Easter is experiencing the risen Jesus


By Fr. Joseph Phung
Guest Column

Fr. Phung

Alleluia! The Lord has risen. Today we join millions of Christians all over the world celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our voices blend with their singing “The Lord has risen, Alleluia!” Our voices blend with theirs in proclaiming that the Risen Lord is with us and is at work in our lives.

Today’s celebration reminds me of the Easter of 1975, 49 years ago, when the Government of South Vietnam was at the edge of its fall into the hands of the northerners, the communists. Sharing the fear of living under the fear of the communists, my family ran to the City of Danang, 30 miles south. Some days later, the city became unstable and unsafe under the heavy attacks. We then tried to move further south.

Around noon on Good Friday, my family left Danang on three different warships: my mother with my oldest sister; my second-oldest sister with my young brother; and I took my little sister with me. Late evening on Holy Saturday, the ship arrived in Cam Ranh Bay. We were bused inland. All around us was darkness. Exhausted after the long trip without water and food, and due to the dark, we stayed where we were dropped off and fell to sleep right away. The next day, Easter Sunday, when the sun rose, we woke up and found ourselves ending up on a gravel road in a remote area. Anxious and worried, we started talking with the local people and happily learned that our two aunts were living not very far from there. We found them and stayed with them. A couple of weeks later, we reunited with our mother and other siblings.


That’s my unforgettable experience of Easter Sunday. No Easter Sunday Mass. No good news we are celebrating today. No good news of hope, peace and joy of the Risen Lord. Only darkness, hunger, thirst, hopelessness, gravel roads to walk, and the threats of war.

In our daily life, Easter means experiencing the power of Jesus changing a great tragedy in our lives into a glorious new beginning. That experience of Jesus’ resurrection had transformed his disciples from sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy and courage.

Before Good Friday, Jesus’ disciples had pledged their lives to Him. They had put their dreams and hope in their Master. Then came Good Friday. All those pledges, all those dreams, all those hopes died on the cross with Jesus.

Then came Easter Sunday morning. Jesus rose with it and appeared to his disciples. He was more radiant and more fully alive than they had ever seen him before. At that moment, the power of Easter began to work in their lives. The power of Easter transformed them from a band of hopeless people into a brigade of daring missionaries. At the command of Jesus, they set out to carry the news of Easter to all people and nations. And everywhere they preached the good news, the power of Easter began to work in people’s lives just as it had in their own lives.

Beautiful things began to happen. Despair began to give way to hope. Hatred began to give way to love. Death began to give way to life. Everywhere they preached, the power of Easter began to work miracles in people’s lives. And those miracles continue to happen in our time, in you and me today. Gravel roads of difficulties, pain and suffering become tolerable. No more darkness of hopelessness, sin and death. All is overcome by the power of the Lord’s resurrection.

The power of Easter also brings us to this gathering, in this church, this Easter Sunday. Easter invites us to open our hearts to the risen Jesus and let him do for us what he did for his disciples and the people to whom they preached after the first Easter. It invites us to let Jesus help us love again after we’ve had our love rejected by someone. It invites us to let Jesus help us trust again after we’ve had our trust betrayed by others. It invites us to let Jesus help us hope again after we’ve watched our hope flicker and die by the evil things of wars, violence and division happening around us today. It invites us to let Jesus help us wipe our tears, pick up the pieces and start over again after some great tragedies. It invites us to let the Risen Lord nurture us with his Word and body on our journey of life.

Today our voices blend with those of all Christians, especially the 17 new members of our parishes (St. Mary parishes in Oskaloosa and Pella) and many more in our diocese and around the world, baptized last night. With them, we proclaim that the Risen Lord is with us and is at work in our lives. Today we proclaim the good news that nothing can defeat us anymore — not unbearable gravel roads of pain, misfortune and difficulties; not darkness of evil things; not even death. Today we celebrate the good news that Jesus has triumphed, and so will we, if we open our hearts to him. Today, the Lord is risen. Alleluia!

(Father Joseph Phung is pastor of St. Mary parishes in Oskaloosa and Pella.)

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