I Shall Rise Again
Deacon Patrick Constantino | Photos courtesy Dcn. Patrick Constantino
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ!
Happy Easter, everyone! Alleluia! It brings me great joy to be with all of you, this day as we gather to remember and celebrate and give thanks for the incredible God we have. This is a God who doesn’t simply watch the world he created. He immerses himself in it. This God who doesn’t simply tell us how to live. He shows us. This God who doesn’t make us do it alone but one who walks with us every step of the way. And this God who isn’t just willing to give a little to rescue us. He’s willing to give everything for our sake—give his very life so that we may have the very thing he laid down—life—and have it abundantly.
What a God we have!
I shall rise again!
“I shall rise again!” Jesus tried to tell his disciples that several times before his death on Calvary’s cross. You would think they would have been prepared on the first Easter morning to welcome him back from the grave. Clearly, they were not. Forgotten, at least momentarily, was his promise that on the third day he would rise again. Paul would later write in his letter to the Corinthians that Christ has conquered the final enemy—the enemy of death but it is clear such was not the expectation of his friends and disciples on that first Easter morning. Their hearts were heavy with grief. They had forgotten Jesus’ promise that, on the third day, he would come back to them. All they knew was their Lord was dead—and with him all their hopes, dreams and aspirations. They were overwhelmed with their sense of loss. But that, of course, is not the end of the story. If it were, you and I would not be here today. According to Luke’s account of the resurrection, a group of women made their way to the tomb early Sunday morning to prepare Christ’s body with spices. There they found the stone rolled away from the grave and two men in dazzling apparel who said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise?” And they remembered Jesus’ words and they returned to tell the eleven disciples and the rest of Jesus’ followers, “He is alive! He is alive! He has conquered death as he said.”
You may know the story of a gentlemen who stood one day looking into a store window. Standing next to him and also looking in was a little boy. It was Easter time and in keeping with the season the shopkeeper had arranged a setting of the crucifixion. After a while, the boy turned to the man. “Those are Roman soldiers,” he explained. The man said nothing but kept studying the window. “And there’s Jesus,” the boy continued. Still no response. “They killed him,” the boy said. By this time the man, having satisfied his curiosity, started to walk away. Then he heard a patter of young feet behind him and felt a tug on his sleeve. It was the boy. “Mister,” he said, “I forgot to tell you the most important part. He’s alive again!”
That, of course, is the most important part. He is alive. Christ has defeated the final enemy—death. But what does Easter mean in our lives—we who are Christ’s followers today? Doesn’t it mean, first of all, that we no longer have to fear death either? If Christ has overcome the grave, doesn’t that mean that death no longer has dominion over us as well? We are kind of strange in our attitude toward death, aren’t we? We were created for life, not death. No one who is healthy of mind, soul and body looks forward to dying. And of course, that is the point. We were created for life not death. God did not bring us into being for this world only. Christ showed us death is no longer our enemy. Death has been conquered. Because Christ lives, we too shall live. We no longer need to fear death. But Easter also says to us we no longer need to fear life. Common sense says to us there are things in life worse than dying. What does Easter have to say to us as we face life—life with its heartaches and disappointments, its hurts and frustrations?
It says, first of all, God is involved in His World. The God of the empty tomb is also the God of the Exodus. The Deists were wrong. God is not off somewhere far removed from the human condition. The God of the Bible is intimately involved with His creation. The greatest heresy in the Christian faith today is the notion Christianity is only about dying. For the Christian, dying is a momentary inconvenience. But it does not interrupt a relationship with God through Jesus Christ begun long before. The saddest Christian in the world is the one who believes faith is simply buying a ticket to some far-off heaven. Such faith leads to a joy-less legalism. Christian faith is an ultimate love affair of life. That is why it is entirely appropriate Easter should come during the springtime. That is why we celebrate this day with brightly colored eggs. Traditionally this has been a day for wearing new brightly colored clothing as well. That is not a custom that grew out of our affluence, as you might suppose. Some of you might remember when the only new dress or new suit you got was at Easter time. That did not grow out of a desire to show off. Early Christians, who were not affluent at all, wanted to symbolize the fact Easter was about new life, new hope, new joy so they attired themselves accordingly. God is involved in our world. Christ is alive in the hearts of those who love him. What joy that brings! God is involved in the world. This leads us to a second thought. Easter is about victory. This is no day for doom and despair. Christ has defeated the final enemy.
We share in that victory. Easter is the celebration of that victory. Easter belongs to the church. The world may have taken over Christmas but Easter is still a uniquely Christian celebration. For 2,000 years the church has proclaimed Christus Victus, Christ is Victor. In the Middle Ages the people would gather at twelve o’clock on Easter to celebrate a midnight mass. The beautiful words of the Gospel were read in the quaint churchyard. They followed the joyous hymn “Christ is Risen” and the clamoring of bells. The priest, holding high a lighted candle, would bid all “Come and receive light” and would pass the flame to the multitude of candles held to receive it. With these flickering torches in their hands, the throng turned eagerly to the House of God. The doors to the church were closed and locked. Loudly they knocked, their voices raised in solemn chant: “Lift the gates, o ye rulers of ours, and ye eternal gates be lifted, for there will enter Christ, the King of Glory!” A voice from within demanded: “Who is the King of Glory?” And the answer broke forth exultantly: “He is the Lord, strong and powerful! He is the Lord mighty in war!” Easter is a celebration of victory—for Christ is still victor today. Bishop Desmond Tutu, speaking at the Horace Bushnell Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut said, “It is Christ that will win for ever and ever. Amen.” Easter tells us God is involved in our world. Easter tells us we can live a victorious life in Christ Jesus. But Easter also tells us more than anything else people matter. Why is it important to believe in the resurrection of the dead? Certainly, it is not so we can believe in God. Creation provides more than enough proof of His existence. Many people believe in God who do not believe in Easter.
God’s infinite power is not at stake. What is at stake is whether your life or mine has any ultimate significance. Do we live only for a season, then cease to exist forever? Or are we so significant in God’s eyes even death cannot separate us from His love? Do not say Christianity can exist independently from Easter. Christianity is not simply a set of values, a moral code, a style of living, a grand philosophy. Christian faith is Easter faith. It is the conviction people matter so much to God He gave His own son on our behalf; He allowed Him to be crucified on the cross for our sins and on the third day raised Him from the grave as sign and symbol our lives are of eternal significance. God is involved. Christ is victorious. But even more importantly, we really do matter to God. This is why we are gathered here this day. That is why the empty tomb is central to our faith. Bruce A. Demarest summed it up in a beautiful way in his book, Who Is Jesus?: Further Reflections on Jesus Christ: The God-Man. He writes, “Throughout the centuries men have tried to honor their heroes by erecting lavish monuments: the massive pyramids of Egypt, built as resting places for the Egyptian pharaohs; the glistening Taj Mahal, the tomb of an Indian emperor and his favorite wife; Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square, the place where the body of the Marxist leader is preserved by some mysterious process; the burial vault at Mt. Vernon, the site of President Washington’s interred body. In its stark simplicity Jesus’ grave can’t compare with these costly crypts. But the tomb of Jesus excels in the most important respect. It lies empty! He is not there!” He is alive. He is victorious, and because He lives, we too can live victorious lives as well! Jesus, I trust in You! Happy Easter Family! Amen!
On June 18, 1987, Patrick Constantino was ordained as the first Deacon of Filipino ancestry for the Roman Catholic Church in Hawai‘i. For twenty-two years, he served as Administrator at Holy Rosary Church in Pā‘ia, St. Rita Church in Ha‘ikū and St. Gabriel Church in Ke‘anae. Constantino is presently assigned to St. Joseph Church in Makawao.
Prior to his ordination, Constantino was in government—first appointed in 1966 as Assistant Sergeant of Arms by the Speaker of the House Elmer F. Cravalho. When Cravalho became Maui’s first Mayor, Constantino became his Executive Assistant—the first of Filipino ancestry. Later, Constantino became the first County Treasurer of Filipino ancestry and the first County Grants Administrator and Risk Manager of Filipino ancestry.