Becoming an Easter People

On Easter Vigil night, we reached the climax of the Triduum celebrations.  Lent took us into the darkness and silence of the tomb– and Easter led us out into victory and joy. Alleluia, the Lord is Risen!

Over the past week, we have been celebrating our renewal, redemption and liberation with vigour at the Easter Octave celebrations. For 8 days we sang our hearts out, ate, danced and partied with gusto!

Fat Tuesday, where it all first began, seems almost like a distant memory now. I remember getting in line and tossing my old palms into the cauldron of fire. Out with the old, in with the new, I said!

Many of us didn’t know what to expect as we began our Lenten journey together – we agreed that we had walked in the desert and been in exile for too long and that it was now time for that to change.

Out of darkness into light

For 40 days, we took a long hard look at our lives and pledged to make changes we hoped would lead to a real and lasting transformation.

We shared meals and stories. We talked about our conversion experiences, our struggles, our joys, our trials and tribulations.  We prayed for each other. We bonded over candle making workshops. One group organized a walking pilgrimage to Nativity Church, while small contingents made a beeline for Church of the Transfiguration for the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday.

Meanwhile, Father Terence urged us to stay on track. ‘Look deep into your lives and hearts,’ he said. ‘Pray. Reflect. Read the Bible. Reconcile with one another,’ he added.

He reminded us that the biggest prize of it all stood at the end of this journey – a joyous, transformational renewal of our baptismal vows on Easter morning.

And joyous it was! The smiles on our faces was hard to miss last weekend as the baptismal waters touched us.

Hoping in the Lord

However, the journey wasn’t always smooth for everyone. Some had to grapple with illness. Others faced personal setbacks too painful to talk about. Tears were shed. Hearts were broken. But through these struggles, many still soldiered on and fought their battles on their knees, not only for themselves but for one another.

As I look back on this journey, I am reminded that our Lord was present for every one of us at each of these pit stops.

Perhaps it was a story of courage and faith that moved you. Or the evening reflections that spoke to your heart. Or someone’s comforting words came at a much needed time. In each of these moments, we were graced with glimpses of Him and the hope He promised to give us through His Resurrection.

Better yet, we saw what it was like to be Easter people – to have joy and courage in the midst of personal chaos and to continue to hope in our Lord.

Living the Easter Promise

So where does this journey continue from here now that the Octave celebrations are over and the party decorations put away?

How many of us are really an Easter people, still brimming with joy, optimism and hope every day for the rest of the year? Will our Easter joy last a day, a season or a lifetime?

For many, it’s back to the roller coaster that we call life – the drudgery of work, squabbles and meltdowns, elderly parents to care for and children to raise. For others, the loss of a job and good health has led to greater fear and uncertainty.

Let us remind ourselves and each other why we are called to be Easter people in the first place. We live in hope because Jesus came and He conquered.  The cross transformed all suffering and pain and the Resurrection secured for us the promise of eternal life.

We are an Easter People

Beyond our thanks and praise, Jesus also calls us to a new kind of life – a different way of living.

As an Easter People, our response to His gift of forgiveness and eternal life is to live lives that reflect our new status. We are people forgiven, healed and renewed by the Lord’s Body and Blood, and therefore we are called to share this good news with everyone no matter what our circumstances are. All the time.

During his visit to Croatia in 1994, Pope St John Paul II boldly proclaimed, “Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song!’’.

As we journey next towards Pentecost and beyond, let us remember the saint’s words, for Jesus, by the prize of life He has won for us, has given us every reason to shout ‘Alleluia!’.

Easter is only the beginning.

May we continue to march to the beat of ‘Alleluia’ and live joyously and proudly as an Easter people and children of God!

By Charlene Sng

When Community Comes Together

By Karen Roberts- Fong

Walking with Christ on Good Friday

Good Friday was a different kind of good this year. As I stood among the crowd, it felt like our church, our parish community, and the passion of Christ had come alive. The atmosphere was sombre and everyone’s emotions were palpable. Everyone was divided into three groups – the adults, youths, and children for the stations of the cross.

All adults stood and knelt solemnly as fellow parishioners came forth to carry the cross for each station. Together, we traced the path Jesus took in Jerusalem leading up to his crucifixion, by reflecting on seven selected stations and questions related to our everyday lives.

The youths went barefoot at the suggestion of Joey, a member of the Youth Ministry, to step out of their comfort zone . Camelia Tan, one of the youths shared, “We did the whole stations of the cross barefooted! It was about 45 minutes and personally, the inertia was largest at the beginning. But eventually, the ickiness of stepping around barefooted started to wean off. What Father Terence said about how much more discomfort Jesus must have felt on His journey to Calvary hit home with me. It was an experience indeed!”

Even the children had a meaningful session where they were each given toilet paper to recollect a bad experience or dream and ‘roll it into a ball’, symbolically representing being buried in the a tomb. Some of the children liked the experience because they felt relieved afterward. 7-year-old Ted Ethan linked the tomb with darkness saying, “I threw away my troubles by recollecting my worries about not seeing my great grandma before she passed away”.

Like the good thief who was crucified beside Christ, I pray that Jesus will remember us when he comes into his kingdom. And I hope that our parish community will continue to keep his light burning bright within us. By entrusting our lives to God, we can derive strength and hope to face life’s trials and tribulations.

“I believe in the sun – not because I can see, but by it I can see everything else.” – C.S. Lewis

By Charlene Sng

Looking Forward on Holy Saturday

This year’s Easter Vigil was truly a turning point in our parish’s journey as one community. After 40 long days of preparation, everyone gathered to glorify Jesus and celebrate his resurrection from the dead. With arms outstretched and smiles that stretched for miles, spirits were jubilant and high. That night, I smiled to myself as I reflected upon the events leading up to Easter. My fellow parishioners rejoiced because they have experienced God through their struggles and quiet moments with Him. From the 40-day Lenten reflection, Fat Tuesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, the Repentance Retreat and Good Friday to Easter itself, I noticed the transformation that had taken place.

A flame was ignited – their hearts were light because their sins have died, He is Risen, and the light of Christ has come into the world. Over the course of Lent, my Comms Ministry members and I have seen God’s transformative power at work in our community through the testimonies and faith stories we received, words of encouragement, and proclamations of His healing grace. As one Church of St Michael’s, we can’t wait to see what else God has planned for us, for His glory – if we heed His call and just believe.

By Charlene Sng

He Saw and He Believed

By Brian Bartholomew Tan