Easter with Graceful Gratitude

This coronavirus pandemic has brought many tears and losses for many of us. People had lost their jobs and found their livelihood jeopardized. Some had lost their loved ones due to this virus. Others have lost hope in humanity, especially in government and elected officials, because of the divisive and childish game of thrones that had happened in this last election. The world seems less friendly and more worried at times, less willing and more vocal at times, less social and more isolated at times. While this pandemic and its burdens, effects, and fallouts have robbed us of many creature comforts, plans, things, matters, and people that are dear to us, it has soberly and gracefully reminded us of our very own mortality, finitude, and limitations. Simply put, we are not in control, having more things or possessing whatever this world tells us will not make us happy, life is still messy and challenging at times, and while it is easy to be frustrated and resentful for what has been robbed or taken away from us, we can also be grateful for what we have discovered more with less. This Easter season is perhaps will be different than other Easters that we have used to celebrate in the past, but look at where we are now with where we used to be one year ago when we were in lockdown and could not celebrate Easter today in 2020. A lot has indeed happened, but we have come a long way! Even though we have lost a lot, challenged to the limit at times, but we can truly celebrate this Easter season with much graceful gratitude and joy. Perhaps we will have fewer things to celebrate this year, but we have noticed that it was never about the things that fill our tables and homes that make us happy, but truly the people who are in our very own lives that bring us peace. The true joy of Easter is the joy that we have and continue to find in and through the Gospel, that Christ has indeed risen and His love has won the world.

The reason why the Gospel is called the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ because it contains the true message of hope, love, and faith for those who believe. The different accounts were selected, guided, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, written for the different communities from oral tradition sources for those who are being persecuted, suffering, abandoned, forgotten, and losing hearts because of their faith in Christ Jesus. Different stories were selected, organized, and outlined to fit the Christocentric narrative of each community of faith — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Even though there are some differences in details, they were all composed through the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit to affirm believers of their duty, responsibility, mission, purpose, vocation, and identity in Christ Jesus. The different accounts were to narrated and composed differently to present the Lord’s life and teachings to each proper community that was composed of different backgrounds, cultures, classes, and outlooks of life — as well as the challenges they were facing within and outside of their own community.

All four Gospel accounts were written to remind Christians that, just as Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, the only-begotten Son of God and Incarnate Word, lived like us in all things but sin to teach and guide us back to the Heavenly Father. Through the power and working of the Holy Spirit, He came to live among us and to give His life as ransom and expiation for our sins, saving and redeeming us from the enslavement of this world, especially its evil and manipulative lies. Therefore, if our Master and Teacher chose to die for us on the Cross so that we can be redeemed and saved, we, too, should not be scared to embrace hardships, trials, sufferings, persecutions, and oppositions, because we are His disciples. We walk and follow where He had trod, following His footsteps and being His witnesses in this world by how we believe and live our lives as His followers, believers, and disciples.

Therefore, in order for us to truly be disciples, we have to personalize and internalize the Lord‘s teachings, trying our best to understand and keep His divine commandments, and especially to personally embrace the moral life. We cannot just stand on the side to pick and choose what we like or comfortable for us. To say that we believe is not simply about choosing what is convenient and beneficial for us. We cannot be sitting on our personal thrones and expect things to be catered to our needs, waiting for the Church and the world to change and be “better” before we are committed and do something. Let us be honest… Too many times, we put ourselves on a throne or pedestal in order to be served instead to serve, judging others according to our expectations and demands, but we have not let go, to follow, and become disciples of Christ.

When we recognize our nothingness or poverty in God, we are able to depend on Him as well as others. When we think of ourselves higher than others, we demand and expect everything to go our way. Yet, none of us were created to be alone or to be put on a higher pedestal than others. We are all instrumental to God‘s will for the greater good of society and the evangelical mission of the Church so that the Good News is being preached and all are being cared for with dignity, value, and love. If we really think about it, there can only be one true master of our hearts. If it is not God, it will end up being our ego, something, or someone else! Even though we have our fair share of struggles in loving Him, we should never give up! If we give up or lose focus too easily, lesser things will begin to creep in to fill our hearts. Therefore, it is important to do regular spiritual checkups and cleansings to identify the sources of distraction and reorganize our priorities in alignment with the greatest good, which God and His will for us. Only when we are able to seek and desire what is good from Him can we learn to rest in His everlasting peace.

We need to remember who we are! We are not disciples of some “make it rich” person or guru, but the One who gave His life for the salvation of all. Our Savior did not come to live in richness and prosperity, detached and reserved from the world and the poor, but to live like us in all things except sin. He was proud to be known as the son of a carpenter, ate and dined with sinners and forgotten, cared for the downtrodden and those who were smitten by others. He lived His life without many luxuries that one would expect from an earthly king, lest the King of the universe. Therefore, our Lord has given us a clear example of what we are called to be and how to live our lives of faith through His very life examples. We are much more than anything that our society tells us that we have to be. Our scope is eternal and our reward is found in God! We are happy, joyful, and content because we know who we are as children of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Jesus Christ, and instruments of the Holy Spirit in this world and for one another.

Our lives are much more than we have or do not have in the earthly or materialistic sense. Our nobility and righteousness are not of this world or the ego but in our humble, heartfelt, devoted, faith-filled, loving, and gentle confession and witness of the love of God in our lives. When we become totally dependent and be able to be content with the immense goodness and loving gifts from Him who loves us, we can, in turn, become blessings for one another. If we are able to recognize our spiritual riches in Him, we will possess the richness that this world can never destroy, steal, or take away from us!

Our faith is not dependent on what God has to do for us or our happiness is based on what we want or desire for ourselves. The Lord has come to show us who we truly are and invites us into deeper communion with Him and with one another. Our true joy is not self-centered but grounded in the real, personal, and intimate faith, hope, and love for the Savior who had given Himself up for us. It is not just about what we can get out of the relationship but in obedience to His words and by imitating His own sacrificial examples of love for the greater good of all. We are to become like Him by the dying of ourselves to love, trust, and believe beyond the materialistic or quantifiable goods, especially through our own personal gifts of service to others.

The true Christian faith is not an individual nor a benefit-based one. Just as we have received the Good News of salvation and redemption through the Church, we have to understand that we are not alone nor ever meant to be alone. We are not saved and redeemed as isolated individuals, but have been incorporated into a communion of persons that participates in the Trinitarian communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our relationship and blessing are, then, grounded on the love of Christ as we continually grow and interiorly renew our love for Him through the sacraments. Hence, relationship is understood not just on the quantity of goods but on the concreteness of our love for Him through the service of one another, especially the poor, abandoned, and weakest.

In all things, we have to choose Christ first and foremost. Above all things, our love has to be fixated and grounded in Him. If we are able to see and desire this relationship, we will recognize that we never run short on the things we need, and everything that is necessary for our lives have been provided for through the goodness of His infinite wisdom and divine providence. Indeed, a lot has happened, but we have come a long way! Even though we have lost a lot because of this pandemic and its accompanying burdens and challenges, we can still celebrate this Easter season with much graceful gratitude and joy. Perhaps we will have fewer things to celebrate this year, but it is He and the gifts that He has given to us that bring us true peace. Without a doubt, the genuine joy of Easter is the joy that we have and continue to find in and through the Gospel, that Christ has indeed risen and His love has won the world.

May the peace of Christ be with you and give you a wonderful, grace-filled Easter with much gratitude and joy.