Whisper of hope
A reflection for Easter Sunday
by Sr. Pauline Yuen, MIC
I have risen, and I am with you still, Alleluia. (Entrance Antiphon)
Easter is meant to be a time for joy and exultation with joyous chanting of Alleluia. We know it is the commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. However, this year seems to be a year of sadness for many.
At this very moment, we are still very much upset by the violent invasion of Ukraine. As Pope Francis has said
, “the blood and tears of children, the suffering of women and men who are defending their land or fleeing from the bombs shake our conscience.” In addition, the serious blow of COVID to Hong Kong has also brought about an unprecedented plight to the people, especially the young and the old. The Churches are closed and there is no public Mass for the Paschal Tridiuum. In this “valley of tears” how can we find the joy and hope promised by the Resurrected Christ? Where is the Risen Lord?
The Gospel for this Easter Sunday fits our situation very well. The setting is early morning of Easter Day. It is supposed to be a joyful, new start, but it is depicted as stark and without glamour. In the account, we only see three persons: Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John. There is no great light, no angel announcing the good news, and no resurrected Christ. What we can see is the empty tomb and the burial cloths, which are the objects associated with the Passion. Where is the Risen Lord?
It is mentioned that Simon Peter saw the burial cloths, and the cloth that covered the head of Jesus was rolled up in a separate place. It seemed not to be a surprise for him, at least the Bible does not say so. However, when it comes to John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the evangelist says, “he saw and believed”. What did he see? Also the same thing seen by Peter. What was the outcome? He believed. Many exegetists have argued about what John believed. Was it the resurrection of Jesus? Or was it the theft of Jesus’ body as assumed by Mary Magdalene? Recent studies would opt for the first answer — that John believed that the Lord had risen. They suggest that the contemplative love of John makes him see beyond the burial cloths.
Recently, many unexpected tragic events have happened over the world, and there is a great yearning in me for justice, healing, and peace. I think that when there is sorrow, we are still at the heart of Good Friday. Easter is long in coming. The Paschal Mystery is truncated by my narrow interpretation. Actually the Passion and the Resurrection are the two sides of the coin of the Paschal Mystery. In theory, I know this. I used to teach this in my theology class. However, when confronted with the raucous calls to despair by the tragedies in life, I have lost my orientation. I have been wondering what Easter message I can share this year.
This passage has enlightened and encouraged me a lot in my melancholic dwellings on the suffering of the world. Where is the Risen Lord? He is apparently absent. Somehow, I need to have the eyes of faith and see beyond what meets my eyes. God has placed a lot of signs around us as His whisper of Hope to show that He is there. Do I not feel strengthened when I see the innocent smile of a child amidst the debris after the bombings of residential areas? Does my heart not burn with fire at the sight of haggard soldiers kneeling down in prayer? Is the self-forgetting service of medical staff tending the COVID patients not a sign of fear overcome by love?
Some days ago, I listened to the song “Ukraine Hallelujah”
and was very much struck with the verse, “and if tomorrow brings no light, I’ll hold on to the hope of Hallelujah”. Yes, Easter is here; do I have the hope and joy promised by the Lord? I need to regain my strength in contemplation so as to be able to hear the whispering sound of the Risen Lord, “I have risen, and I am with you still, Alleluia.” Yes, Lord, help me to be like John, to see with the eyes of faith and hope and to believe that you are with me in all the turmoils and confusion.
The readings for Easter Sunday are
Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6B-8
Sr. Pauline Yuen, MIC, is a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. A former theology professor of Holy Spirit Seminary College in Hong Kong, she currently serves as the supervisor of Good Hope School and and the principal of Good Hope Primary School cum Kindergarten.