When the sun rises and spreads its light upon the world and on our lives, the darkness of the night and death is gone. The coming of the light is hope and strength for all people of good will. The Resurrection is more than a historical, physical rising from the dead. It is the belief that the spirit and presence of Jesus of Nazareth is with us and His friendship is available to all who want a new, happier life doing good and helping others.
No matter the hardship and pain we suffer and endure, we can have hope and faith that love, goodness and the truth will one day beat back the bad, conquer evil, bring the unjust and cruel to justice. The force of goodness and love will lift up the poor from misery, bring comfort to the wretched, give equality to the oppressed, healing to the sick, freedom to the prisoners, food for the hungry, a home to refugees, liberation to the abused and peace for victims of violence.
These are the great values that this charismatic and amazing character Jesus of Nazareth brought into the world with such unshakeable conviction and force that they have lasted to the present. He was the son of a carpenter and of a simple mother and they lived in a remote village. He had little formal learning, had no status, no connections, no wealth or influence. Yet he changed the world. He grew to be a person of character and integrity. He was wise with incredible foresight and understanding of human nature, self-confident, steadfast and uncorrupted. He was a born leader.
When he decided to go and be baptized by John, he was wise to the political corruption, the evils, killings and murders of King Herod. He was wise to the hypocrisy of the landowners and temple priests who rejected John because he called for social reform and transformation of the nation, a return to trust and faithfulness to God and the commandments. Jesus wanted the same but after a sojourn in the desert, he emerged with a plan. The nation must change, not by an outward baptism, but by total transformation and a complete change in the unjust system. This was a nation ruled by dynastic families that held power and ruled the poor with a harsh regime and easily killed them for their perceived acts of immorality and breaking their strict laws. There was a rebel movement too, zealots led by a Judas the Galilean, against the ruling elite and the Romans. Jesus did not join them. He chooses non-violence and to persuade and invite the rich and the poor, to reform and totally change society by choosing goodness, truth, justice, commitment to social reform and equality based on the respect and upliftment of the poor.
He wanted everyone to be free from the grip and evil of the unjust system. He set out to negate the power of abusers, oppressors and dictators by a people power revolution but by persuasion, reason, teaching and practicing what he preached. He was an open, friendly person. He understood the hardship of the ordinary person and had true empathy for them. They were the oppressed, the poor, the outcasts and marginalized people. He had great compassion for them and a message that one day, they would inherit the earth. They could overcome poverty and oppression one day.
He mingled with the outcasts of society, the beggars, the commercially exploited women, tax collectors, those despised, slaves and victims of injustice. He declared to the world that they are precious and of great value in themselves and to God. Evil, He taught, comes from evil people and love comes from God. He was charismatic and was sought after to give a talk or tell a parable. He sat with the priests and members of the ruling class and tried to persuade them to change and be compassionate and forgiving and change the corrupt unjust system. This was his mission and it was to be achieved by his followers through their personal commitment to bring equality, justice and love of the stranger into society.
He took no titles, wore no crown, avoided stardom and celebrity status and taught everyone to be washers of feet. He taught that those who sought status should be servants of the poor, helpers of the downcast, uplifters of the sad and supporters to the depressed. He gave the example and washed feet, a servant’s job. He challenged each follower to strive to be honest, to be a person of integrity, to love the truth, to tell no lies, never to cheat, always to be compassionate and fight for justice. He said that he was just one of the people, a son of mankind, one of the masses. He challenged hypocrisy, was angry with those who lacked respect for children and said the children were the most important in the kingdom. He respected traditions but was not bound by them. He was independent of all, bound to none, controlled by nobody. He was free to think, speak and live a life of personal freedom and goodness and showed how we all can have renewed lives and be pure of mind and heart.
Jesus of Nazareth is a model; He overcame the pain of those betrayers and unfaithful followers who turned against Him. He remained a faithful friend and is trustworthy. He is alive today and His spirit is the way for many to live again, an inspiration for many who have lost their way. He is the shining light for any who live in darkness and despair and long for freedom from addiction, loneliness, meaningless lives and are dependent on drugs, alcohol, crime, and pleasure seeking for He understands that they are running from their own demons, escaping from their own pains of childhood and abuse. They have suffered neglect and loveless lives and from what they suffered they are broken and need healing. They worship gods of gold, pleasure, power, and materialistic idols, follow celebrities that give no hope, love, compassion, forgiveness or support.
Jesus of Nazareth understands the human condition, the weakness and temptations that bring us down. He forgives wrong-doers when they humbly admit their fault, confess their crime and repent, do penance and make restitution to their victims. All who choose to act for goodness and truth will come alive and experience a resurrection and they can live in friendship and trust. They will find who they are and what they can be.
Columban Fr. Shay Cullen lives and works in the Philippines.