Death has no power over life | Daily News

Death has no power over life

Catholics and Christians across the world will celebrate Easter tomorrow, April 4, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the feast of Jesus rising from the dead conveying us a very profound truth, that death has no power over life, and those who die in faith in God will rise again at the last day to live an eternal life.

“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the culmination of the Passion (Latin Patior, passus sum means to suffer, bear, endure) of Jesus, preceded by Great Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

His Resurrection is the triumph of good over evil, sin, and death. It is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year, the singular event proving that those who trust in God and accept Christ will be raised from the dead on the last day.

This day, the last day of the Easter Triduum marks the end of Holy Week. It heralds the beginning of the Easter Season of the liturgical year. The true followers of Jesus will receive “a new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

The word ‘Easter’ has reference to Eostara, the goddess of rebirth. It is claimed that in early times the feast of Eostara was celebrated to mark the resurrection and rebirth of the Earth.

The Christian celebration is called Pascha in Latin and Greek, and the word derived from the Aramaic language has reference to a Jewish festival known as Passover in English. It recalls the great exodus of the Jewish community from slavery in Egypt.

Although the King of England, Charles I, in 1647, declared Resurrection, as a feast to be celebrated on a Sunday, contradicting him, Parliament abolished celebrating the feast along with other festivals of the Church.

The day of the Resurrection of Christ is a day of great significance to both Catholics and Christians across the globe. This year, the celebrations of the feast will be held strictly following the health guidelines in view of COVID- 19, continuing the uniqueness of the Easter celebration, as the deadly virus is still spreading across the world.

Coronavirus, the health hazard we experience right now, has revealed to us the fundamental truth about what our lives are with others. From the pandemic to climate change and nuclear weapons — the world needs to find shared solutions to shared challenges as the global Coronavirus has infiltrated into our lives. Restrictions such as social distance and lockdown have been imposed for the sake of the common good. Thus, our lives have taken a new rhythm. The pandemic situation has led people to reevaluate their lives.

New technology in operation has brought people closer from all parts of the globe despite the rule in force, to maintain social distance physically. It has given the opportunity to be in close contact though one lives miles away, distance-wise. And one needs not to live in isolation with anxiety, loss of hope, and longing to live with loved ones and share the joy of Resurrection of Jesus Christ, with one’s neighbour. This is because “Night never has the last word; the dawn is invincible”, as penned by the Irish Poet John O’Donohue. God invites us all to delve deep into the stillness around us in the midst of the pandemic, to discover the gift of solitude and quiet pace of life as Psalmist said: “Be Still, and know that I am God” ( Psalm 46:11)

The feast of Resurrection of Jesus which happened only once in Human History. It invites us to reflect on the eternity of life as that brings our attention to the fact that ‘life eternity’ is not a mere continuation of life but a new quality of life.

Sufferings we endure owing to the pandemic, remind us of the vulnerability of life and the fragility of human existence.

Yet as people, we tend to ask the fundamental question about the meaning of life and of our very existence. The COVID-19 has aggravated moments of such confusion and doubts. That is why Prophet Jeremiah wrote: “For I, the Lord, know well, the plans I have in mind, for you; plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

We should be able to understand the current Coronavirus situation in that light shed by the Psalmist in his wording and instead of worrying, let us try to see the hand of God within it, who never let His Creation, loses its value.

Christ was resurrected to a New Life and that is the promise God made to the human race, that life is eternal provided we as humans abide in the Lord, God the Creator, the source of our life.

Last year, we stayed away from attending the church services due to the islandwide curfew imposed in view of the catastrophic COVID-19 that has eaten into the very fabric of our society.

We were not alone in facing this calamity, almost all the countries were facing it with patience and trust in God, the Creator and Protector of the human race and the universe. This year the situation has changed a bit better, than the last year.

“This year believers, the devotees, will celebrate the victory of life hoping to fight death. The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the world causing mourning and suffering among all peoples. More than ever, the current events remind us how much hope is a dimension of faith,” stated a news release issued last year, by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC). And the situation is not that good in any part of the world including our own country though the situation has relaxed a bit, better than last year.

For Sri Lankans, this Easter reminds us of what occurred on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, where the innocent devotees participating in the Most Sacred and Solemn Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ were brutally killed and injured by the suicide bombers in two Catholic churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo; Katuwapitiya St. Sebastian’s Church, Negombo and Zion Christian Church in Batticaloa. There were also people killed in several hotels within Colombo city due to bomb blasts. The church is seeking justice on their behalf and underscores the fact that the incident was life-threatening and would continue to be so if the law fails to deal with it. It is a national issue and not an issue limited to a particular group or a set of individuals.

Perusing the pages of history, we recall how Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was targeted during World War II. The Southwest of the country was heavily damaged by the Japanese air attack that occurred on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942. This attack referred to as the “Easter Sunday Raid” or the “Battle of Ceylon”, was aimed at the British heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and Cornwall by the aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy. This was during the South-East Asian theatre of World War II.

A few days after the “Indian Ocean Raid”, a similar attack was launched in Trincomalee, targeting British warships and harbour installations. The objective of the Japanese attack was to disrupt the war efforts of the British Commonwealth Nations and force the British Eastern Fleet to leave the Asian waters.

For us, as humans, suffering remains a mysterious reality from time immemorial beyond our comprehension. We see it in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Job, Psalms, Prophets, and in the New Testament up to Revelation, including in the lives of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus through His passion, death, and resurrection set an example of the redemptive value of suffering.

During the Lenten season and Holy Week, this was what we commemorated, and that continues to give us hope. In the midst of all the suffering and uncertainties of COVID-19, this Christian perspective of suffering can give hope for all people and, the pandemic has provided many moments of grace and hope. We could identify the suffering face of Christ in those affected by the Coronavirus, both patients and their loved ones. It is also an opportunity for us to become the compassionate face of Christ while accompanying them during their time of pain, loneliness and loss. To be sowers of this prophetic hope is a joyful as well as a challenging experience.

Faith denotes a strong belief in God, doctrine or religion even when at times this tends to overshadow reality. Reflecting on the promise of everlasting life, how do we hold our faith as we look at the collective loss during this time of pandemic?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that nothing can fill the gap of a loved one who passes on, and I think it is unrealistic to try to find anything to put in that space. Painful as it might be, the bitter reality is that each person mourning a loved one has to bravely walk the road of healing each day and learn to live with the void created by the loss without looking for a substitute. I feel when we leave the gap unfilled somehow it preserves the bond of love between us and the dead person — in hope of the resurrection, as our faith informs us.

Death is such a mystery that it can never be fully comprehended with our human mind, and so in our efforts to understand it, we sometimes try to fill the gap it creates with endless questions. We, who have faced the death of our loved ones in our lifetime become convinced, that our inner healing shall be achieved by allowing ourselves to leave that space empty so that our communion with those gone for good could be kept alive, even at the cost of deep pain.

The belief in Life Eternal, strengthens us to accept the reality that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life- the Everlasting Life, where we shall meet face to face with God and our departed ones. That is the message Easter brings to us.

As we reflect on life after death, we come to appreciate that grief and gratitude are kindred souls, each pointing to the beauty of what is temporary and given to us by God. At the same time, we begin to look at the reality of the earthly life with new eyes that are not focused on the transient things, but on the eternal.

The paschal mystery symbolizes in many ways what this year is about and what life is about. As we commemorate the last days of Christ’s earthly life, we can see more clearly the bewilderment and disbelief of the disciples and the way their lives changed suddenly.

It is very much fitting to quote Pope Francis while celebrating this Easter Festival, where we are assured of God’s care and protection and that He has not abandoned us.

Pope Francis addressing the faithful at the General Audience held in the recent past said, “These weeks filled with anxiety and suffering because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we may be asking ourselves ‘What does God do in the face of our pain? Where is He when everything is going wrong? Why does not He solve the problems immediately?’

The Pope while inviting the faithful to live the ‘Holy Week’ and the Triduum as “one great domestic liturgy” admonished them to find courage, strength and hope in God’s infinite love.

The Pope said, “In these days of quarantine when we are secluded at home, let’s take these two things in our hands: the Crucified One – let’s look at Him – and the Gospel. It will be for us a great domestic liturgy because we cannot go to church.”

Explaining further Pope Francis said, “In the same way, Easter tells us that God can turn everything to good and that with Him we can truly trust that all will be well. “That is why on Easter morning we are told: Do not be afraid!’. We are not alone, God does not forget us...” the Pope added.

Pope Francis concluded by saying that Jesus changed history “by being close to us.” Through His death, He conquered death. So we too can change our lives by being close to Him, in the certainty that we are not alone because the Lord loves us, He does not abandon us and He never forgets us.”