April 11, 2020
Tonight we celebrate our Easter Vigil. It is the highest liturgy of our liturgical year. We started our Easter Triduum Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood.
Yesterday we celebrated Good Friday, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for us. At the end of yesterday’s gospel Jesus was laid in a tomb. Tonight we hear the tomb is found empty and that Jesus is risen. This is good news.
However, before we jump into the Resurrection, our readings and the singing of the Exultant tell us events in the story of Salvation History, the story of God saving his people throughout the millennia.
Our readings begin with the story of creation “in the beginning” and conclude in God making a new “creation” manifest in Jesus’ Resurrection. Jesus restores creation to what God intended.
We must understand that the story of creation as told in Genesis is not meant to provide a scientific explanation. God is very much the creator of the universe but this story is not trying to tell us how He created the world. Its goal is to provide meaning to our existence and to articulate the divine order in which God created everything.
Before God created the universe as we know it, “the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss.” God began by bringing light to creation so that we may see creation coming from the “formless wasteland.”
God separated the waters and created the sky. He gathered the water and dry land appeared. He created vegetation and all sorts of living creatures.
God created everything in balance, with a divine order.
God’s creating of the world culminated in the creation of male and female in his image. He gave humans dominion over creation.
God did not create and walk away. Throughout Salvation History God has always been there for his people. He gives us free will and allows us to sin. He allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins but God is always with us.
Scripture is full of stories of God being present to his people.
There are stories of faithful and righteous people like Abraham and Joseph. There are also stories of difficulty.
For instance, the Israelites were made slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God who rescued them, sending Moses to lead them out. When God rescues his people, He does it in a way only God can, the parting of the Red Sea. He does it in a way that reveals himself to both the Israelites and the Egyptians.
In the Bible we can read about how Joshua led the people across the Jordan to the Promised Land. We can hear how God built up the Kingdom of Israel through David even though David himself was also a sinner.
We hear of how the Israelites were defeated by the Babylonians and many were taken into Exile. Our reading from Isaiah comes at the end of the Exile. God is inviting the Israelites to return home to him. God invites all to come to him as He says, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.”
In our humanity, we put much effort into obtaining earthly things. Some of these things we need. Some are just wants.
What God offers us, salvation, is far more valuable than anything on earth. We need to strive to follow God’s way but ultimately Salvation is a gift, a gift we receive “without paying and without cost.”
The Lord gives us this gift because He is merciful and is “generous in forgiving.”
How does God offer us this gift of Salvation?
God forgives us because Jesus gave his life for us on the Cross so that “we shall also be united with him in the Resurrection.” Life with Christ begins in Baptism as we die to this world. Life reaches its fullness in the Resurrection.
So, here we are. Jesus has been Crucified and laid in the tomb. Does his death mean that He has been defeated? No. God has power even over death.
Not understanding the Resurrection, the women go to the tomb and find it empty. The angel tells them that Jesus has risen and directs them to tell his disciples.
On their way to the disciples, they encounter the Risen Jesus. Jesus Christ is risen today.
The Old Testament includes stories of struggle.
Since the first coming of Christ, we continue to face challenge and difficulty. As humans we are not perfect. We sin. The church has faced disease like the Black Plague. It has faced corruption. Yet, God has always walked with his people through it all. God restores what has been broken.
Even now we face the Coronavirus pandemic. It changes how we worship but it does not change what it is that we believe. We believe in Jesus who is consubstantial with the Father and united in a perfect Trinity with the Holy Spirit who gives us gifts to aid us. Even as we are separated by distance right now, we are united through the Spirit to know God is with us.
Fr Jeff, Your Easter Vigil homily that we watched on zoom was one of your best and most emotional homilies that I have heard. It reminds us of what Jesus gave up for our sins and continues to forgive us for our sins. Your homily is so easy to listen to as well as read in reminding us how easy it is to follow the teachings of Christ. In your homily it was moving to see your passion and emotion for following Christ’s word, and made me more aware of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Thank you. I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.