The forty days of lent, known as the Lenten Season, is over but the blessing of the season is what we celebrate at Easter. The resurrection of Jesus we celebrate today is the most amazing news the world ever heard. We rejoice because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. As Christians, we like St. Paul can have great hope in life after death because Jesus broke the bondage of death (1Cor. 15:12-24,35-58).
The solemnity of Easter is certainly the greatest day for the whole of humanity: that God has reopened the heart of humanity and thus initiated a dialogue so as to give dignity to His children, but above all to grand humanity admittance into paradise. With this is the reality of a new creation as God re-establishes his love with us. This truly is what the church celebrates today. “We have been raised with Christ” confesses St. Paul (cf. Col 3:1). These words express in clear terms the faith that centres on the origin of Christianity: The Paschal Lamb that was slain, symbol of the history of salvation. This also expresses the knowledge of the novelty introduced into the world with the resurrection of Christ.
Easter is truly the certainty of a presence – a true presence. The presence of Christ that now is with us. We are called therefore to seek to feel this presence among us. This is what the church stands for – a place where it is possible for us to participate in the life of the risen Lord. This is why Easter must always be for the Christian the light and joy of salvation.
Easter brings great blessing to believers; our hearts are always filled with love and gratitude whenever we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. The empty tomb, as the sign of the resurrection is the foundation of our faith, for as St. Paul says “if Christ has not risen from the tomb all our preaching would be useless and our faith in vain” (1Cor.15:14-17).
The Evangelist John gives us Mary Magdalene as a model and perfect example of an authentic and sincere search for Christ (cf. Jn 20:11-180). Her interest was not to establish the truth of the resurrection. All she wants is Jesus – to find and touch him. This is what our troubled world needs – to find and touch the risen Lord. Perhaps this will heal us of our brokenness. This is important for us Nigerians, as we experience gloom and sadness almost on a daily basis. Kidnapping, violent killings by the Fulani herdsmen and other unfortunate tragic incidents across the country have almost become the order of the day.
To our troubled world therefore, the message from the church is simple for the next 50 days: The Lord is Risen, Alleluia! He is truly Risen! He is Risen, despite the treacherous greed of Judas which stripped Him of all He had, He is Risen, despite the cowardice of His Apostles who in the hour of darkness found themselves powerless to aid Him, He is Risen, despite the blindness of His own people who preferred the thief Barabbas to the true Son of the Father – Jesus the Messiah, He is truly Risen, in spite of the excessive beating the Romans gave Him, He is truly Risen, in spite of the sharp nails that were driven into His Sacred Flesh, He is truly Risen, in spite of the death He truly underwent as man, He is truly Risen, in spite of the three days His cold and lifeless Body spent in the tomb. The Lord is indeed risen. And because the Lord is truly risen, we too must make efforts to rise above what makes us submit to a life of sin and disunity as Nigerians.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Easter celebration impress deeply upon our hearts, minds, bodies and souls that Jesus our Lord is truly Risen from the Dead. The victory of Jesus over death was also our victory. Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, we are assured that we too shall rise again after our own death. His resurrection is thus the pledge of our own resurrection.
St. Paul reminds us, if then, we have died with Christ in Baptism, we believe that we shall also live with our Glorified and Risen Jesus. The greedy of this world may rob us of all we have, We may feel abandoned in our time of need, We may find the world to be against us as Christians, we may be persecuted and discriminated upon because of our faith, We may be beaten down by our past sins and by the world and the devil, but no earthly trials, not even crucifixion or any other earthly death is able to crush our Hope for Resurrection in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The joy of the resurrection has dispelled the pain of the crucifixion and has given us the hope of our own resurrection on the last day. Jesus is the first to rise from the dead and as such, he assures us that if we follow him faithfully we too will rise with him on the last day.
Dear brothers and sisters, may we be filled with the Resurrection Faith this Easter Day, and all the 50 days of the Easter Season, and may the Joy of the Resurrection renew your family, your parish, our Diocese and the whole world, for the tomb is really Empty, and Our Lord has truly Risen! I wish you a happy Easter and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Most Rev. Stephen Dami Mamza.
Bishop of Yola Diocese.