BY ERWIN CABUCOS
The gradual beaming of the early morning sun was casting on my face as I stood on top of Mt Tibrogargan at the Sunshine Coast’s Glasshouse Mountains.
I was breathing hard from my unfit health status and the relative steepness of the mountain, but I quickly gained respite from witnessing a magnificent event on that memorable Easter Sunday morning: the evenly casting of lights and the bit-by-bit disappearance of darkness on the pineapple farms around the mountains.
The haze disappeared and the shining light gave decisiveness to the obscurity of the night. Birds chirped and warbled around me. I touched the dewy shrubs next to me and noticed a spider crawled away from its web. Cool and fresh air filled my lungs as I breathed in and sat on the rock. Being on that place and time, I had no Easter eggs to peel but I had a natural card to read around me with the magnificent message to decode: God is alive everywhere.
It is easy to sense the presence of God when things are rosy in our lives. It is almost a necessity to acknowledge the wonder of nature especially when you are dumbfounded by the beautiful scenery before your eyes. Australia, particularly Queensland, has enormous opportunity for us to engage in realising the revelation of God’s love through the natural environment. We are indeed blessed with natural wonders in this part of the world.
However, as we have known it, life is not always rosy. Perhaps the challenge is sensing the presence of God when things don’t go too well. It takes our whole being’s energy, sometimes, feeling like we are carrying the whole world on our shoulders when things don’t go as they should. Depression is a horrible state of consciousness which does not only disable our spirit and enthusiasm, but it also inflicts pain into our physical self.
Medicine has warned us about the psycho-somatic manifestations of depression from difficult life situations. Also, what about the occurrences of major and unexpected events in life such as death, bankruptcy, relationship fall-out and calamities? They are the experiences of death that sometimes blind us from sensing the meaning and purpose of life, and from feeling the presence of God.
This experience of death is a part of the natural process of life. This state of Hades is an important aspect of faith and life as we go through the turns and churns of living. Everyone has his or her own share of going through this stage of abyss: exhaustion from overwork, desperation from a disobedient daughter, frustration from a hard-headed husband, tears from a loss of marriage, humiliation from a dumb mistake, sweat from persistent efforts, and in some occasion, blood from an unexpected sacrifice. They come in different variety and forms, literal and metaphorical. They signify the vulnerability of our situation and call us to acknowledge our humility as human beings.
However, as Christians, we don’t stop on the sense of death. There is hope and the sweetness of rejuvenation and regeneration is imminent. We anticipate the forthcoming stage of renewal. Life comes after death: a labouring mother at a maternity ward brings forth a new life; falls and bruises from learning how to ride a bike help form a happy cyclist; a whole night of researching and typing produces a perceptive essay the next day; years of patience and sacrifice on a difficult child gives way to a happy 21st birthday; a constricting cocoon makes way for a lively butterfly, and suffering and death on the cross proceeds to the glory of the resurrection.
The cycle of life-suffering-death-resurrection is a narrative that has been reflected and resonated on our literature and everyday texts. A hero survives chaos and order is restored. After a turbulent ride, they became victorious and lived happily ever after. We also know that there is life after death. This has been the message of the gospel.
We are familiar of the saying: what doesn’t kill makes you strong. It is indeed easily said and advised to people, but what is significant is that when some of us are caught in the state of death we seem to lose hope. When problems beset our lives, we seem to give in and commit tragic deeds: suicide, gambling, compulsion, depression, and other yielding actions, including the uncontrollable consumption of chocolates.
The message of Easter goes beyond the sweet taste of chocolates. Easter overflows with the filling good news of hope, care and love that, in times when God seems nowhere to be found, it is because He, in the words of the poem ‘Footprints in the Sands’, carries us. When the world becomes heavy on our shoulder, he invites us to cast our burden upon Him and he will give us rest (Psalm 55:22).
The narratives of the Old Testament ooze with stories of abiding love of God to His people. Where can we escape from His Love? If we fly to the sunrise or sail beyond the sea, we still find Him there (Psalm 139). Jesus is the living water that allows us to be never thirsty. Jesus is the Shepherd who tends us. Jesus is the living bread, the light of the world, the gate to the Father in heaven (Gospel of John).
May the season of Easter fill us with the wondrous and beautiful messages of life, hope, care and love. May this always remind us each time we feel a sense of death in our life. God’s light is always there to beam on us not only through nature, but also through the people who love us, people we work with as well as through the events in our lives.
Erwin Cabucos is a migrant from the Philippines who teaches Secondary Religion and English in Brisbane. His is pictured with his daughter Sarah on top of Mt Tibrogargan in the Glasshouse Mountains.
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