April 15, 2017
Holy week is the most special time of the year for us. We began it on Sunday with the blessing of the Palms recalling Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem. We read the Passion of Jesus to recall what he goes through for us.
Thursday night we celebrated the Last Supper. The meal was the Passover meal and I spoke about the Passover as well as the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. We know that Jesus has united his sacrifice in his Crucifixion to the Eucharist. Yesterday (Good Friday) we again listened to the story of Jesus’ Passion. We had the veneration of the Cross venerating it as the instrument of Jesus saving us.
After his death, Jesus was laid in the tomb. Tonight’s gospel tells us what happened next but before we get to that, let us turn our thoughts to tonight’s prayers and readings that led up to the gospel.
We started with the blessing of the Easter fire. We started in darkness just as the universe was before God created all things.
From the Easter fire, we lit our new Paschal Candle that burns as a sign that Jesus is the Light of the World. We lit our individual candles as a symbol of how we received the light of Christ in our baptism.
Then we listened to the Exsultet and several readings. Our readings tonight span the story of Salvation History from its beginning with Genesis to being given new life as Jesus rises.
Our first reading from Genesis tells the story of creation not to give a scientific explanation but to tell us that God is the one who takes a “formless wasteland” and brings order to it. Big Bang and the theory of Evolution do not explain everything. The universe is too complex. I see no way for there to be male and female and all the different elements of creation without God to direct it. Just thinking about the complexity of the science involved proves to me God had to be involved.
Then we hear about Abraham who always did as the Lord directed. He had waited many, many years for the son God promised him. After Isaac was born, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son and Abraham is willing to do it! We even hear that Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice. When Isaac asked “where is the sheep for the holocaust” Abraham responded “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
How right Abraham is!
Of course, we know that God stopped Abraham before Isaac is sacrificed. God then sends a ram for the sacrifice “in place of his son.”
Then we remember the Passover event when God led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. They were led on their way by the angel of the Lord. This is God saving his people.
There are many other stories that we could read and discuss but it would be too much for one night. So let’s leap ahead to Jesus’ Passion.
Remember how Isaac carried the wood when he was to be the sacrifice? Jesus carries the wood of the Cross to his own sacrifice.
Remember how the ram was sacrificed in place of Isaac? Abraham said God would provide the sacrifice and God does in Jesus.
Jesus is crucified and laid in the tomb. That much we heard yesterday but it is not the end of the story. No, tonight we hear how the tomb is found empty.
Imagine the disciples’ confusion. They are already bewildered that Jesus has been crucified and now the tomb is empty. We know the empty tomb to be a sign of something wonderful but they did not yet understand. Only when they see Jesus risen can they rejoice.
Tonight is our most solemn and most important liturgy of the year. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the culmination of the story of Salvation History.
The Jews had seen themselves as a chosen people, the only ones to be saved. They were indeed a chosen people but they were supposed to share their faith with others. The idea of salvation being offered to the Gentiles is not entirely new with Jesus.
Speaking as a prophet of the Lord Isaiah said, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” The invitation is offered to ‘all.’ Unfortunately not all accept the invitation.
There are some who even today don’t hear about God in a way to help them believe. Others may hear but disagree. Rather than open themselves to the truth, they reject God or make their own notion of God. Some might find it too hard.
It is hard. Temptation is a powerful force. We must try our best but in the end we must realize that we cannot pay the price on our own. This is where Isaiah says, “Come, without paying and without cost.”
We cannot earn our salvation. It is a gift that Jesus gives us when he gives up his life on the Cross.
Does this mean we live however we want and figure everyone gets into Heaven? That’s what some like to think but while we never earn our way into Heaven on our own, we need to die to the things of this world so that we can rise to new life. We must first give up this world to share in the Resurrection.
None of us are perfect. We fall short in sin. Sometimes we even commit the same sins over and over, unable to let go. That’s when we had it over to Jesus and he pays the price for our salvation.