Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday (Mass of the Day)
Terminals to Interchanges

Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

Sisters and brothers, many of us here, myself included, are probably old enough to remember a significant development in the history of public transport in Singapore. There was a time when, if you fell fast asleep on the bus and didn’t wake up until it reached its destination, you would find yourself at a bus terminal. Often, this was a lonely, God-forsaken place, without even a shelter for you to stand under. This secluded spot was where the bus route terminated. This was where people were expected simply to end their journey.

Then (was it sometime in the eighties?) things began to change. Many old terminals were renovated and rebuilt into posh new interchanges. And the difference was not just in the label and in the look, but also in travel habits. People no longer stopped abruptly at a terminal. They arrived at an interchange and then continued on the next stage of their journey by transferring to another feeder or trunk service. More recently, we can even transfer to the MRT or the LRT. These changes reflect a radical transformation in public transportation in Singapore. The many different and disconnected bus routes of the past are now being integrated with other modes of transport into a single transit system. All this so that people are better able to get to where they need to go. And it all began with the transformation of terminals into interchanges.

This significant development provides us with a good image of what we are celebrating on this Easter Day. It indicates to us the reason for our joy. The action in our readings today revolves around the tomb of the crucified Christ. This is the place where the disciples had left the bruised and battered body of their Master. This is also the place where they had laid to rest all their hopes and dreams for an earthly Messiah. This is the secluded spot where their journey with Jesus had come to an abrupt and tragic end. The tomb was their terminal.

Yet, even though the tomb is a desolate place – full of painful memories – something prevents the disciples of Jesus, especially the women, from simply abandoning it altogether. Something draws them to revisit it. And it is in the revisiting that an impossible transformation happens. The place of darkness and death, the place of desolation and despair, is changed into a place of light and life, of consolation and hope. The tomb that once held the corpse of Christ is found to be empty. Not only are the linen cloths that once wrapped Jesus tightly in an embrace of death loosened, but to the eyes of faith they now become signs of a new and indestructible life.

Where once the disciples were fearfully wrapped up in their own grief, gradually they are given the courage and the energy to do what we hear Peter doing in the first reading. They reach out to others, bearing witness to all that Jesus had done and taught. Most of all, they proclaim to everyone they meet the wondrous story of his dying and rising. This outward change in their behavior is the result of an inward transformation in their attitude and perception. They are gazing upon the world with new eyes. They are now able to do what we heard about in the second reading from the letter to the Colossians. Having seen eternal life in a few linen burial cloths lying in an empty tomb, their thoughts are now on heavenly things. Although they appear as they did before – very ordinary people, walking this earth like everyone else – their lives are now hidden with Christ in God. And for them this radical transformation begins when the secluded spot of journey’s end is changed into the starting point of an exciting new adventure. It all begins today at the empty tomb where the terminal is transformed into an interchange.

This is the event we are celebrating today. This is the cause of our joy. And we are joyful not only because of what happened to the disciples. We rejoice because this is also what continues to happen to us even now. On our own life’s journey, perhaps we too have sometimes been brought to an abrupt halt. Perhaps we too have experienced disappointment and despair. Perhaps we too have known the feeling of falling into darkness, of being wrapped in death’s embrace, of being sealed in a cold and clammy tomb.

And like the disciples, whether it is in our memories, our conversations, or in our prayer, we too may have somehow been drawn to revisit the places of our pain, even as we continued to cry out to God in our desolation. Only to discover – as Mary does, so early in the morning on that first Easter Day – that the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is now empty. There is no longer any reason for us to remain trapped within our own loneliness and pain. Although we may still not be able see the face of the Resurrected One, we can already glimpse signs of his rising. Like the beloved disciple gazing upon those linen cloths, we can, with the eyes of faith, already discern Christ’s call to a new life. We can hear his invitation to forsake our preoccupation with the things of earth so as to set our minds on the things of heaven. And in this new vision, we find the courage and the strength to rise again and to continue on our way, reaching out to others and proclaiming to them all that the Lord has done for us. We bear witness so that others too may find themselves closely connected to the One who is the source of life, so that we may all be brought to where we need to go.

Sisters and brothers, how is the Risen Lord transforming the terminals of our lives into interchanges today?

1 comment:

  1. My goodness Chris,I didn't realise that you are THAT old :) ! But I'm sure not so old as to remember the notorious Tay Koh Yat Bus Company.

    A brilliant allegory to bus terminals and interchanges. Some present-day bus interchanges double up as terminals for those who live nearby. The majority, as you observed, arrive at an interchange walk to their homes which are nearby.

    The joy of Easter (to me) is not so much in Jesus' dying and rising but that IN SO DOING, God validated all that Jesus taught in His Ministry about our relationship (and duty) to God and neighbor. It is, if you like, a stamp of approval from out of this world. I am sure that even the most cynical and/or vocal disciple would've been won over. We now have a divine Gaurantor that if we do what Jesus taught, true life and freedom will be ours. Jesus' resurrection is the proof of that gaurantee. And so we rejoice.

    As bus terminals were transformed into interchanges, so too lives are transformed by Jesus' rising from the dead. Ten NTU undergraduates were baptised into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass and so received new life in the Spirit.

    What about us? Have our lives been transformed, maybe not in a spectacular fashion but quietly although perceptibly? Let us pray for grace and fortitude to transform our old selves. We can't do this on our own.