April 13, 2017

Who will roll away the stone for us?


2017 Easter Message

In the following text, ‘stone’ is used metaphorically as an obstacle to integral human development, and ‘the rolling away of the stone’ as a freeing, liberating and life-giving experience.

Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb? (Mk 16:3) Who will…? Perhaps an expression of helplessness, powerlessness, admission of inability? Who will…? Yet are these not the conditions of possibility? There will be a response. The stone will be rolled away.

The concern of the three women going to the tomb early on the first day of the week, in first century Palestine, is relevant for our contemporary social context and particularly illuminating when used as an interpretive key for all that is happening globally (e.g. refugees, migrant populations and the closing of borders), regionally (e.g. the Haitian humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew: families living in a cave and eating poisonous plants!!! The commodification of the body, trafficking in persons and human body parts) and locally (e.g. increase of violence and criminal activity, the proliferation of gangs and gang warfare, the state of the economy and its effects on the poor and the vulnerable, rising unemployment, inadequate delivery of health care, pornography as entertainment!!!). Faced with such obstacles, and seeming insurmountables and impenetrables, parents, teachers, religious leaders, social workers, health care givers, law enforcement officers, politicians, economists, farmers, fisher folk, technocrats, business persons, and leaders from all walks of life pose, and attempt to address the troubling question of ‘who will roll away the stone’. Used as a metaphor for ‘obstacle’, ‘barrier’, ‘impediment’, ‘stumbling block’ and ‘obstruction’, and especially in the psychological, moral and spiritual senses, the expression ‘stone’ and the experience of ‘rolling away the stone’ offer much for thought and reflection. So, for example, fear of the unknown can prevent a person from taking risks. A tendency to compromise can weaken one’s integrity. Thomas was fixated on physical encounter; Peter often put his foot in his mouth (cf. Matt 16:13-23, esp. v23); and Saul’s zeal was misdirected. For the man or woman of faith, however, the answer to the problem of ‘who will roll away the stone’ is known. God anticipates all human efforts! He removes obstacles; He rolls away stones.

As we celebrate Easter, this year, after the Christian Lenten regime of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and penance, with a view towards repentance and deeper personal conversion, believers and non-believers alike are invited to hear a familiar Easter message that God, in Christ Jesus, has overcome the grave, death and every form of dehumanization and decadence. On the first Easter, the divine intervened and rolled away the stone (Mk 16:4-5) from the tomb in which the Son of Man-Son of God was laid. He who said ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (Jn 11:25), ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (Jn 14:6), and ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10b), emerged from the tomb not dead, but alive. Every impassable was rendered passable, barriers removable and obstacles surmountable; for indeed, ‘nothing is impossible to God’ (cf. Lk 1:37). Through his passion, death and resurrection (the paschal mystery), Jesus Christ proved that the most conclusive of obstacles could be removed. In rising, he offered all humanity fresh hope; life anew – life in abundance.

The themes of hope and life reflected in our worship at Easter and in our daily attempts to roll away stones are anticipated, also, in nature and culture as the poui and the lily brighten up the surroundings, and as kites rise and soar, drawing attention to the Risen Christ. Indeed, it can be said that at Easter all of creation sing new songs of joy with correspondences in the various Christian assemblies, as believers raise their voices in praise of the Risen Lord. He rose from the grave. He is not dead; He is alive. Halleluia!

The SVGCC reaffirms its belief in the resurrection, this central mystery of our salvation, and wishes every believer the fresh hope it inspires. Furthermore, it encourages the faith of both the individual and the community, and exhorts that stones can be rolled away, whatever their size, make-up or pedigree. Finally, like St Paul, we, too, hold and confess that ‘if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith’ (1 Cor 15:14).

Happy Easter!!!