Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord
Homily of Bishop Dennis Villarojo, Bishop of Malolos
MALOLOS CATHEDRAL, Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020
“The Resurrection of the Lord changed the meaning of many things.”
The Lord rose from the dead and the Cross which used to be seen as a symbol of oppression, as a symbol of the tyranny of Roman power, as a symbol of punishment and injustice became now the symbol of Victory as you can see in the statue of the Risen Christ, the image of the Risen Christ, the Cross has become a banner or a post where the banner of victory have become.
Without the Resurrection, the Cross would not had changed its meaning. If Jesus had died on the Cross and did not rise from the dead, the Cross would have continued to become a symbol, would have continued to be a symbol of oppression and even more of injustice. because a man who was innocent was crucified on it. But become Jesus rose from the dead, it now become a symbol of victory, a symbol of triumph of life over death, of justice over injustice. It has become a symbol of God’s love, of his saving love for all of us.
There’s another symbol whose meaning has changed with the Resurrection of the Lord and it is the Empty Tomb. When the Apostles Peter and John discovered the Tomb to be empty, they did not despair, instead Joh came to faith, he believed even though he saw the empty tomb, he believed that Jesus has risen from the dead. the empty tomb or tombs for that matter used to sad symbols, sad, depressing places and much more if you discover that the tomb of your loved ones is no longer there, that was the feeling of Mary Magdalene when she discovered that the body of the Lord was no longer in the tomb, she wept and asked the guards “where did you take him?”. But with the Resurrection of the Lord, the empty tomb has become a symbol of God’s promise, of fullness of life. The emptiness of the tomb becomes now the promise of the fullness of life because of the Resurrection through Jesus, we now possess the fullness of life even if in our situation today, we are still struggling through life yet we have the promise of the fullness of life even if we have to go through pain and difficulty, even if our time will come when we shall be entering our bodies, our mortal remains will be interred into tombs.
Come to think of it, Cemeteries ought not to be a place of desolation, they ought not to be places of sadness and despair but we come to cemeteries to inter the remains of our loved ones because as the Rite of Commendation says “we live and to rest until the Resurrection” it is a place of promise, it is a place of fullness of life promised to us by the Resurrection of the Lord.
Nowadays, symbols have also changed their meaning and if I may call our attention to the chief symbol of our time. Sa mga nangyayari ngayon ang pinaka obvious na simbolo ay ang Facemask kung saan-saan makikita mo ang Facemask na nakatakip sa bibig at ilong ng mga tao. Noon kasi, noong wala pang virus, normal times kapag may makakita tayong taong may nakalagay ng facemask, nakasuot ng facemask naglalakad sa lansangan o di kaya’y sumakay ng jeep, meron tayong pag-iisip na “hmm sale na namang taong ito, napakaarte naman.” It used to be a symbol of being delicate, of being not one with everybody else, especially y if you wear it when it’s not supposed to be worn, in social place, in places of social gathering. But now, the facemask has changed its meaning because of our experience and this experience is teaching us so many lessons, we ought not to forget these lessons even if the experience would have passed. After this pandemic, we will look up the facemask or anybody wearing a facemask in a different light.
First of all, the facemask now needs silence. During the days of Quarantine, we are asked to experience silence. Ewan ko lang kung naranasan ninyo, we try wearing the facemask tapos salita kayo ng salita, yung nagchichismis kayo tapos may facemask, how uncomfortable. Kapag nagsasalita ka, nakasuot ka ng facemask parang matanggal, natatanggal siya makikita nila yung ilong mo kasi yung ngat-ngat ng bibig mo ay nagpapausod sa baba ng facemask, you try it. And eventually -ito’y maselan- ayaw mo na ring magsalita kasi naamoy mo nayung hiniga mo at laway, maaalala mon a hindi ka na pala nagtoothbrush. So the facemask reminds us of the necessary silence we need to experience, we need to live our lives na for once maybe for one month, for one month and a half, we speak little even if we enjoy others presence. Kasi naman, one of the thing na -lalo na sa mga kabataan na ayaw nila doon sa bahay nila, ayaw manatili sa kanilang bahay kasi merong nagngangangat diyaan, may palaging nagsasalita -ewan ko lang kung sino baka yung ibon na nandiyan sa bahay. But sometimes you notice, it is not so much the house that you don’t want to stay in but it could be the noise in the house that you want to avoid. For once naman, let’s stay at home and experience the silence of each other’s presence and we realize how important, how variable each other’s presence truly is.
The silence that we can spend in prayer before the Lord in supplication “Lord, save us from this pandemic.” The silence that we could spend reading the word of God reflecting on our lives so that we will now what to do and what is wrong or even what is right in our lives at the moment cause the Word of God enlighten us, it is a double-edged sword that seeks, that point where flesh and bones meet as the letter to the Hebrews tells us. It allows us to examine our conscience, our lives. Silence symbolised by the facemask.
But also, the facemask symbolises care, concern. Noon ang facemask ay simbolo ng pagkamaselan, ayaw mong mahawaan, delikadong taong iyan naka facemask. But now, yes it means you don’t want to be infected but it is a desire not to be infected so you cannot infect others. It is a symbol of self-control, “ayaw kong mahawaan ang iba at ayaw ko ring mahawaan dahil kapag ako ay mahawaan, yung iba rin ang maghihirap.” Its care for the self so we can take care of others. It’s a care for others, that’s why we wear something to cover our faces.
And lastly in these days, the facemask has become a symbol of heroism, a symbol of service, service to the point of laying down one’s life, not even for one’s friends but for people you do not know. It has become a symbol of the service that our frontliners; the doctors, the nurses, the janitors, the policemen are rendering us during these times and we can only raise our eyes to heaven to thank them for this valuable service.
Mga kapatid, all this because we as a nation, as a family, as humanity went through a crisis, a crisis that may be difficult to solve but in the end is in the hands of God and those of us who believe that this God can raise the dead back to life, we know and we are certain that we will overcome. But let us never forget the lessons, this crisis, this grace, God’s grace has given to us as symbolised by the facemask.
Let us -even if we come out of the crisis- leave some moments of silence in our lives, return to the moment of silence, appreciating each other’s presence, acknowledging the presence of God in our lives. Let us be reminded of the care that we have for each other and let us always remember the sacrifices that others have given so that we can continue to enjoy our lives and for that matter, that we too in our own little way, can render acts of service, if not now than much later when we can be enabled to do what we can for our brothers and sisters.
The Resurrection of Jesus has changed the meaning of the Cross and the empty tomb. The crisis that we are going through today can also change the meaning of some things but only if we learn to change their meaning within the context of the resurrection of the Lord.
Jesus has risen from the dead and he has changed the meaning of the way we live, the meaning of our lives. Let it by so for us as well in this time of the pandemic.