EASTER FRUIT OF THE TREE OF THE CROSS
“If Christ has not risen from the dead,” St. Paul writes, “our faith is futile, and we have not been forgiven” (cf. I Cor. 15/17). Easter, the Resurrection of Christ, is the fruit of the tree of the Cross. Easter is the proof that what Jesus said on Calvary on that gloomy Good Friday will continue to be fulfilled in our life. This is the reason why we celebrate Easter. Each Word of Jesus on Calvary is guaranteed by his Resurrection. And so we can say “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119: 105).
The first fruit of the Tree of the Cross is forgiveness. You and I have found forgiveness for our sins. “Father,” did not Jesus say, “forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23/34). Uttered many times during his public ministry, this word of forgiveness has brought about many resurrections, like that of Mary Magdalene, Peter, St. Augustine, and countless sinners down through the centuries, including ourselves.
We may say that the repentant thief beside the crucified Saviour was the first to experience resurrection. He was the first fruit of Good Friday. To him our Lord said: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23/43). Today! So much for your suffering now! Today, you will be happy with me in Paradise. We will taste the happiness of God, when we understand the meaning of Jesus eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes. The fruit of repentance is peace and happiness in God.
Easter is the birth of a new family in the Risen Christ. But its birth pangs started at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus said to his Mother: “Woman, behold you son…Son behold your mother” (Jn 19:26-27). At the foot of the Cross, an Easter People is born, from which no one is excluded. In the Resurrected Christ we are brothers and sisters of each other. Easter invites us to overcome all boundaries and hostilities, to become a communion of communities, family of families, an Easter people.
If it is true that the Passion of Christ is not yet over, then even in Easter and after Easter, we will hear again and again about the sufferings of man abandoned by God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But this time it is a lot different, because it is born of a realization that God too is in compassionate solidarity with man. Even when we find life ruined and senseless, God is there sharing our darkness and pain. Even God has entered deeply into our suffering that we may “easter” in him.
Another fruit of the Cross which brings about the sense of resurrection is friendship. When Jesus cried out “I thirst”, we encounter the sufferings of God abandoned by man, and longing for his friendship. God makes friendship with us by coming to us as one who needs, as one who begs for what we have. When Jesus said to the Samaritan woman “Give me water to drink,” that was the start of a friendship. When we answer a need, we create a lasting friendship which holds untold promise.
On Easter Sunday, we prepare to go back to work. The work of God is finished: “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). But is our work finished? Is the work of working for the resurrection of our country finished? I think it has only began! Christ has finished the foundation. We must build upon it. After Easter, we still have a country to build, because our people are still in the mire of Good Friday. Our people continue to be crucified by abuse of human rights, by the negligence of its leaders, by government graft and corruption. We still have a work to finish.
On Easter, the word of Christ on the cross has a different meaning: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Not only does Christ entrust himself to the Father, but he entrusts us into God’s hands. Surrender. Entrustment. Once we entrust ourselves to God as Jesus did, more than half of the work, or even all of it will be in God’s hands. Even if what we are afraid of or worry about does happen, we can hear the Lord telling us, “Fear not! I am here!” We can face Good Friday within Easter time.
There was never a preacher like the dying Christ, because his message went far beyond the time of its delivery. His message continues to be fulfilled bringing about a continuing procession of Easter people, who are enlivened in their zeal and dedication. The message from the cross, unlike the words of dying men, never died. They continue to echo waking even the dead from their graves. We can go back again and again to the message of Christ on the Cross to discover in them how we can lead ourselves to the resurrection life that he is offering.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO
Archbishop of Jaro