Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion

BIBLICAL APOSTOLATE OF THE PROVINCE

Introducing Fr. Freddie's Gospel Reflections for Multi-purpose

1. These reflections are not written like an essay, but in six precise steps. Choose what you like.

2. They are not meant only for preaching homilies, but for a multi-purpose: for teaching, prayer (either personal or common), reflections and socio-pastoral guidance.

3. They can be used outside the liturgical celebrations also on any other occasions for preaching (by using the same text), private and common prayers, Bible Vigil, Adoration, Prayer Service, Gospel Sharing, conferences, talks, etc.

4. Only the Gospel text prescribed for the Sunday Liturgy in the Catholic Church is used for these reflections, and not the First and Second Readings. The latter are quoted only for reference. Those who want to include them, have to find their own applications.

5. These reflections are written from a pastoral and spiritual perspective, and not from academic or exegetical.

6. The preachers have an option to develop only the focus-statements given in Step 2 on their own into a full-fledged homily. If they want to make their homily shorter, they need not include all the points/thoughts written by the author; instead can select what they like, and (if they want) add their own stories/ anecdotes/ examples.

7. The title, “Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion” indicates the author’s intention to highlight the life-sustaining or life-saving issues in our world and society in the midst of anti-life forces.

8. Though much of the material presented in these reflections is author's, no claim is made for the originality of all the thoughts and ideas. They are adopted from various authors.

9. Reproduction of these reflections in any form needs prior permission.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Second Sunday of Easter (A)

Second Sunday of Easter [Jn 20:19-31]
23 April 2017
The Risen Lord Appears to the Disciples
Readings: (1) Acts 2:42-47 (2)1 Pet 1:3-9
1.  Theme in brief:
Liberation from fears and doubts and mission-empowerment
2.  Focus Statement:
Faith in the power of the Lord’s resurrection can liberate us from our fears due to which we are shut in, and make us worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit with whose strength we can carry forward his mission of peace and reconciliation.
3.   Explanation of the text
The sudden appearance of the Risen Lord in the midst of disciples on the evening of “the first day of the week” in spite of locked doors (“for fear of the Jews,” 20:19) and barriers of walls, shows that now he has transcended all the barriers and blocks established by humans due to their fears (real or imaginary, prejudices, narrow-mindedness and selfishness.

Further, this appearance has a double significance:
(1) He is now having a spiritual or resurrected body endowed with all the divine glory; hence he can pass through the walls and locked doors (20:19); he is not bound by space and time any more. (2) He is in close solidarity with humanity, offering them something they long for; that is, peace and joy (20:19-21). The scars of wounds on his hands and his side confirm that he is the same Jesus. The joy of the disciples when they see him is only a fulfilment of the promise he made at the Last Supper: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you” (16:22).
As the Risen Lord appears to his disciples, he imparts four precious gifts to them:
(1) Peace, with his twice repeated words: “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). In biblical language peace involves all-round well-being, harmony and building up of human relationships (20:19, 21). In the OT, peace is closely associated with the blessing of God and salvation to be brought by the Messiah. This peace restores them to inner security and fearlessness.
(2) Holy Spirit, with the words: “Receive the Holy Spirit” and with the gesture of breathing on them (20:22). Since breath symbolizes life, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is the Risen Lord’s own breath or life. Just as God had breathed into the nostrils of the first man (Adam) the breath of life, and he had become a living being (Gen 2:7), so also Jesus breathes on his disciples in a similar fashion. By giving them the Holy Spirit he makes them a new creation or imparts new life into them leading to the birth of a new community, the Church. Breathing on them may also refer to prophet Ezekiel’s prophecy to the dry bones (37:1-14). The apostles are now like dry bones – lifeless and full of fear. Like the prophet, Jesus causes his breath or life (= Holy Spirit) enter into the dry bones and they begin to live (Ez 37:9, 14). The Holy Spirit regenerates or rejuvenates them in such a way that they emerge from their hideouts to become courageous witnesses of the Lord.  
(3) Mission mandate, with the words: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (20:21). He sends them into the world to continue the mission for which his Father had sent him. This mission should be understood in terms of John’s main themes – to share God’s (divine) life, light and truth with others; to dispel darkness of sin and death and to lay down their life in humble and sacrificial service for others.  
(4)  Power to forgive or retain the sins of any. He gives them a share in his power to forgive sins so that they may proclaim the forgiving love of God and carry forward his own earthly ministry of reconciliation (20:23).
Though we come to know from the synoptic gospels also that many of Jesus’ disciples had doubted about his resurrection (cf. Mt 28:17), here in John’s gospel Thomas is singled out as a representative of all of us, who sometimes doubt in God’s work and demand physical proofs or spectacular miracles (20:25). The Risen Lord makes use of this episode of the doubting Thomas to point out the necessity of putting our faith in him without seeking for miracles or firsthand experience, and declares people who arrive at such faith based on the testimony of the firsthand witnesses as equally “blessed” (20:29).
4.  Application to life                     
The power of the Risen Lord is not limited to one place, region or nation, race or caste and situation. Since he is risen, now he is present in any situation and place if only we can ‘see’ his presence with the eyes of faith. In our social conversation we normally speak in these terms: “we" men and “they” women, “we" Christians and “they” non-Christians, “we" nationals and “they” foreigners, “we" locals and “they” outsiders, “we" clergy/religious and “they” lay people, etc. Though as humans, this is quite normal or natural in human speech and we need to speak in these terms, we have to examine whether these terms of reference go beyond normalcy leading to groupism, ethnic conflicts, group and religious prejudices or hatred or labeling of “those people there”, etc.
Worse still, if segregation/ discrimination/ ill-treatment is practiced within Christian community which is composed of various ethnicities, races, castes, cultures and languages, we narrow down the Risen Christ’s presence to a limited place, group, culture or situation. This is equal to not believing that Christ is really risen from the dead. Let our attitude be like this: the Risen Lord is not “here alone” (that is in my kinship circles, ethnic community or group alone) but equally present in all peoples, cultures and situations. If we really believe that Christ is risen from the dead, we cannot keep him confined to only our group/ tribe/ caste/ race or restrict him to one situation only. Secondly, if we believe so we begin to ‘see’ the presence of the Risen Lord not only in pleasant and joyful situations but also in sorrowful and painful ones. When sorrow comes, where is he? Can we say: “He is here because he is risen from the dead.”
Today’s gospel text highlights two important aspects of any believer’s life, namely, fears and doubts of faith. First, the text says that the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jewish authorities (20:19). Like the apostles, we are often tempted to lock our ‘doors’ out of so many fears in us – both real and imaginary. Just imagine the conscious and subconscious fears haunting the minds of many of us – fear of failure in an examination, of losing in a game or match, of being robbed, of being attacked by an enemy, of remaining unemployed, of losing a job, of being killed in a bomb blast or accident, of ridicule/ criticism/ negative remarks by others, of darkness, of public speaking, of dreadful sicknesses like cancer and heart attack, of being left alone in old age, of losing one’s dignity and reputation, of breakage of relationships, of our children getting into deviant or criminal behaviour, of natural or man-made calamities (like accidents, floods, earthquakes, cyclones), of untimely or unprepared death, etc. There are also fears of what others may think of us or say to us, especially when we try to behave a little different from the general trends in our society. Then of course, there is a fear of the unknown future.
When these fears (whether real or imaginary) take control of us and rule over our minds, they keep us chained and locked within the narrow space of our own souls. Instead of the Lord directing our lives, these fears become an independent force driving us where we may not like to go. The imaginary or unrealistic (baseless) fears are our worst masters who control or drive us to wrong directions such as depression, disappointment, meaninglessness, emptiness, etc. Robin Sharma rightly says: "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when an adult is afraid of the light.” Quite often we are afraid of saying and doing what is right. The light of the Risen Lord can free us from the chains of fears (especially, imaginary or baseless ones), if we really believe in the power of his resurrection. If the Risen Lord is with us and for us, who or what can be against us (Rom 8:31-39)?
Armed with this firm faith, we need to admit our powerlessness to change the things we cannot, and surrender our lives into the hands of the living Lord. Our outer security may come from walled compounds, grill-gates, locks, bodyguards, bullet-proof vests, protective parents and companions; but our inner security comes from the power of the Risen Lord and his gift of peace – inner harmony. With his power we can overcome fear of hardship, distress, danger, persecution, peril and death. Let us place the bundle of fears before the Risen Lord and ask him to liberate us from all imaginary fears and give us the grace to face real fears with courage.
Secondly, after fears, come our doubts.  We doubt whether all our efforts will be fruitful; whether our plans will succeed; whether there is a God who allows the just to suffer; and why does he allow it? We think, if God could prove his almighty powers through spectacular miracles and visions, all people of the earth could easily believe in him. Today’s gospel tells us that seeing extraordinary signs and miracles is not a guarantee of faith. When Thomas demanded such a proof from Jesus by showing the marks of nails in his hands and allow him to touch his wounds, Jesus gave him a chance to do so with another appearance (20:26-27). Today’s gospel does not tell us whether Thomas really touched Jesus’ wounds. Without arriving at a deeper level of faith, even if he had touched, he could have said that it was a ghost or just a hallucination. Unlike the apostles, our faith usually doesn’t come from direct encounter with the Risen Lord, but from the testimony of others. The action of the Risen Lord on our life is so mysterious that it cannot be seen. When unexpected, surprising and extraordinary things or events happen in our life, some believe in God’s mighty intervention and others do not. Faith in the Risen Lord leads us to a total surrender or submission to his plans and designs by acclaiming: “You alone are the Lord of my life; youy alone are my Higher Power. I bow down to you in total submission” (cf.20:28).
At baptism, the Lord had already breathed his Spirit into us and made us a new creation. In spite of that we become like dry bones lacking zeal in Christian commitment. In this Easter Season we must open our hearts to the Risen Lord and beg him to breathe his Spirit into us and renew/re-create us. With the empowerment of his Spirit, the Lord continues to send us even today with his mission – to share his peace where it is broken, to reconcile where there is disharmony and to breathe a fresh life, where there is no life. He opens the doors of forgiveness for us, so that we too can become agents of reconciliation. Let us ask ourselves whether in our families, neighbourhood and communities we are known as peacemakers or peace-breakers. Sometimes for the sake of peace and harmony we have to humble ourselves and accept our mistakes and bad behaviour. Do we do it? If we do so, the winds of new life and joy, harmony and reconciliation – the breath of the Spirit of the Risen Lord - will blow over our families and communities. 
5.  Response to God's Word
What are our present real or imaginary fears? For the sake of peace and harmony, do we humble ourselves to accept our mistakes and bad behaviour? Are we known as peacemakers or peace-breakers? Does our faith in the Risen Lord enable us to recognize his universal presence in people outside our ethnic group and accept the truth from any person of good will? If we nurse strong prejudices and misconceptions about others’ religion, race, caste, ethnic background, past mistakes and bad record, what does it show? Do our occasional doubts of faith finally lead us to a faith-surrender to accept Jesus as our Lord and God? What makes us look like dry bones, lacking vitality?
6.  A prayer

Jesus, my Lord and my God, I offer you all my real and imaginary fears and doubts of faith. Be my driving force when I am plagued with fear of the unknown. When you, the Risen Lord, are with me and for me, who or what can be against me? I believe that in all my fears, doubts and perils I am more than a conqueror through you who loves me. Breathe into me the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit and re-create me. Here am I; send me with the empowerment of your Spirit to continue your mission of building up peace, harmony and reconciliation. Amen.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Easter Sunday (A)

Easter Sunday [Jn 20:1-9]
16 April 2017
The Discovery of the Empty Tomb and Faith in the Resurrection
Readings: (1) Acts 10:34.37-43 (2) Col 3:1-4
1. Theme in brief:
Looking for the Risen Lord with an intensity of love and faith
2.  Focus Statement:
Each one of us can become the beloved disciple of the Risen Lord by the intensity of our love for him, which enables us to run faster for him than before, and recognize his powerful presence promptly in all situations.
3.  Explanation of the text
According to today’s gospel when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus early on the first day of the week, she found the stone of the tomb removed (20:1). Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the empty tomb and her observation of removal of the stone symbolize Jesus’ victory over the power of death and darkness (evil or satanic forces). She sets out to visit Jesus’ tomb “while it was still dark” (20:1). This symbolizes as the disciple who is in darkness, the one who lacks faith in the resurrection, going in search of the One who is the Light of the world. According to John a disciple is the one who constantly looks for or is in search of the Master. This is clear from the fact that Jesus asked the first two disciples (Andrew and his companion) who followed him because of the testimony of John the Baptist, “What are you looking for?” (1:38). Now Jesus asks the same question after his resurrection when he appears Mar Magdalene: “Woman…whom are you looking for” (20:15)? Here Mary Magdalene is depicted as a woman disciple who is constantly in search of the Master even after death. Obviously, she goes to the tomb of Jesus not to anoint his body (as Mk and Lk say), but in search of the one whom she loved most. Her loving devotion will be rewarded later on with the gift of a special appearance (20:14-15).
We need to carefully notice in today’s gospel text the characteristics of “the other disciple” or “the one whom Jesus loves” (20:2-4). He is never named. Many think he is the fourth evangelist (John) himself. Commentators call him the Beloved Disciple of the Lord. When he and Simon Peter hear the word from Mary Magdalene about the empty tomb, they run towards it. But the Beloved Disciple manages to outrun Peter in the race (20:4).  His exemplary love for Jesus motivates him to run faster for Jesus and his cause. As soon as he reaches the tomb, he peeps into it and sees the linen cloths lying on the ground without the body. He waits for Peter and allows him to go into the tomb first. When Peter sees the same thing what the other disciple saw, there is no immediate response or reaction from him. But when the Beloved Disciple goes in, he sees and believes promptly that Jesus has risen from the dead (20:9). Both of them see the same thing in the tomb (the linen wrappings lying there), but the Beloved Disciple sees the same thing with the eyes of faith and believes first ((20:8). The intensity of his love towards Jesus stimulates faith instantly.
The evangelist here may be contrasting Peter’s denial (unfaithfulness) during Jesus’ passion to the faithfulness of the Beloved Disciple who stood by the cross till the last moment and was able to believe in the resurrection. By staying close to Jesus in his suffering he proves to be really the Beloved Disciple. Though many of us presume that this disciple is John himself, nowhere he is clearly identified. This Beloved Disciple seems to symbolize all the disciples of Jesus who are invited to become his beloved. He is presented as a model for all believers so that they can be first to love, first to recognize the Risen Lord in faith (“believe”) and first to remain faithful to him. He is also a model of arriving at faith in the resurrection without looking for physical proofs or spectacular miracles. Thus he is contrasted with Thomas who later doubted about the truth of resurrection and demanded dramatic proofs. In that place also the Risen Lord will re-emphasize the necessity of faith without seeking for miracles and visions, and declare people who arrive at such faith as “blessed” (20:29).
4.  Application to life                     
From today’s gospel text we come to know how three disciples of Jesus (Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple) respond to the reality of the resurrection in three different ways. Mary Magdalene is presented as a faithful disciple who is constantly looking for (seeking after) the Master even after his death. She must have been shattered by the shameful death of her Master on the cross and must have felt emptiness within herself at such a loss. Not only that she experiences physical separation from Jesus who has touched her life so much, but also spiritual darkness – because she has not yet come to faith in the resurrection by which she can ‘see’ the presence of the Risen Lord in every dark moment of life. That is why she is presented as a disciple who is at a great loss and in utter darkness going in search of the Light of the Risen Lord. The discovery of the empty tomb symbolizes her own loss and emptiness first at the death of her Master which is now doubled at the loss of his body from the tomb. Like her, whenever we experience emptiness or meaninglessness of life we resemble that empty tomb. We expect God to take away our emptiness miraculously without any effort such as faithful and constant search for the Lord in faith after her example. When that does not happen we lose patience and dilute our faith in the Lord.
If our love and devotion for the Lord is as intense as Mary Magdalene, we get the strength to search for him even in dark moments of our life. Surely, he will reward our love and faith by assuring his mysterious presence even during “the dark night of our souls”. If we firmly believe that Jesus has risen indeed, we can see the presence of the One who is living everywhere and in every situation with the eyes of faith, even when we are walking in the valley of tears. The moment we allow evil forces (or forces of death) take control of us, we are cut off from our life’s source (God) and become a rudderless ship. Let us invoke the power of the Risen Lord in total faith so that he can remove this ‘stone’ (obstacle to faith) and give the strength to win a decisive victory over the forces of death.
Secondly, we have Simon Peter who is presented as a disciple who is slower in believing than the Beloved Disciple. His relationship with the Master has undergone ups and downs. He is very much shattered for another reason – his failure as a leader. His cowardice has led him to deny his Master. But he does not stop running for the Lord along with the Beloved Disciple until he reaches the height of faithfulness. Is this not our story too? In spite of our occasional failures and unfaithfulness we are called to be another Peter; called not to lose hope and not to stop running for the Lord’s mission. We hope that one day we shall overcome like Peter…
Thirdly, we have an unnamed disciple called the Beloved Disciple. It looks as if Simon Peter and this disciple were engaged in a running competition on Easter morning. Of course, both of them were running for Jesus. But the Beloved Disciple was running faster than Peter. The reason is not that he was younger and could run faster. This running race symbolizes a disciple’s intense love for the Master and personal attachment to his cause, or it could symbolize a disciple’s eagerness to look for the Master in every situation of life. It is clear that Peter was not ‘running fast’ for Jesus from his past failure. Though we too are running, we do not run with full vigour and passion. Sometimes we do not know actually whom are we running for.  Where is the cause and finishing line? Each one of us is called to become a beloved disciple of the Lord by loving him with such intensity day after day that we can run faster for him than before with passion and devotion. Today, those of us who have gathered to celebrate the New Life of Jesus are invited to resolve to be more enthusiastic, zealous and committed to his cause.
Like the Beloved Disciple, if we love Jesus the most, we can recognize his glorious and powerful presence promptly with the eyes of faith in all situations, places and persons. Our dedicated love will lead us to recognize his love at work everywhere; in our family, community and society. Sometimes we do not know actually whom are we running for. While we do any dedicated service in family, society, workplace and the Church, if some opposition and criticism makes us give up our good work, then it is understood that we are not doing it for the Lord or out of love for him. It looks as if we are doing everything to please others and to get praise and honour for ourselves.
We normally believe and trust those people whom we love more. Similarly, if we love Jesus more than anything else, we shall trust him more and recognize his hidden presence even in unpleasant and bitter experiences. We trust that his presence is hidden in them because we love him. Loving him implies both intimacy with him through prayer, Word of God and sacraments, and also loving his values by practice. If there is love in our hearts, we do not require dramatic proofs or heavenly visions. We become blessed because we believe without seeing the Lord physically. We normally do not see the love of those who love us. However, we see the signs of love in their special concern for us. Through these signs we recognize their love only if we have a heart to see. 
5.  Response to God's Word
Do we firmly believe that life can emerge from empty tomb, and light can shine out of darkness? Can we see the signs of the Risen Lord’s presence in our lives? Does our intense love for Him stimulate us to love those whom he loves, namely, the needy and the lost sheep? Do we look for the Risen Lord in all situations, especially in dark moments of our life? Does it lead us to a greater faith-commitment? Do we also recognize the signs of his love expressed through the sacraments, especially thee Eucharist? Does it stimulate greater faith in us? Today the Church invites us to be the beloved disciples of the Risen Lord by a deeper love-relationship and faith-commitment. What is our response?
6.  A prayer
Risen Lord, grant that like Mary Magdalene, our love and devotion for you lead us to search for you even in dark moments of our life. Reward our love and faith by assuring your mysterious presence even when we walk through the dark tunnel and meaninglessness of our life. Increase our faith that we may recognize your powerful presence promptly with the eyes of faith in all situations, places and persons. May we become your beloved disciples by loving you with such intensity day after day that we can look for you and work for you with more enthusiasm and commitment than before. Grant that this intensity of love may lead us to recognize your love at work in our family, community and society. Amen. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Easter Vigil (A)

EASTER SEASON
Easter Vigil [Mt 28:1-10]
15/16 April 2017
The Resurrection of Jesus
Readings: (1) Gen 1:1-2:2  (2) Gen 22:1-18  (3) Ex 14:15-15:1  (4) Is 54:5-14  (5) Is 55:1-11  (6) Bar 3:9-15.32-4:4  (7) Ez 36:16-28  (8) Rom 6:3-11
1.  Theme in brief
Encountering the Risen Lord and giving witness to him
2.  Focus Statement
We must discover the presence of the Risen Lord with the eyes of faith in the midst of our life-situations and among the marginalized and eagerly share that experience with others.
3.  Explanation of the text
According to Matthew’s gospel, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary follow Jesus up to his burial place and sit opposite to the tomb when Joseph of Arimathea closes it with a stone (27:61). Since the next day was Sabbath ( that is, Saturday, which is the day of rest for the Jews), they go home and wait to return to the tomb on “the first day of the week” at dawn (28:1) – a technical term for the Day of the Risen Lord (= Sunday). Unlike Mark’s gospel, the purpose of their visit is not to anoint the body of Jesus with spices, but to “see the tomb” (28:1). It could also be to mourn for their departed Master out of love and devotion. This gospel text shows how the fervent love of the holy women for Jesus is rewarded with an apparition of the Risen Lord and a commission given to them to share their experience with the apostles.
The earthquake at the tomb and vision of an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, rolling the stone and sitting on it, symbolize the victory of Jesus over the forces of death (28:2).  The appearance of the angel like lightening and his clothes shining white as snow (28:3) are like a re-play of Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (again, symbolizing the glory of his resurrection). The angel of the Lord says to the women: “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said” (28:5-6). If he is not here in the place where they laid him, where is he then, where should they look for him? Now he has been raised from the dead; hence, he is not limited or confined to the place of his burial or his tomb. Since he has been raised from death by the Father, now he can break all barriers, walls, limitations and boundaries established by human beings. So they are to look for him in faith in any place or situation.
The women leaving the tomb quickly with a mixture of fear and joy symbolize their reverential fear at the presence of the Divine and their eagerness to share that experience joyfully with the apostles without any fear (28:8). They become the first witnesses of the resurrection and apostles to the other apostles. The testimony of women, though not accepted in Jewish circles, becomes credible and is valid till today. When the Risen Lord himself suddenly meets them on the way, their holding of his feet symbolizes the reality of the resurrected body of Christ which can be even touched. Their worship of him implies that now on, for all the ages, Jesus of Nazareth is to be worshipped as the Risen and Glorified Lord (28:9).
Jesus commissions the women to share their experience with his “brothers,” that is, the apostles and to tell them to go to Galilee where they will see him (28:10). In spite of their denials and failings, the Risen Lord affectionately calls the apostles “my brothers” (28:10). Galilee is the place where they had made a decisive choice to follow him while catching fish (4:18-22). It is also called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (cf. Mt 4:15) because of its mixed population of Jews and Gentiles. It was considered to be a land where people sit in darkness and ignorance (cf. Mt 4:15-16) in contrast to the pundits of Jerusalem. The Risen Lord goes ahead of his disciples to this Galilee where they will ‘see’ him (of course, with the eyes of faith, 28:7).
4.  Application to life
From the testimony of the resurrection given by the devout women, we come to know that those who ‘seek’ Jesus with the eyes of faith can encounter him in all situations. In other words, those who ardently love Jesus like the holy women and show their devotion to him both in worship and service to the afflicted or the poor as Jesus did during his earthly life, experience the joy of the Risen Lord’s presence. If we believe that he is alive, his presence cannot be reduced to the pages of the Bible or any religious book, or a statue in a church, or limited to the tabernacle in the church. He is no more in the tomb, no more a hero of the Bible. He is a living reality.
As the angel told the women, the Lord is not in the tomb where they had laid him. As he is risen from the dead, he is no more confined to one place or limited by space and time; he lives in all places and situations. He is no more confined only to church, worship, prayer and liturgy; not even to the limited space of our selfish desires. Where can we find him now? We can encounter and discover him in the midst of our lives through the eyes of faith -- in all our problems, struggles, crises, challenges, worries, dilemmas, difficulties, calamities, trials, risks, struggles, joys and sorrows, disappointments and frustrations. Yes, if we really believe this, we shall feel his presence as he walks with us in the valley of our tears, in our hardships, in our doubts and in all that happens to us. Because he lives, we can experience his peace in the midst of our disturbed and anxious minds, his providence in our deprivation, his support in our weakness and his outstretched arms in our faults, falls and failures.
The Risen Lord is truly alive in our hearts and in the heart (centre) of our world. Yes, the tomb is empty; we will not find him there. We will not find him where forces of death are at work; where a culture of death, violence and ‘might-is-right’ policy rules. We will not find him where greed, corruption and dishonesty rules. We are told that he goes ahead of us to the dark and ignorant regions – our present-day Galilees – to be present among the poor, the marginalized, and among those who struggle for life. Jesus tells us, as he told the women: “Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them I am a living reality. Go back to your homes, villages and towns, workplace, business, offices, factories and fields, that is, your ‘Galilee’”. He sends both men and women equally to be evangelizers. The role of woman as evangelizers or messengers of the Good News (that Christ lives) is as central to the mission of the Church as that of men. They were the first ones to whom the Risen Lord appeared and were commissioned to share their experience with the apostles.
Like the holy women, we have to touch his feet, get energized by our worship of him. Then run to the world and joyfully proclaim that he is risen. This encounter with the Risen Lord fills our hearts with such great joy that it overflows in our attitudes and actions. We have to quickly ‘run’, i.e. must be so eager to share with others our discovery or encounter with the Risen Lord. We are called to bear witness to the presence and action of the Risen Lord to all around us. The power of his resurrection is working in those who believe and accept him. That power can bring them back to life from spiritual death caused by sin, lethargy, insensitivity, loss of the sense of sin, tepidity and hardness of heart, etc. With the power of the Risen Lord we can win a victory over the forces of death as the angel symbolically pointed by sitting on the stone rolled away by him.
If our gaze is fixed only on the tomb, that is exclusively on material things and worldly concerns like money, ethnic loyalties, exclusive relationships, power, position and personal glory, and if we fail to see him beyond the ‘tomb’ built by our selfishness and attachment to these things, then he is no more living for us. If we live only for money, higher and higher status, more and more prestige, greater and greater income, and fail to see anything beyond this ‘tomb’ then we are ‘dead’. If we have no aim or cause to live and die for, then we die several times before we really die. Those who think that it is pointless to live and pointless to die are already ‘dead’. These tendencies and wrong attitudes are the stones, which block our vision of the Risen Lord or separate us from him. Sometimes the blocking stone could be either lack of faith, deep-rooted sin or hardheartedness, due to which we do not recognize him. Today’s gospel says, as the women went to see the tomb of Jesus, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone with which Jesus’ tomb was closed and sat on it (28:2). This is a symbolic message that calls us to roll away the obstructing stones (mentioned above) that block us, just as the angel did, with the power of the Risen Lord.
If we believe that Jesus is really living, others can notice it in our lives. After all, the fact of the resurrection was established by the effect it had on the lives of the apostles. The greatest proof of resurrection is the remarkable change that took place in them: they were fearless when they had all the reason to be afraid of even death; felt that they had all they needed when they had practically nothing. They were willing to die for no material gains like money or possession. Change and transformation, and not mere social celebration of Easter, is a sign that Jesus is alive. And transformation is too hard for all of us. Let us open our hearts to the action of the Risen Lord so that his power may break down the walls of selfishness, narrow-mindedness worldliness, aimlessness in our lives and make our hearts like unto his. Let us ‘seek’ him with the eyes of faith, as the women did. Let us recognise him as he speaks to us in the Scriptures and comes to us as our spiritual food in the Eucharist.
5.  Response to God's Word
Do we seek the Risen Lord in all situations? Do we feel that Jesus is risen in us and in the world we live? What are the effects of Jesus’ living presence on our life and behaviour? By what signs we can know that Jesus is really living and active in our homes, neighbourhood and the Church? Have we locked up Jesus in our narrow and selfish world? Do we ‘see’ Jesus among the poor and the marginalized? Is our total attention fixed only on our ‘tombs’? Do we allow the Easter Light to dispel the darkness of sin, and baptismal water to cleanse us from evil? What are forces of death that rule our life, over which we need to win a victory with the power of the Risen Lord?
6.  A prayer

Risen Lord, we believe that you are present in the midst of our lives and its problems. We believe that you walk with us in the valley of our tears and mountain of joy. You are truly alive in our hearts and in the heart of our world. You go ahead of us to our present-time Galilees and invite us to meet you there. Open our eyes of faith that we may recognize you. We worship you reverently and proclaim you joyfully. Grant that with your power we may win a victory over the forces of death. Amen.