Conversations with Archbishop J
QUESTION: Archbishop, with all the darkness around is the resurrection real for us living in Trinidad and Tobago 2018?
The Gospel for Easter Sunday has a stark opening: “It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary Magdala came to the tomb” (Jn 20:1). This single line has a universe of meaning that speaks to your question.
Very early in the morning refers to time, not of the day, but of the disciple’s understanding of the resurrection. The impact of the resurrection had not dawned on the disciples as yet and they were still groping in the darkness. They lacked comprehension and so could not respond to the mystery that was in front of their eyes. This darkness is evident in Jesus’ many appearances to the disciples. They saw Him, but did not recognise Him; they were in His presence but did not know and could not comprehend. Their eyes were closed to the mystery in which they were immersed.
First day of the week refers to the time of creation and re-creation. In the book of Genesis, what happened on the first day of the week? God said, “Let there be light.” St John is reading the resurrection through the Genesis story and saying God’s light has penetrated the darkness of the human heart. But, the disciples had not yet seen the light. It had not yet dawned on their consciousness. The resurrection is cast as a re-creation. It begins with light shattering the darkness.
Still dark refers to the condition of the mind, heart and faith of the disciples. Darkness rather than the resurrection light penetrated them. When Jesus stood in front of them they could not recognise Him. Even when He spoke to them they did not see Him.
Mary Magdala came to the tomb. Why? Was it to anoint a dead body? To visit a grave? To complete the burial rites?
What if the text is speaking to us today about our experience of the resurrection: as if, over 2,000 years later, it is still very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, and still dark? And the resurrection light is yet to penetrate our minds and hearts. We are still going to visit the tombs and doing homage to the dead with little understanding that He is alive and the resurrection light has shattered all darkness. The resurrection is only meaningful when we have opened our minds to, and encountered, the living Christ. It is this encounter that transforms the disciple, the Church and thus the world.
Signs of resurrection light
Over the last three months I have seen several signs of the resurrection in the life of our Church. I would like to highlight two, located in Beetham and Sea Lots.
Archbishop Anthony Pantin Chapel in Beetham is a sign of Easter hope for me. The chapel was established by the Centre for Peace in the troubled community of Beetham. In many ways it is a miracle. Every Saturday people from all over Trinidad assemble there to celebrate Mass with the Beetham community. The chapel has attracted many residents and children of the community who gather regularly to worship, for homework and religious instruction. It is a sign of Easter hope in front of our eyes.
This is the same community that erupted last year, shutting down the highway for several hours. The Saturday Masses never stopped. The little chapel never closed and the people of Beetham and the rest of Trinidad kept coming. It is open 24/7. When you consider the many churches closed because of the fear of stealing, this is remarkable. The only theft has been one Bible. The Centre for Peace community has lived up to their name and demonstrated Easter faith. They have gone into places that many would not dare to go. There, their eyes were opened and they encountered the risen Lord.
Sea Lots Evangelisation is another sign of hope. The members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Evangelisation School were challenged to put faith into action three years ago. They launched an evangelisation mission in Sea Lots going from house to house, speaking with people about their lives and God’s word. It continues once or twice a month.
This Lent they did their first crusade in the community. The residents came out and participated. On the last night many went to Confession and to speak to the priest. The team discovered several Catholics who wanted their children baptised and adults who wanted to become Catholic. One day soon some residents will be received into the Church and others will complete their initiation.
This is Easter faith at work: To believe that Jesus calls and to follow that call; to believe He will protect you and to act on that belief. I long for the day when we can celebrate Mass regularly in the Sea Lots chapel and many more gather to encounter Christ.
Key Message: The resurrection light is all around us if we have the eyes to see and encounter the risen Lord. Those who do are obedient to his call and great things flow from their lives.
Action Step: Consider whether you see life through the perspective of the resurrection or whether you are still visiting the tombs. Ask God to open your eyes to the resurrection light that is all around us. Pray for the courage to recognise Jesus and to do whatever He asks.
Scripture: John 20:1–9