Embracing Easter

I whispered a prayer of surrender at the breaking of dawn last Easter Sunday. I was serving at Mass that morning and, beholding another calm Pio Duran sunrise, I was wondering how I could usher in my own Easter.

I felt stuck in Black Saturday at that time. Leaving the college seminary after graduation only opened so many questions about God’s plans for me, especially about my fundamental choice of pursuing the priesthood. I struggled to find a seminary where I could continue my theological studies. My doubts regarding my vocation started to resurface: Am I really called? Will I be able to continue in the formation? Is God really on the lead?

But Black Saturday times are necessary if only to prepare our hearts for the greater things yet to come. It is in the darkness where one is able to confront his fears. Here, one realizes that courage is not so much the absence of fear, but the ability to keep moving forward even if one is still afraid. The same darkness teaches us to trust and reminds us to be not afraid.

I remember a Jesuit friend who would keep reminding me: “Ang Panginoon ay nagbibigay lamang ng sapat na ilaw para sa susunod na hakbang.” There are no maps for the journey, but didn’t God assure us of His abiding presence, that He goes before us always?

In the darkness, then, our hearts are transformed. For this reason, the butterfly is seen as one apt image of the Resurrection because before it emerges in its full glory, it once was a caterpillar in a cocoon learning from nature the same lesson of trust. Similarly, the seed must allow itself to be buried in the ground if it is to spring up into new life.

Therefore, there is beauty in our experiences of dying — and by death I am pertaining to its many different forms, including self-denial, rejection, loneliness, humiliation, poverty, and the experiences of being lost, forgotten, and abandoned. There is beauty in dying because it opens us to new life. Death becomes merely a passage and not an end, for death can never have the final word.

“We are an Easter people,” says St. Pope John Paul II. It means that I am to live out the Easter joy every day. This does not mean denying the painful realities of my life, but that I am to embrace a constant attitude of hope. It means not giving up on people who are difficult to love. It means submitting my plans to God who knows what is best for me. It means trusting that all prayers will be answered in His perfect time.

So even if I find myself in a long and tiring Black Saturday, I must not forget that my Lord has already risen from death. That while the future is uncertain and the present unbearable, I am invited to hold on to hope, to believe that the Resurrection is real.

Whenever we give second chances at failed relationships, whenever we find a way out of our miserable conditions, whenever we realize that God has not abandoned us, the Resurrection becomes real again.

For many people, it is so much easier to see the discomforts, pains, and sufferings surrounding us than to notice the little miracles that happen to us each day. The Easter season is an invitation to a change in perspective: that in order to see a fuller picture of the Jesus we follow, we must not only see Him as One crucified, but also as One who rose from death out of deep love for us.

This story was originally published in the author’s column “Like the Father” in Diario Veritas (Vol. 20 No. 6, April 2016), a monthly publication of the Diocese of Legazpi, Philippines.