De Lima prays for her own ‘resurrection’ at Easter Sunday Mass

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should inspire Filipinos in fighting off the “darkness” that has enveloped the country, Sen. Leila de Lima said in her Easter message issued from her detention cell at at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

Easter Sunday marked the 52nd day of her detention
According to a statement posted on her Facebook timeline, she also prayed for her own “resurrection and salvation” during a Mass celebrated by Fr. Robert Reyes, an acitivist priest, Her friends and relatives also attended the Mass.

“At a time when our nation is again engulfed in darkness and our principles are being challenged, we should reflect on the lessons of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” the senator said her message, which was written in Filipino.

“I believe that the Lord will not burden us with challenges that we cannot cope up with,” she added.

De Lima said the people could overcome the problems besetting the country by keeping their faith in God and by continuing to care for one another.

De Lima was indicted on charges of being involved in illegal drug trafficking after speaking up against President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless drug war.

The senator said she was still optimistic that the Supreme Court would grant her reprieve as her lawyers were set to file on Monday a memorandum regarding her petition questioning her arrest.

A still defiant De Lima said: “They may deprive me temporarily of my liberty, they may paralyze me physically, but they can never ever kill or destroy my spirit and my passion for the things I truly believe in — respect for human rights and justice.”

“I pray that (the Supreme Court) will have the wisdom, discernment and courage to uphold what is true and just, and to see right through my case as clear political persecution,” she said at the Mass.

Sen. Leila de Lima (Photo from her Facebook page)

Jesus and Easter: Why the resurrection is the most important truth in the world

On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That much is clear. What is not clear to many people, however, is what the resurrection means to Christians and why we would make such a big deal of it.

The resurrection only makes sense if we first understand what the Christian “gospel” is. In the ancient world, the word “gospel” was a media term referring to the announcement of an important or happy event. Christians adapted the word to refer to a world event they consider the most important and joyful.

What is the Christian gospel? It is the good news that, at a certain point in this world’s history, God became present to us in the man named Jesus, who we can know, love, and serve.

Through Jesus’ incarnation (“God taking on flesh”), life and ministry, death and resurrection, he defeated the worldly powers that oppress us, and made a way for we who are sinners to live in unbroken fellowship with God who is holy.

The Christian gospel is a factual statement. You can believe it or not believe it. But as Christians, we believe that it is not merely true; it is the most important truth in the world.

It is one that we cannot relegate to the private dimensions of life; it radiates outward into our public speech and actions.

It cannot be hidden within the four walls of our churches; we must make it known to the world.

In fact, immediately after he rose from the grave, Jesus appeared to his followers and gave them a command that Christians call the “Great Commission.” In this commission, he reveals three powerful truths about the resurrection:

1. The resurrection reveals Jesus as the final authority in this world.

When Jesus appeared to his followers immediately after his resurrection, the first words out of his mouth were “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). The resurrection was decisive proof of his divinity, of the fact that he was in fact present when heaven and earth were created, and that he retains sovereign authority over them.

This reality is important because all of us need to know who is finally in charge of this world.

A great many people think the final authority is the free market.

Others think the final authority is the United States, NATO, or the United Nations.

Still others think the authority is some sort of “deep state.”

But none of these entities are final authorities. Jesus is the sovereign authority and greatest power in public life; he is the authority against which even the largest governments and coalitions are ultimately powerless.

2. The resurrection compels us to tell the world about Jesus.

The second thing Jesus told his disciples is that they should tell the whole world about his crucifixion and resurrection, and invite them to follow him, too (Matthew 28:19-20a).

If it is true that Jesus is the world’s final authority, and that through the cross and resurrection he has overcome the evil powers that seek to control us, then for us to refrain from telling the world about Him would not only be a crime toward humanity but a collusion with the evil powers.

We must not collude. We must be witnesses of his resurrection. Our witness must be prophetic: a declaring to the world that Jesus is Lord and the world’s reigning powers are not.

Our witness often will need to be  sacrificial: just as Jesus ministered as a homeless itinerant teacher, we must be willing to witness from a position of cultural weakness rather than power, and in the face of disapproval instead of applause.

Our witness should be humbly confident: we should be confident because we work in the service of the world’s final authority, and we should be humble because we are only servants.

3. The resurrection reminds us that world history will end on a joyful note. (Matthew 28:20b)

The third and final thing Jesus told his followers is “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20b).

In effect he was saying, “I will walk alongside of you as you bear witness, and, always remember that at the end of the age, I will return to set the world aright. I will establish a world-wide kingdom in which justice will roll down like the waters, in which my authority will be recognized, and in which people from all nations, ethnic groups, and social classes will live together in peace, love, and unity.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of "Lord of the Rings," was captivated by the Bible’s teaching about the resurrection, and wished to reflect it in his writing.

He knew that Westerners tend to be disillusioned with “fairy tale endings” and prefer endings that are more “realistic,” but he wanted them to understand that, because of the resurrection, a deeply joyful ending is the most realistic. To borrow a phrase from "Lord of the Rings," Tolkien wrote, “Everything sad becomes untrue.”

And immediately following this phrase, a pressing question arises from Sam Gamgee as he speaks to Gandalf: “What’s happened to the world?” To which Gandalf responds, “A great Shadow has departed.”

Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus, because we are happy that, in the future, the “great Shadow” of death and sin will finally depart (Romans 8:18-25).

Something momentous and good has “happened to the world,” which is why we invite the world to celebrate with us by embracing Jesus as the resurrected Savior.

‘The resurrection is not a fantasy,’ Pope Francis insists on Easter Sunday

Pope Francis once again broke with tradition on Easter Sunday, delivering a largely improvised homily centered on a phone call from the day before with a young engineer suffering from a serious illness. Francis said he attempted to explain to the young man that while God does not give explanations for the suffering of the world, he does offer the promise of the resurrection, which the pope insisted is no mere "fantasy."

ROME- In vintage Pope Francis style, the pontiff broke with tradition and delivered an off-the-cuff homily for Easter Sunday, one of the very few improvised speeches in such a solemn setting from a pope who’s used to putting his prepared remarks aside to speak from the heart on more informal occasions.
“Jesus has risen from the dead,” Francis said. “And this is not a fantasy. It’s not a celebration with many flowers [pointing at the arrangements surrounding him]. This is beautiful, but [the resurrection] is more.”

“It is the mystery of the thrown-away stone, that ends up being the cornerstone of our existence. Christ has risen from the dead. In this throwaway culture, where that which is not useful takes the path of the use-and-throw, where that which is not useful is discarded, that stone that was discarded is the fountain of life,” he said.

And even “us, little pebbles,” who’ve been thrown in an earth full of “suffering, tragedy,” with faith in the risen Christ, “have a reason for being, amidst so much calamity. A sense to look beyond: There is not a wall, but a horizon. There’s life, joy, in there is the cross with this ambivalence.”
The pope began his remarks saying that the Church, facing “our distrust, [and] closed and fearful hearts,” continues to say, “calm down, the Lord has risen.”

But, he continued, if he has come back from the dead, “how do these things happen, so many tragedies: illnesses, human trafficking, human exploitation, wars, destruction, mutilations, vengeance, hatred?”
“Where is the Lord?” he asked aloud.

Francis then shared that on Saturday he’d phoned a young man, an engineer with a “serious illness,” and the pope told him “there are no explanations for what’s happening to you. Look at Jesus crucified, God has done this with his son. There’s no other explanation.”

To this, the pontiff said, the man answered: “Yes, but he [God] asked his Son and the Son said yes. He didn’t ask me if I wanted this.

“And this moves us. Not one of us is asked, ‘Are you happy with what’s happening in the World? Are you willing to carry this cross?’” he said.

“Today the Church continues to say, stop, Jesus is risen.”

Francis has improvised homilies before. He does so every morning in Santa Marta, behind closed doors. Every Holy Thursday, when he visits prisons or refugee centers to celebrate the Mass for the Lord’s Last Supper, and he even did so once in the middle of a tropical storm, in the Philippines, back in 2015.

Yet he’s never strayed far from the text in such a solemn context before. On this occasion, however, there was no homily, he improvised all the way.

“You, little pebble, have a reason in life. Because you’re a pebble holding on to the cornerstone, that stone that evilness of sin has discarded,” Francis said in his homily. “What does the Church say amidst so much tragedy: the stone that was discarded wasn’t … From within the heart [the Church says] Jesus is risen!”

Closing his homily, Francis called upon those present to think about the every-day problems of life, illnesses, wars, human tragedies and say, “with a humble voice, without flowers, alone, to God who’s in front of us: ‘I don’t know how this is going, but I’m sure that Christ has risen.’”

Urbi et Orbi
After the Mass, and this time staying true to the text, Pope Francis went up to the “loggia centrale,” or the central balcony in St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking the square, to deliver what is known as the Urbi et Orbi blessing.

This window is used regularly twice a year, for this blessing imparted on Easter Sunday and Christmas day. It’s also the window from where a new pope is presented to the world.

Popes typically use their Easter Day Urbi et Orbi blessing, addressed “to the city and to the world,” to present a summary of the global situation, singling out what are bound to be the Vatican’s key political and social concerns for the foreseeable future.

Pope Francis held to form on Sunday, and judging by what seemed to be foremost on his mind, as proved by his improvised homily, it’s a good bet that the instruction to reach out to what he’s described as “the outskirts of society” amidst a throwaway culture will continue to loom front and center of his papacy, as has been the case for the past four years.

He spoke of the “Risen Shepherd,” meaning Christ who rose from the dead on the third day. Francis used this figure to say that he “tirelessly seek us,” with the “marks of the passion- the wounds of his merciful love- he draws on us to follow him on his way.”

Today too, Francis said, “he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms,” before listing many of them.

He began with all those “lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.”

For a pope who’s often railed against the modern economic system, saying that this “economy kills,” having placed the “god money” at the center instead of the human person, he was at it again on Sunday, but going after the two most profitable “illegal industries:” Human slavery and drug trafficking.

The Risen Shepherd, the pope said, takes upon himself the victims of every form of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and decriminalization, and grave form of addictions, and those abused in their own homes.

Seeing that Francis is currently hosting both Christian and Muslim refugee families in the Vatican, the world has come to expect the Argentine pontiff to shine a light over the thousands who still venture towards Europe in overloaded rubber boats every day, with countless lives lost in the “mare mortum,” the Mediterranean Sea, which as he’s said before, has become a cemetery.

“The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes,” he said, placing attention also on those who look after people forced to migrate.

Expressing a hope more than stating a fact, Francis then urged the Risen Lord to “guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”

As is usually the case, the pope then “ticked off” specific conflict zones, praying in particular for the civil population in Syria, “pray to end a war that continues to sow horror and death,” the entire Middle East, particularly the Holy Land, Iraq and Yemen.

In a last-minute addition to his text, Pope Francis commented on a suicide bombing in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday that killed roughly 100 people, most of whom were refugees waiting to be evacuated from four government-held vans. The attacker drove the powerful bomb up to buses waiting to carry people to safety, using a van meant to hold aid supplies.

“Just yesterday, there was the latest ignoble attack on refugees attempting to flee, which provoked numerous deaths and injuries,” the pope said.

Francis then turned his attention to Africa.

“May the Good Shepherd,” Francis said, remain close to South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo, all waging their own civil and ethnic wars, aggravated by a famine affecting certain parts of Africa and which has put millions of lives at risk.

Avoiding naming any country in particular, or perhaps knowing that it applies to most, he prayed for Latin America, hoping that the Risen Jesus may sustain those committed to ensuring the common good despite political and social tensions that “in some cases have resulted in violence.”

Last but not least, he prayed for Ukraine, “still beset by conflict and bloodshed,” and Europe. It’s worth remembering that the Ukraine was invaded by Russia in 2014.

Francis closed his blessing noting that all Christians this year celebrate Easter on the same date- a rare occurrence since different churches use different calendars.

“With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: ‘The Lord is truly risen, as he said!’ May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.”

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