April 15, 2024

Easter message: Archbishop Audu on Easter Sunday


“Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead”.

In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen. Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ: Today is Easter Sunday. The day that God raised Jesus back to life.

I would like to begin today’s reflection by sharing this story with you. Helen was a young woman with three children. Every day, except Sunday, you could see her on the verandah of her house. There she was, busy at her sewing machine. She was making children’s clothes to sell. This is how she was making money to support her children. Every week, she would bring what she had sewn to the market.

Her husband, Martin, had left two years ago. He had not left her, no, but as a soldier he had been called to help with the fight for freedom in a neighboring country. The first 18 months, she kept receiving his letters but then, for 6 months, nothing. She tried to find out about him, but could get no information. She even went to the Army Headquarters in the big city. But what she got was only… words of comfort and telling her to be patient. As of Martin, there was no news.One day, as she was at the market trying to sell the little dresses she had made, a friend told her: Your husband will soon be back. I have had a letter from by brother and they are coming together. They should arrive today”. Helen simply said: “Ah! But in her heart, she could not believe her husband was alive. She thought it must be a mistake. Her friend’s brother must have mixed up the names.To her surprise that day, when she returned home that evening, she looked around and her heart was filled with joy. There, on the chair where Martin used to sit, was his sweater that she had bought for him long ago. Near the chair, on the flow a bag of sweets he used to like. And his radio was on the table. Everything was exactly as he used to put them. She knew for sure that he was back home, She was so happy.

In the gospel of today, we see something a little similar to what happened to Helen. Mary of Magdala tells Peter and John that Jesus has been taken away from the tomb where He had been buried. They cannot believe it. And surely they cannot believe that Jesus is alive. John was there when Jesus was nailed on the cross, He Himself helped to put Him in the Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. What happened to the body?Their minds are trying to picture what has happened? . . . Mary of Magdala said: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him”. Who are they, and where they might have put the corpse now? Who could have done such a thing, and for what reason? Peter and John know there is only one thing to do: go and see for themselves there at the tomb, where He had been laid to rest. They got running. And he, John, is the one telling us those things. He adds:“They had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead”.

Before His death, Jesus had said that He would rise again, but nobody knew what this mean. To the Jews he said destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up (John 2:19-21). And to the Apostles he said after the transfiguration, tell no one about this vision until the son of man has risen from the dead (Matthew 17:9). Among the apostles, they could not understand those words. So, the two of them, Peter and John, arrived at the tomb. John came first, but out of respect for the older man, Peter, he let him go in first. Then we are told:

“The other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.You probably ask yourself: “What did he see that made him believe?” of course, he saw the stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Then, John himself tells us what he saw: “the linen cloths lying on the ground. Later, as he went in, he also saw “the cloth that had been over his head. A huge stone pushed away, cloths folded and put aside. That is all.John did not see Jesus. His eyes did not look at the Risen Lord at this time yet. No! nonetheless he believed. He was sure; he knew in his heart that Jesus was alive. He had no doubt that Jesus had risen from the dead, as he had said He would, but…till this moment they had failed to understand”.

Like Helen, in our story at the beginning. She had not yet seen her husband Martin. What did she see? She saw his sweater, a packet of sweets and his radio on the table. That is all. Yet, she was sure, in her heart that he was back. He would soon be there with her. Before that, she would not believe her friend telling her Martin would come back. Now, she knew.There is a message here for us. This message was very well put by one French writer when he said: “The essential is invisible to the eyes; we see well only with our heart”.The essential, what is most important in life, the ordinary eyes of our body cannot see that. You know it yourself. The precious things that we call goodness, trust, love, all those things we need so much, we see signs of them only. We cannot touch trust. We cannot hold love in our hands. We can only see signs that a person trusts us, or loves us.The message of EASTER is really a call to see with the eyes of faith. It means believing even when there are only signs of what we would like to see. This is what the Risen Lord asks from us. To see Him, to recognize Him through the signs He gives us that He is there, He is HERE with us, each one of us. He gives signs, personal signs.

It can be that He heals me from a sickness. Or, He frees me from some fear that was upsetting me so much. Or, he gives us a child when we thought this was impossible. Or, he helps me to succeed in my work more than I had ever expected. Or, when things go bad, He gives me special strength so that I am not discouraged.

Whatever it is, healing, help, strength, blessings of any kind: I need the eyes of faith to say: Yes, I know, I know where it comes from. Those things are a little like the cloths folded in the tomb – they are signs, signs that the LORD IS RISEN AND HE IS WITH US.Because of this, in our life there should not be any darkness of emptiness. Last night, we celebrated already the Resurrection of Jesus. It was very dark and then there was light: the light of the Risen Lord. Have you ever heard the saying: “The night is at its darkest when the sun is about to rise”? This is true too in our daily life. When we are struggling with problems and difficulties of all kinds, it is good to remember that. We can be sure that our hardest moments are just before He, the Lord, will come help us. This is something I cannot prove to you. It is something that yourselves will know by learning it through your own experience. This week, look at the signs he gives you in your own life, look with the eyes of faith, and SEE the joy that can fill your heart. May the Lord bless his words in our hearts! In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.Have a blessed Easter and fulfilled week!

+Ab Matthew AUDU Jos

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