Carved In Stone

by Juan L. Mercado

“No Visitors,” the sign on the Cebu Doctors’ Hospital room read. The wife pressed me gently forward. We tiptoed in.

Hooked to tubes, the gaunt man on the bed was a friend. His kindnesses were many. He never wallowed in self pity. A tear trickled down as he gripped my hand. I squeezed back. Goodbye can be said in many ways. After anointing, a priest gave our friend communion as Viaticum — Latin for  “The Way  With You.”  He would not cross the passageway alone.

(We recall a terminal  patient, surrounded by a loving family, tell F. Ron Rolheise: “I’m dying and they’re not. I’m inside of something into which they can’t reach. It’s awfully lonely, dying.”)

As we left, Thomas a’ Kempis words resonated. “Man is here today and gone tomorrow. If you assume you’ll live long, you’re a fool.  You’re not even sure of one day.”

Easter infuses death with the light of Christ’s rising.  But pre-conceived ideas trip many, notes theologian Eamonn Bredin. Some  assume  Easter is resuscitation of a larger-than-life Jesus.”   That’d be a reprieve. “If for this life only we hoped in Christ, we are, of all men, most to be pitied,” Paul wrote.

Some surveys claim  those who believe ‘there is no resurrection’ are majority of the young”,  Loyola School of Theology’s Catalino Arevalo, S.J. writes.   What do the empty tomb and folded burial shroud mean  to them? Like the women on Easter morning, will they “seek the living among the dead?”

After his resurrection, Jesus comes, then vanishes, even if doors are barred,  Luke and John write.  Time and space no longer constrict him.  In the Upper Room or on Lake Galilee’s, they do not recognize him immediately. On the road to Emmaus, the eyes of two followers were opened,” the evangelists add, “and they recognized Him in the breaking of bread”— description of the Eucharist.

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

The disciples were not from society’s upper crust. Denizens of D and E social classes really.  Judas betrayed His Master for 30 pieces of silver.  Except for John, the rest fled. 

Yet,  Easter “brought Peter the Rock out of Simon the betrayer, or a crucified Paul out of a crucifying Saul, or the church of martyrs out of the scattered disciples. ”The roll today includes Lorenzo Ruiz martyred in Japan and, come Oct. 21, Pedro Calungsod speared in Guam.

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

“Oh that my words were engraved in rock forever”, says Job. “I know that my Redeemer lives. In the end, He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”

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

“Not everything has a name,” Alexandr Solzhenitsyn writes. “For an instant, you glimpse the Inaccessible. And the soul cries out for it.”

P.S. So  what?, shrug some Cebu officials.  The newly-sworn-in Compostela mayor  and councilors ladled  P6.9 million for themselves. “Back salaries”  for the period their protest was litigated, they brag.  Vice-Mayor Augustus Pe  evades the  constitutional bar on term limits by swapping residence. Shameless.

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