Surmounting the Sting of Death

 Fr. Jijo Kandamkulath CMF

Claretian Publications, Macau

Lk 24:1-12          

Happy Easter! Alleluia!

The Easter Vigil presents one of the most dramatic situations in the Gospels. The women who proceed to embalm the body of Jesus suddenly find themselves facing an implausible situation. The heavy stone covering the sepulcher is rolled away, and instead of Jesus’ body they find two angels, telling them that he is alive now and is going on to Galilee. From this empty tomb begins the saga of the resurrection, not only of Christ, but also of those who followed him. The Church is built on the foundation of this evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, which accounts for St Paul writing that if Christ is not risen, in vain is our faith.

With the resurrection, Christ overcomes the power of death. The greatest challenge any living being encounters is overcoming the fear of death. Every one of us has the instinct for self-preservation. To overcome that natural tendency and walk toward death needs an even stronger instinct to preserve something more valuable than oneself. One of the most popular videos that the National Geographic Channel captured recently is of a fawn and its mother. The mother looks anxiously at the unruly fawn jumping into the river. Then she sees a crocodile heading for the fawn. She jumps into the river and throws herself to the jaws of the crocodile before it could reach her baby. There are some very natural instincts stronger than self-preservation and this mother deer exemplified it.

Jesus, however, was walking toward death not by natural instinct but by choice. Debating death many times over in his mind, Jesus was fully convinced of the necessity of that redemptive act. The fiercest of the temptations assailed him at the Garden of Gethsemane where he was sweating blood to make a decision. After visualizing his death many times over, he decides to die with an overwhelming love, a love so magnanimous that it concretizes his words – “There is no greater love than giving one’s life for one’s friends.” He has embraced the whole of humanity as his friends including the ones that are crucifying him.

Death is the fiercest tool of coercion. The enemy uses our fear of death to manipulate our decisions. Many films use this technique to create a climax. If the victim chooses to die, suddenly the enemy becomes powerless. He has threatened the victims with the greatest possible pain, and when the victim chooses to embrace that pain, the enemy has no more tools to manipulate the victim’s values or decisions. Death loses its power then. “O Death, where is your sting?” You have just become a stingless wasp! No one is afraid of you anymore! Jesus taught that living the values of the gospel – dying for LOVE is more worth than living.  The martyrs walked the same path, happily defeating the fear and power of death forever.

Jesus’ resurrection made our return to paradise possible. The floodgates of love that were shut by greed and desire for power are now unleashed, and love has flooded every human heart that chooses to live by the gospel values. The one who dies believing in the Father’s plan will rise again. When Jesus rose again, not only his person but also the whole set of values that he had been teaching came back to life. All his teachings were validated by the act of his resurrection.

The solemnity of Easter invites us to rejoice because Christ triumphed over death. It also invites us to reflect on the need to conquer our worst fears and temptations. It is important now not to go back to the tomb where lies our dead sinful self, not to throw our risen selves with what is dead.

Happy Easter. Christ has risen. We have been raised too… Alleluia!

(Photo: dimitrisvetsikas1969 at Pixabay)