Easter Vigil Year A
April 8, 2023
What we have been celebrating in recent days is nothing short of amazing.
On Thursday evening, we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper where Jesus instituted the Eucharist (and with that, the priesthood).
Yesterday, we celebrated the Passion of Jesus. He was beaten, mocked, scourged, and crucified. However, his life was not taken from him. He willingly gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins.
Following his death, his body was given a proper burial in a tomb but that is not the end of the story. In our gospel tonight we hear that on Easter morning Jesus’ tomb is found empty! Jesus Christ is Risen.
Three days yet one event known as the Easter Triduum.
Three very special days of grace but we should not view them in isolation from the rest of history. The story of our salvation has been going on since God “created the heavens and the earth.”
As we celebrate the salvation Jesus has won for us, the Church offers us in several readings, parts of the story of God’s love for his people, the story we know as Salvation History.
It begins with the first story of creation from the first chapter of Genesis. Genesis does not provide a scientific explanation of creation. It isn’t meant to. It is the story of how God brought “divine order” to the world. (For the church’s understanding of Big Bang and evolution see my article, “Catholic Teaching and the Question of Evolution,” at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/evolution.html)
Before God created, “in the beginning…the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss.” Matter existed but without any form. There was no light. God created to bring order. He separated the waters, gathering them, and “dry land appeared.” God made the day and the night, creating the rhythm of day and night that we live by.
God created the plants, animals, and humans. In establishing the divine order in creation, God created it with balance.
When God created humans, He made them as the pinnacle of creation, made in his image, “male and female he created them.” Some people today do not want to follow the divine order as established by God. They attempt to redefine their own creation.
God created and then He rested. In resting, He established the Sabbath as a day of rest. While most people do get at least one day off each week from work, the sense of it as a sabbath is lost by many. It is no longer seen as a day for the Lord but a day filled with shopping, sports, and other things that we desire over God.
Where did humanity go astray? I think it involves how we interpret the “dominion” God has given us. We no longer see creation as a gift from God to use but our own property. God gave us dominion, not ownership. We need to see what He has given us as a gift.
We ask God to “renew the face of the earth,” restoring the divine order that He established at creation.
The story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac provides an understanding of “gift.” Abraham saw his son as a gift from God. As a gift, Abraham did not take “ownership” of the gift. If God asked for the gift back, Abraham would give it to him.
So, this is why Abraham was willing to offer Isaac as a holocaust. Of course, we know that God did not make Abraham go through with it. That day God provided a ram for the sacrifice.
We need to understand how this story foreshadows what God will do for us in offering his Son Jesus. Isaac carried the wood for the holocaust. Jesus would carry the wood of his Cross. Isaac did not resist being sacrificed. Jesus willingly gives himself on the Cross.
Abraham withheld nothing from God, not even his son. God willingly sacrifices his Son for us. God holds nothing back. What are you withholding from God?
The next story we hear in our readings is the parting of the Red Sea. Here, I would like to point out that we do not hear the whole story of Salvation History tonight. Right before the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites, at God’s command, celebrated the first Passover. (On Holy Thursday the first reading is about the first Passover.)
Then, they crossed the Red Sea, going forward at God’s command. The task at hand (crossing the Red Sea and escaping slavery in Egypt) seemed impossible at that moment. God made it possible. What suffering do you face that seems to make it impossible to move forward? After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites would latter lament the lack of food, wishing they had never left Egypt. Yet, God was with them.
What sufferings do you face that you would like to turn back from? How is God calling you and aiding you to move forward?
We long for something more. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says, “All you who are thirst, come to the water!…come, without paying and without cost.”
We look for happiness in this world. We spend our money on “what fails to satisfy.” To find peace and true joy, we need to seek what we are created for, God’s love.
God is a god of second chances. Over and over, He will forgive us but time is running out. “Seek the LORD while he may be found.” There will come an end to life in this world. Then, it will be too late.
To seek the Lord, we need to ask his help so that we may see things as He sees that, not as the world sees them. God offers his Word to use in the Bible. Through the Holy Spirit He guides us to all truth.
We need to embrace the living waters offered to us in Baptism. Tonight, as we witness Michelle baptized, we are called to reflect on our own Baptism. Paul gives us words to reflect on here, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized were baptized into his death?”
After Michelle is baptized, we will receive Kathy and Ryan into the Catholic faith. Maybe we have become stagnant in our faith. The fact that Michelle, Ryan, and Kathy seek “newness of life” in our Catholic faith should serve as a witness to us that our faith does have something to offer. We must die to the things of this world to embrace new life.
It is not easy. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, there are four passages known as the suffering servant oracles. We heard one of them last Sunday as the first reading. We heard the fourth one yesterday as the first reading for Good Friday.
The four Suffering Servant oracles find a special fulfillment in Jesus Christ, most evident in the sufferings He endured in his Passion. However, if we accept our suffering, we too fulfill what was foretold. We can offer our sufferings up with Jesus’ suffering.
Jesus’ suffering in his Passion was horrendous. He was crucified. He was laid in the tomb. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus rose to new life. God is victorious even over death.
In a moment Michelle will make her baptismal promises. After she is baptized, we, along with Kathy and Ryan, will renew our own baptismal promises. We are renewed in the life that God has given us. Then, we are sprinkled with the same water, the living water of the Holy Spirit, that Michelle is baptized with.