12 Apr 20 | Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ
My dear friends – in the world of art (particularly, in the world of paintings), art experts would tell us that there are a lotof forgeries — a lot of mere imitations, mere copies of original, priceless masterpieces. Thus, in the art scene (given the international market) today, we can find so many fake masterpieces — (like fake Picassos, fake Van Goghs, fake Caravaggios, fake Goyas & many others). And of course, if there are fake masterpieces, then it follows that there also are fake artists (fake painters).
Now mention the reality of art forgery (or art fraud) & we have to mention the name of Hanvan Meegeren. He was a Dutch artist & he has been regarded as one of the most notorious art forgers (art deceivers) of all time. He would copy famous classical paintings (& after copying them), yes, he would sell them, passing them off as genuine, honest to goodness, original masterpieces. His favorite paintings to copy & imitate were those classic works of his fellow Dutch master painter who lived in the 1600’s– none other than the great — Johannes Vermeer.
It was said that once Han was able to copy & sell six fake Vermeer paintings all in all, costing more than sixty — (imagine) sixty million US dollars. However, the time finally came when he was caught by the police.
His crime? Keeping & selling (supposedly)priceless Dutch national treasures.
And his punishment? Nothing less than deathby firing squad.
Now this came about because Han was so good at copying (so good at deceiving) that the authorities themselves believed that what he was selling (indeed) were all original — all honest to goodness masterpieces. To escape his death sentence, he readily confessed to his works of forgery & deception. And to prove his case, he even asked for some painting materials (to show beyond doubt) that those art works that he sold were actually all fakes — all just mere copies & imitations made by him. Thus, there inside his prison cell he did his painting — did his work of forgery. And after a few days, after painting a fake Vermeer inside his cell, the officials were convinced.
In the end, his sentence was changed — from death by firing squad, tojust one year of imprisonment.
My dear friends — today, Easter Sunday, one question we can ask ourselves as believers is this: How can we know that the Easter Resurrection event really did happen — really did take place?
In other words, what proof(s) do we have that the Easter miracle (the resurrection miracle) really is true (really is a fact)?
Now, if we are looking for proofs (to my mind), the greatest proof of the resurrection event is not the empty tomb.
The empty tomb does not prove anything.
The greatest proof of the resurrection event is not even the many appearances of Jesus to the women & to the disciples (which are all recorded in the Gospels). No, not even that.
To many theologians & Christian historians (included) the greatest proof of the Resurrection event (that it did happen — that it did take place) would have to be the witnessesthemselves — namely Peter & company themselves.
In particular, the greatest proof of the truthfulness & authenticity of the resurrection event is the deep, personal, radical conversion & transformation that clearly took place in the hearts of the disciples.
My dear brothers & sisters in Christ — without a shadow of a doubt, Peter & the other disciples underwent so much change — so much transformation.
And this explains why thePeter of the Acts of the Apostles is so different from the Peter of the four GOSPELS.
In fact, the disciples too of the Acts of the Apostles are so different from the disciples we see in the Gospels.
And precisely, what is most obvious in all these is that Peter & company had changed most dramatically.
WHY so? HOW so?
Well, our only logical & acceptable explanation can be nothing else but the event of the resurrection itself — (the miracle of miracles, Jesus rising from the dead itself).
In other words, Peter & the disciples were transformed — because & only because — the resurrection of our Lord is for real. His rising from the dead is for real.
And as such, they actually saw, met & encountered up closeour risen Lord himself.
And it was this face to face encounter — this face to face meeting (& nothing less) that could have brought about so much transformation — so much metamorphosis (as it were)in them.
Imagine, from being so afraid, so faint-hearted, cowardly men (saksakan ng duwag — takot na takot — litong lito) they changed so remarkably (& not only remarkably) but also so suddenly, so instantly into being most courageous, most fearless witnesses of our Lord & his resurrection.
My dear friends, we all know very well that people do not just change — people do not just transform radically, overnight, in a flash — at that. Trained psychologists & therapists will tell us that for sure — there is no such thing as instant conversion — no such thing as instant transformation. Nevertheless, in the case of Peter & the disciples they did change — most radically & dramatically — with all this happening (as we said) in an instant — in a flash.
And again, the only reasonable explanation isbecause they did seethe risen Lord (with their own eyes), they did meetthe risen Jesus (face to face), yes — fully alive — Buhay na buhay– once again.
They did talk to him. They did spendquality time together, interacting much with him in a most personal way. And all these direct — personal — intimate– encounters with the risen Lord
made all the difference — so much so that now, after the resurrection, they all were just too willing to live for the faith & also, just too willing to suffer, be persecuted, be tortured, be imprisoned & even be killed for the faith.
And surely, the disciples could not have faked all these changes.
They (just) could not have fabricated all these major alterations in their lives.
Precisely, how could anyone pretend and fake actual persecution?
Or how could anyone pretend & fake real imprisonment & even honest to goodness martyrdom, all in the name of faith & hope in the risen Lord? (Pinapatay ka na. Tinotorture ka na– how can you fake all that?)
This way, everything points to nothing else (or to no one else) except to the witnessesthemselves — the first disciples themselves
They, undeniably are the greatest proof — the greatest evidence that the Easter miracle really did happen — it really did take place.
Yes indeed, the Resurrection — Easter miracle is for real.
And because of this, our Christian faith is for real.
And exactly, thisis the Good News that we are celebrating today — Easter Sunday.
AND of course, there is nothing fake — nothing deceptive about our Lord’s Easter Miracle.
The Resurrection — Easter Miracle is Good News, at its best — Good News, at its finest — (not fake news).
Surely, Easter cannot be fake news. It can never be fake news.
Today, we live in a culture of fake news. (In fact, we see it & we hear it all the time — everywhere)
And as we know quite well — (in fact, too well) fake news do not last.
Fake news do not endure. They do not hold out.
This is so because fake news does not possess the capability to withstand the test of time.
And sooner or later — (whether it’s one week, one month, one year, twenty — fifty years) the actual truthwould come out. The actual truth would prevail.
And it always does.
Likewise (& more importantly), fake news would not possess the abiding, staying power — the enduring force to touch & change hearts, to make a real difference in people’s lives & heal & transform people, bringing out the best in them.
And exactly, this was what the truth of Easter did to the disciples — the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection.
Simply put — lies beget lies. Deceptions beget deceptions (& it ends there).
And we saw this in our earlier story with Han van– so much so that his whole life (talented & gifted as he was) had become one big lie, one big hoax — bringing out the worst in him.
But, on the other hand, with truth — (yes) truth begets truth. Authenticity begets authenticity.
And this is all the more true with the Easter — Resurrection story, which can be considered as the mother of all truths– the truth of all truths.
Which is why, if, we do away with the truth of Easter — if we do away with the truth of Christ’s resurrection, then, the whole of our Christian faith will not make sense.
It will fall apart. In fact, everything will not make sense. Our very life, our very existence in this world will not make sense.
As St. Paul insists — “If Christ has not been raised, then our faith is useless
(purposeless). We are still in our sins & we are the most pitiable of all people.” (Kaawaawa)
And so (my dear friends), our witnessing should continue.
Our living out of our Easter story should continue.
This is the very challenge of Easter in our time (especially with so much suffering, even with so much hunger — with this covid-19 pandemic that we face)
The challenge here is to just keep on trusting — (tiwala lang) — to just keep on holding on to this truth — & to just keep on giving courageous witnessing to this core truth that Easter is for real — meaning that Christ is risen. He is alive.
(Buhay ang Panginoon. Buhay ang Diyos).
And because He is alive, then, it follows that –
Faith is greater than doubt.
Hope is greater than fear & discouragement.
Light is greater than darkness
Love is greater than hate.
& of course — Life (itself) is greater than death.
A BLESSED & GRACE-FILLED EASTER to all of us.