Saturday, April 11, 2009

What Can Christ's Resurrection Mean Here & Now?

The resurrection of Jesus is his glorification by the loving Father, who has given Jesus sovereign power and authority to establish and rule the new people of God. In Matthew’s gospel, there is only one appearance of the Risen Christ to the “eleven (male) disciples” (Mt 28:16-20) in which he proclaims: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

A hymn of praise to Christ in 1 Timothy 3:16 suggests that his resurrection, or his state of glorification or being “taken up in glory,” is the same as or parallel to his being “vindicated by the Spirit.” Thus, the New Testament allows contemporary Christians, in light of a particular context, to shift the emphasis in preaching and teaching the belief in Christ’s resurrection.

For Jose de Mesa (“The Resurrection in the Filipino Context,” in In Solidarity with the Culture, 1987), it is more relevant and wise to describe the resurrection in Filipino as pagbabangong-dangal (vindication or raising of dignity) rather than as muling pagkabuhay (return to life). Muling pagkabuhay suggests that the foundation of Christian faith is a spectacular return of Jesus to life or the resuscitation of a corpse. As pagbabangong-dangal, however, we focus on the vindication and glorification of Jesus, who was shamefully executed. Pagbabangong-dangal does not deny his bodily resurrection, but focuses on what happened to his dignity and significance in the eyes of the disciples and the merciful Father.

Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed and abandoned by his disciples and friends, rejected by the rulers of Jerusalem and Rome, and executed in a terrible manner. His resurrection is the divine vindication of his very person and the definitive raising of his dignity. Ibinangon ng Diyos ang dangal ni Jesus sa kabila ng kahiya-hiyang pagbitay sa kanya! (God has raised the trampled dignity of Jesus after his shameful execution!)

Irreversibly, God has raised the trampled dignity of Jesus. Irreversibly, God has taken the side of someone who, in his firm belief in a gracious God, chose to be in solidarity with the poor, the ill-educated, and the social outcasts. The resurrection is the divine vindication of his practice of sharing meals with sinners and outcasts, the vindication of his practice of healing the body, mind and spirit, the vindication of his boldness to publicly condemn harmful social practices, and the vindication of his proclamation that God’s Kingdom is near especially to the poor, the hungry, and those persecuted for their quest for justice. The resurrection is divine glorification of the whole person, practice, and life of the crucified Jesus.

For de Mesa, to promote the resurrection as vindication not only avoids the image of the resuscitation of a corpse but also indicates that faithful Christians are able to see the resurrection, fragmentarily but genuinely, whenever and wherever the dignity of the downtrodden is raised or vindicated. Ang pagbabangong-dangal ay maaaring mangyari at maisagawa ngayon, habang ang pagkabuhay ng mga katawang di-mabubulok ay mangyayari lamang sa katapusan ng sanlibutan. (The raising of the dignity of the downtrodden can happen or can be done today, while the raising of immortal bodies will happen only at the end of the world.)

The resurrection is witnessed today wherever a low-class prostitute finds enough courage and some supportive person(s) to enable her or him to earn a personal or family income in a dignified manner. The beautiful hands and feet of the Risen Jesus are revealed in the deteriorating body of the person with AIDS who faces death with the uplifting feeling of being loved rather than being abandoned. The resurrection is revealed wherever there is a tangible uplifting of the dignity and living conditions of the children of the streets, the daughters of the dumpsite, and the sons of the soil.

This is pagbabangong-dangal. It does not deny the belief in the resurrection of the body at the end of history, but emphasizes the commissioning of Christ’s disciples to proclaim good news to all the downtrodden, to heal comprehensively, to forgive sins, and to erase stigmas among social classes and sectors here and now.

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