First Reading ( Ezek 36 :16-28)
: God wants to give us a new heart and a new spirit
Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. (Mk 16: 6 )
Dear friends, Christ has already risen from the dead, alleluia! Our Saviour has already conquered death; today we should really celebrate! We should no longer be afraid or fearful. Life has already taken a new position and found a new direction. We are approaching the ultimate destination of life; once we pass through the boundary of death, we will be in our homeland flowing with fresh spring water.
Nevertheless as we approach this eternal life, we still must take note
of several matters:
Death, burial, resurrection, new life - we must bear this formula in mind. In order to have new life, one must go through death and burial first; after resurrection, we must give up our former life, bid farewell to all that went before, progress as a traveller, and live a resurrected life, a totally new life.
However, a resurrected life is not only what goes behind our present life, it starts from today, it starts immediately! No one can still live a life of absurdity, waiting for some future life's good fortune.
Life is a unified whole, it is a process. The whole of life contains each and every part of it, each and every detail, no detail omitted. From death to life, from sorrow to happiness, from struggle to success, from passing through a long journey to arriving at the final destination, all belong to the one entity. To achieve final happiness, we must bear the pain of the journey courageously. From this point of view, death is in fact part of life, sorrow is part of happiness, struggle is part of success. If we really understand this, then the process itself is meaningful and can even make us happy.
Today's celebration is called the Passover or Paschal Feast. In fact, it means a passing over, a process. It was in memory of the Israelites' flight from Egypt, their safe “passing over” the Red Sea and escape from the Egyptians' pursuit. It reminded them of their passing from slavery, through the 'baptism' in the desert, and arrival at the Promised Land, promised them earlier by God.
For Jesus, Passover meant his overcoming death, his attainment of new life, his conquest of the devil and establishment of the kingdom of God, so that God could become King of all creation. We too must have our Passover. We also must embrace all that is in life, including sorrow and pain, struggles and defeat, even persecution and death.
If today we are resurrected in the Lord into new life, then we must live a new life in the Lord. One of today's Readings is from the prophet Ezekiel. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh... you shall be my people, and I will be your God. ” ( Ezek 36:25-28 )
This is not only a new life, but it also gives us a new heart, a new
identity. It is the identity of being the children of God. It is like
a beggar who suddenly becomes the king's adopted son. This new identity
naturally calls for a new life. In this new life, we must remember the
promises we made at Baptism, when we promised to renounce forever the
devil and his evil tricks, live a new life in Christ, loving God and
neighbor. As children of God, we have been rescued through the death
of Christ. He redeemed us by his blood, so that we can enjoy eternal
life in him.
Fang Bao in The Anecdotes of Master Zuo Zhong Yi told a very touching story of how “Zuo Guang Dou died and Shi Ke Fa lives.” Zuo Zhong Yi was Zuo Guang Dou, a well-known official in the Ming Dynasty. He was bold and straightforward in his advice to the emperor and would not bow to those in power. The eunuch, Ye Zhong Xian drew up a plan to kill him and let him die in prison. In prison, his punishment was to embrace hot copper pillars. “His face and forehead were so badly burnt that they were not discernible. From his left knee down, all the bones and sinews were gone.” It was a horrible sight to behold. Shi Ke Fa tried to visit him in prison but was driven away by Zuo Guang Dou. He scolded Shi Ke Fa severely, “Stupid slave! Don't you know this place? You shouldn't have come here! The matters of state are in a state of utter confusion. The old ruler is finished. If you do not care for your life and are ignorant of your responsibilities, who will there be to support our country and attend to its affairs? If you don't go away this instant, there is no need for villains to plan to kill you, I'll kill you right now.” What Zuo Guang Dou meant was that the country needed Shi Ke Fa to see to its affairs. If all Shi did was indulge in personal feelings, just stay there and not go away, there was no need for villains to come to kill him, he would kill him with his own hands!
To avoid implicating Shi Ke Fa, Zuo Guang Dou preferred that Shi not visit him in prison. He wanted Shi to live and devote all his efforts to repay the country. Later, when Shi Ke Fa led the army in battle to protect the country, he fought earnestly and with resolve. It was because “looking up, I am afraid of being deficient in my duties towards my country. Looking down, I am afraid of shaming my teacher.”(2)
Jesus has given us new life. In this new life, the least we should do is show our gratitude as Li Mi did and work as earnestly and rigorously as Shi Ke Fa did in order to repay the many graces God has bestowed on us.