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We have celebrated the earthshaking event of the rising from the dead of the Son of God, the Righteous One, who died a shameful death on the cross at the hands of cruel men. After spending himself preaching the love, compassion and forgiveness of God, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and affirming the weak and the poor, Christ the author of life was rejected by the Jews. He was betrayed by his own disciples, and handed over to Pilate, a pagan king, who got him tortured, humiliated and crucified along with two common criminals. We recall that the third day after these terrible events, while the disciples remained utterly shocked, frightened, and discouraged, and as they wondered among themselves what meaning there was in a life of holiness, humility and self-sacrifice, and what hope was in store for them, Jesus himself appeared to them individually and severally and demonstrated that he had indeed risen from the dead as the Scriptures had foretold, and as he himself had said.

 

At some of these appearances, especially in the versions recorded in the Gospel of Luke 24, Jesus took time to explain to his disciples the meaning of his life, his death and his resurrection. He demonstrated to them how the Law of Moses, the Prophetic Writings, the Psalms and the Wisdom Literature were all fulfilled in him. He sat his disciples down and explained that such passages as Deuteronomy 18:16-19, 21-23; Hosea 6:1; Isaiah 49-50; Isaiah 52:13; and Psalms 2-22, were about himself. Most of these passages show that the suffering of the just man, far from being useless, is extraordinarily fertile or fruitful, as it often results in the salvation of many. He himself had taught them that "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain. But if it dies, it will yield fruit in plenty."

 

Those who fulfill God mission as prophets, often suffer in the hands of evil people, in a godless world such as ours (think Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea and Amos). God however vindicates such people. Their suffering proves to be an expiation for the sins of the people. Most of the above passages show the transition from immense suffering to thanksgiving and proclamation of the wonderful works of God. With his resurrection, all these passages and more have been fulfilled. After explaining all these, he then charged them to go and proclaim the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  By his death and resurrection, he has completed the task the heavenly Father assigned to him. Now the mission of the disciples begins. They must preach the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.

 

The message of the Resurrection is that through the cross, Jesus Christ the Son of God has taken away the sins of humanity. He has become our advocate with the Father by virtue of being the victim who takes away our sins (see John 1:29; John 11:51-52; Romans 3:25). He has taken upon himself the guilt of humanity, and by his precious blood, he has done the expiation for our sins. He has exchanged his own life for the life and freedom of each one of us. His death has reconciled humanity with God. By his suffering on the cross of Calvary, Jesus has removed the barrier that separated human beings from God. He has also broken down the evil wall that separated Jews from Gentiles, slaves from free born. In our own context, has pulled down the iron curtain that separated the Ife from the Modakeke, the Ijaw from the Itshekiri, the Ogoni from the Andoni, the Umuleri from the Aguleri, the Igbo from the Hausa, the Muslim from the Christian, and the Catholic from the Pentecostal. Indeed a fundamental change has occurred in the scheme of things. A new relationship is now possible with God and with fellow men and women. Individual men and women, and indeed the whole human society may now enjoy a filial relationship with their God, and a relationship of brotherhood and sisterhood with one another. The only condition for our participation in this new dispensation is repentance and conversion from sin, and baptism in the name of Jesus.

 

The truth of God's tremendous love, of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, should indeed elicit repentance and conversion in us. It should elicit a commitment to keep the commandments, for as St. John says, to know Jesus is to love him, and to love him is to reject sin, the same sin for which he suffered and died on the cross, the same sin which he conquered by virtue of his resurrection from the dead. Keeping the commandments is therefore

an act of love which allows us to enter into communion with the Father. The truth today is that (after the resurrection of Christ from the dead) we are no longer bound to sin and to sinful habits. Through the cross, God has freed us. We may now live in the freedom of the children of God, the way God has always wanted us to. With the death and resurrection of Christ, God has created us anew. In Christ, has made all things new.

 

Only Jesus could explain the events of the paschal mystery to his disciples. Only he could transform the profound mystery of his death and resurrection into a revelation of God's love. Only he could transform the fear and confusion of his disciples into understanding and confidence. And as soon as the disciples' eyes were opened to these truths, they became witnesses of the resurrection and of the message of repentance from sin. This is what happened in Peter's sermons as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and his companions became witnesses to the meaning of all that had taken place in Galilee and in Jerusalem. They were not just eye witnesses of the raw Paschal events. They were now equipped by Christ and the Spirit of God with the necessary wisdom, courage and confidence to interpret these events to their hearers. Rather than keep the good news to themselves, they preached it to all who had ears to hear.

 

We too are beneficiaries of the missionary assignment given to the disciples, which many of them discharged with great zeal and enthusiasm. Many disciples died in the process of proclaiming the good news, and as we say, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Christians of all generations have the mission, the responsibility and the challenge to pass on the good news of the saving death and resurrection of Christ to others. This message has been kept alive by committed Christians in the course of the last 2000 years. We ourselves can keep the message alive by living it out and passing it on. This is how we keep the Gospel of Christ alive - by giving it away!

 

The earliest Church reached out from Jerusalem into the pagan world, which was enslaved to sin and blinded by corruption and superstition. They announced to them God's message of repentance and forgiveness. Many pagans got converted and they carried on the message.  Like the early Church, modern Christianity is confronted with the challenge of preaching Christ in the midst of a neo-pagan culture of widespread corruption, hedonism, occultism, materialism, consumerism, and secularism. We are confronted today with a neo-pagan culture of inordinate lust for money, power, pleasure and security, with the attendant crimes of abortion, hired assassinations, armed robbery, social manipulation, and exploitation. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he had in mind not only the Gentiles of the First Century, but also the millions of sinners in our own day who would need to be plunged into baptism for the forgiveness of sins. He had in mind the millions of sinners today who need to be plunged into the merciful love of God. He had in mind the millions of sinners who need to be plunged into the Holy Spirit who gives new life. As we mark the great Jubilee of the event of the Resurrection of Christ and the inauguration of the Christians missionary enterprise, we must ask ourselves today to what extent we are truly committed to living and spreading the good news of God's generosity in forgiveness and the call to repentance and conversion. Among the features of the great jubilee are: Forgiveness, Healing, Restoration, Reconciliation and Celebration. We must strive to be part of the Christian enterprise towards a new creation, a new civilisation of love.

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