EASTER: A CALL FOR TRANSFORMATION
Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
Let me begin with a story. It is a story of a loving father and his darling son. I believe that it is a true life-story. This touching story is that of a Russian Mr. Alfred and his only son, Greg. As a dashing youth Greg enrolled in the army.
After two years Mr. Alfred received a letter from the commanding officer of Greg. “I regret to inform you that your son Greg was killed in action. Greg was an excellent soldier, very much loved and appreciated. He died the death of the brave. You have every reason to be proud of him.”
The news of the death of his beloved son shattered the father. In a matter of a few days he aged very much turning full grey almost overnight. His memory began to fail him and his mind too was badly affected. He became very week and sickly. He lived for his son. Now there was no reason for him to live. He, his relatives and friends said prayers and did symbolic funeral rites in the absence of his son’s body. But Alfred found no consolation in life. He went through a lot of mental agony and suffering for 12 days.
On the 13th day there was a second letter from the same commanding officer of his son Greg. It contained a fantastic piece of good news that his son Greg was alive and not dead. He had been wounded badly and left for death on the battle field. But after several hours he regained his conscious and was able to crawl back 4 miles to the base camp taking with him a wounded fellow soldier. Greg was recovering in the army hospital. He has been immediately promoted and was awarded the ‘Cross of St. George’ in recognition of his bravery. He would soon join his family.
This good news of the brave son being alive has transforming effect of his father, Mr. Alfred. He took the letter to the market square and announced the good news to the whole town. He shouted on the top of his voice, “My son is alive and he has been awarded the ‘Cross of St. George for his bravery.”
Greg’s story is a pale example of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is no comparison between Greg’s story and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Still we may take Greg’s story as a pale model of Jesus death and resurrection. Greg was not dead but was presumed dead. Jesus was actually dead and has been buried. His body remained in the tomb for 3 days before the miracle of miracles happened. Jesus rose from the dead to a new life on Easter Sunday. His glorious resurrection transformed not only his disciples and followers but the whole world and continues to do so.
The Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on the third day to embalm Jesus’ body. She found the tomb empty. Then she encountered the Risen Lord Jesus. Jesus empowered her to be his witness to his disciples even though a woman’s witness was like that of a slave or a child had no value in Jewish society.
The disciples, who ran away when Jesus was arrested and crucified, had hidden themselves behind closed door for the fear that they too might be caught and crucified like their Master. But after the Risen Lord encountered the disciples they were transformed and were fearless in proclaiming Jesus even from the Temple at Jerusalem.
Deeply disturbed and discouraged two disciples of Jesus went away to Emmaus. Their dreams were shattered with the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the Cross. But Jesus encountered them on the way and broke bread with them. They too were transformed and returned immediately in the night to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul who persecuted the followers of Jesus encountered Jesus on his way to Damascus. He became Jesus’ most ardent disciple and follower. He propagated Jesus’ life and message all across the Middle East and Europe. Paul risked his life many times and faced innumerable difficulties and problems to proclaim the Risen Lord Jesus.
The Risen Jesus continues to encounter people of all times, all cultures and all races in the whole world. Jesus has no barriers of religion, of caste, of race and of creed. Over the centuries no belief, no faith, no language and no culture has remained unaffected by Jesus.
Jesus continues to encounter us when you and I are open to his values, ideals and attitudes. He encounters us and we are transformed when we love the unlovable. He encounters us and transforms us when we are able to forgive the unforgivable. He encounters us and transforms when we serve the poor and needy as Jesus did during his life on earth.
Jesus encounters us and we are transformed when we accept his values, his ideals and his attitudes and make them our own values, ideals and attitudes. Jesus encounters us and we are transformed when we totally dedicate our lives to him and be ready to face the consequences of that dedication and commitment.
A well known example for this sort of commitment and dedication in our time is that of Graham Stains, his wife and their three children. They left their homes, dear relatives and friends back in their country, Australia and came to India. They totally dedicated themselves to serve the poor especially the abandoned and rejected leper patients in Bihar like Jesus did in Israel serving and curing the lepers who approached him.
Graham Stains and his two teenage sons, we know, paid with their lives for serving the people most in need. Communal fanatics burned them to death while they were sleeping. Still his wife Edith and daughter Esther not only forgive the murderers but they also continue the same mission in their own way with the same commitment and dedication; because they believe that the Risen Jesus is with them.
You and I can also be open to be encountered by the Risen Lord Jesus by accepting and living his values, ideals and attitude; and be transformed.