A Heavy Heart
I have never heard of the news of death so much in my life like these days. Every day, I hear the number of deaths that happened on that day because of Covid-19. Globally 2.85 million people died of Covid-19 as of April 3. That’s a lot of people. But remember that is not just the number. They are people. They were somebody’s father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, and a loved one. In other words, there are 2.85 millions of sad stories people have. They lost their loved ones. There is so much sadness and sorrow. There are so many people’s painful stories. In the beginning of this pandemic, I cried a lot, watching news and hearing the sad stories of people.
We have come to the Easter service with a heavy heart. Easter is the time we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. We celebrate the new life. Now we have come with a heavy heart. We are celebrating Easter in the midst of sadness and sorrow. What does it mean to celebrate that Jesus is alive in the midst of this pandemic?
I thought about Jesus’ death too. Was his death in vain? He died a horrible death. The most painful death. Injustice killed him. People killed the innocent man in the cruelest way. They painted an innocent man as a criminal and put the blame on him and killed him. They proved THEMSELVES RIGHT and made the INNOCENT MAN A CRIMINAL. What a nonsense! Jesus’ death very clearly exposed the nonsense of human behavior. It exposed our evilness.
But our story did not end here. Jesus was not just a helpless victim of human evil. God raised him from the dead. God proved that Jesus was right and innocent. His death brought life. Jesus had a victory over death. Jesus had a victory over the evilness of this world. Jesus showed that his death was worth it.
This is what we believe. This is our creed. He died because of our sins. But he did not just die because of our sins. He died for our sins. His death had the power to bring life. His death brought forgiveness, healing, and life. The cross did not just expose the evilness of humanity. The cross released the power to heal us.
That was what Isaiah saw.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
His sacrifice, his sacrificial death was not in vain. It moved God. It brought God into action. God does not move as he feels like. God does not move randomly. God moves according to his justice and righteousness. Jesus’ death gave the reason for God to move. God saw the injustice in Jesus’ death. God moved and God raised him from the dead. In that sense, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s justice. By raising Jesus from the dead, God’s justice was served. God brought justice to the world.
All the good deeds Jesus did, all the good teachings Jesus taught us, all the hard works and sacrifices he made while he was with us on earth DID NOT END IN VAIN. That’s what we believe for ourselves too. While living for what is good, just and right, sometimes we also suffer. Some people even died. They fought for justice. They fought for what is right. They lived for God. But they were misunderstood. They were ignored. They were misrepresented. They were criticized. They were hated and some were even killed. But we believe that their life was not in vain.
Our Life is Not in Vain
All our efforts, all our works, and all our sacrifices will not end in vain. Our life is not in vain. That is the central message of Paul’s argument about the resurrection in this chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. If there were no resurrection, everything collapses. The evil wins. The injustice wins. Human greed wins. And death will have dominion over the whole world.
If there were no resurrection, then all we do is in vain. Our preaching is in vain. Our good works are in vain. Our sacrifices are in vain. Our life itself is in vain.
Chapter 15 of his first letter to Corinthians is a beautiful teaching of St. Paul about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our own resurrection. And four times, he mentioned that if there were no resurrection, everything would be in vain.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
And he said at the end,
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
YOUR LABOUR IS NOT IN VAIN!
Yes, our life is not in vain because there is resurrection at the end. We may go through all kinds of things in life. Life is not predictable. Life is not always kind. We cannot demand that life should be always kind to us. Who would have ever expected this kind of pandemic would happen to us in our life time? We don’t know what to expect in life. That’s what life is. I hope that nothing as dramatic as this may happen again, but who knows?
But we can be strong. We can handle it. We will not be shaky. Because we believe in Jesus’ resurrection and also our own resurrection. Jesus is risen and we will also rise. The end is not death. The end is life. Jesus made that possible. Because of Jesus, our end changed. Because of what Jesus did, our ultimate fate changed. That’s why we should not be shaky but firm in living a good life no matter how difficult it may be. Don’t be discouraged. Live a good life. We will not be defeated.
St. Paul said, at the end of this chapter, this powerful statement.
Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
So resurrection is not just about going to heaven after we die. Resurrection is not just hopeful thinking. Resurrections gives us the power in our present life. We may not have a proof for resurrection. But if the Spirit of the resurrection is in our life, it shows its evidences. It leaves its mark. It was the Spirit of the Resurrection that changed the lives of the disciples. Until then, they were timid. Until then, their human ambitions controlled them. But the Spirit of the resurrection completely changed them. They are the proof of the resurrection.
If we have the Spirit of resurrection, we will not be shaky; we will be steadfast and excel in the good work we have been doing. We will have a desire to live a good life. Covid-19 has exposed many things. It has shown true faith. When hardships come, true faith comes out. It has shown strength and resilience. We have fought the good fight. We should continue our good efforts. But Covid-19 has shown us also UGLY SIDES of human nature, too. One nurse said, “I am a hero as a nurse but as a Chinese -Canadian, I am reduced to a stupid Asian.” I saw a video of a 65 year old Filipino woman being kicked in the stomach in New York on the street on the way to her church and nobody bothered to help her or the situation. Covid-19 has revealed ugly natures of human beings such as fear, anger, scapegoating, racism, and selfishness. We should never be discouraged because of these negative things that we see around us. We should keep fighting the good fight. Fight the racism. Fight the fear of our own. Fight against injustice. Fight our greed, our selfishness, and our arrogance. Fight our spiritual laziness.
We Have the Spirit of Resurrection
I also read your pandemic reflection. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I could see how directly and indirectly this pandemic affected all of us. Giving birth to a child and taking care of her/him is challenging during Covid time. Losing somebody special during this pandemic was hard. Going through emotional ups and downs is hard. Being in isolation for so long is hard. Doing online courses is tough both to children and teenagers. But be patient and do what is good even in the midst of this challenging time. All our efforts will not be in vain. We have the spirit of resurrection. Even though we fall, we will be able to rise again.
Let us serve each other and let us help each other more diligently and humbly with compassion. Our efforts will not be in vain. Let us keep up the good spirit. Jesus is risen. Let us rise from the darkness and shine the light. That is the proof of the Spirit of resurrection working in our lives.