crucifying Saul, or a church of martyrs out of the scattered disciples.”

“We Filipinos use the idiom itaga mo sa bato (“anchor to a rock”) to assert our utmost confidence,” Pastor Lino  Pantoja writes. And 2,500 years before Easter, a man spoke of the resurrection in “words engraved in rock.”

As Easter’s “unrecognized prophet”, Job uttered his primitive theology of the resurrection: “Oh that my words were engraved in rock forever...I know that my Redeemer lives. And in the end, He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19: 25-27).

The experience of Job and the disciples has been refracted to us over the centuries. Those who lived out the implications of Easter —  Mother Teresa or John Paul II — stammered to articulate its meaning.

“Not everything has a name,” Solzhenitsyn writes. “Some things lead us into the realm beyond words… For an instant, you glimpse the Inaccessible. And the soul cries out for it.”

(E-mail: juanlmercado @gmail.com)

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