I would like you for a few moments to put yourselves in the shoes of the apostles. Imagine yourself as one of the apostles in the upper room. As one of the apostles, you know that you have been following Jesus and believing in Him for 3 years. As you believed that He is truly the Messiah and saviour of all peoples, yet He has been crucified as a criminal. Moreover, the Jewish authorities who crucified Him are hunting for you, they want to arrest you, persecute you, put you in prison and perhaps even kill you.
So you are now hiding with the upper room with the other apostles and have great feelings of anxieties, pains and fear. All of a sudden, Jesus appears amongst you. To your great surprise, it is really Jesus and He shows you His hands, His feet and side, the wounds of His sufferings. You begin to realise what Jesus had preached and foretold had come true when He said, “Christ would suffer and on the third day He would rise again”.
Seeing Jesus in front of you, your heart is filled with joy because you know now that Jesus has truly conquered death. You also begin to experience the truth of Jesus’ promise that, if you believe in Him, you will truly gain eternal life.
The truth of eternal life of Jesus is not something that Jesus proclaimed 2000 years ago. This truth is more than that. This truth is Jesus Himself here and now, showing to you and me that if you believe in Him, you will surely gain eternal life.
What are you feeling now when you hearing and seeing all this Truth about Jesus? Do you feel as though your fears and anxieties in life have somehow dissipated or at least you feel your present fears are smaller and not so threatening? Or do you feel that your worries and fears still remain and have not changed at all?
If we do not feel any difference from the truth that the risen Christ has appeared and is real and is offering us eternal life then probably, we are holding on too much to our concerns and worries in life.
Erickson, a renowned psychologist, once said that if really believed in God, more than 85% of his clients do not need counselling. In other words Erickson is saying that if you really believe in God and more so for us if we dare to believe in the power of the Risen Christ, than this power and this truth will free us from our worries and concerns and fears in life.
I know of a 75 year old parishioner who is still alive telling me, “Father, I’m not afraid to die because when I die, I will go to heaven.” Let’s call him John. John can say this so easily and so naturally because God has been so real to him. John is not a perfect person, like you and me, but he tries to be a good husband, a good father, a doting and good grandfather. He tries to come for weekday Masses, he’s kind and generous. He prays regularly. He says sorry to his wife when he hurts her and now, as he is weakening and is getting old he is able to face the reality of his death with much peace.
Jesus is real to John; even when he was experiencing a lot of trials and pains in his life, John all the more held on to his faith in Jesus. John believes firmly that the Truth the Resurrection is real and this truth has been integrated into his life and it is not surprising to find that even as John would feel the pain of leaving his family, when he dies, in faith, he even looks forward to the day when he can be with God in heaven and where his family too would join later him.
John is only one of the many examples that we can find. When I was a young scholastic, studying and in my formation, I had many model Jesuits who were really so edifying. Many of them were so brilliant but so humble, friendly and so full of humour. They were passionate about the truth of Jesus and about the Justice of God. They were troubled and angry when the poor were exploited. They were very busy, but also very prayerful, very kind, and always available to serve others. These are holy people and I am sure you also know of many of these people.
Why are they able to live such lives? Because God is real to them and so no problems in daily life can remove the fundamental peace that they always experience in their hearts. Wherever they are, in whatever they do, the peace of Christ always remains in their hearts.
This fundamental peace is the peace of the Risen Christ that Jesus assured the apostles when He said, “If you truly believe in Me, you have nothing to fear.” This is a peace that no one can destroy because the Risen Christ has given us real, physical and historical proofs that eternal life after death is real.
However, we must dare to surrender our concerns and worries in life to God. Otherwise, these worries and concerns will choke us and draw us away from this real peace that the Risen Christ wants to give us.
So my brothers and sisters in Christ, the apostle John, many of the inspiring Jesuits that I have mentioned and the tens of thousands of believers who have lived and died for their faith very clearly testify to us that the Feast of the Risen Christ is real.
In fact there is nothing more real, more secure and more sure in life than this truth that eternal life is a gift that God wants to give us when we die. However, we must first learn to let go; let go of the unnecessary concerns and worries in life. Then and only then, can our hearts be open to absorb this peace of God.
And so as I conclude, I would like to say that whatever concerns and worries we may have, we are called to trust God, let go. Let God take care of them. And if we are able to do this, the Peace of the Risen Christ, the Providence of God will take care of us. Very often, there is not very much we can do to help ourselves. In such situations, it is more fruitful and hopeful to surrender our concerns in life to God. Let Him provide for our needs. There is nothing more disastrous in life than to lose the gift of eternal life. St Paul tells us, “What does it profit a man to gain [even] the whole world and lose the gift of eternal life and salvation”
Once we are able to focus on this gift of eternal life that God wants to give us, this truth will drive away all unnecessary distractions, concerns and fears in our lives. When this happens, the peace of the Risen Christ that the Gospel has promised today will take root in our hearts, and our lives will be totally transformed by the Spirit of our Risen Lord.
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.