Homily for the Easter Vigil 2017 at Christ the King Priory/St. Benedict Center
Vigil readings: Gn 1:–2:2 • Gn 22:1–18 • Ex 14:15–15:1 • Is 54:5–14 • Is 55:1–11 • Bar 3:9–15 • Ez 36:16–28 • Rom 6:3–11 • Mt 28:1–10
Earthquake! Earthquake and Easter go together today. Most of us could probably use a little earthquake right now to wake us up and get our attention. We have been siting and listening for a long time. ….God is so full of surprises. Dawn comes, a new day and what do we feel? An earthquake. Everything is splitting open, the old is collapsing, and the new is stepping out. The sound of the earthquake and stone rolling away, that is the announcement of Easter this year. But it is a new day, a new creation; the old has passed. After the earthquake we cannot go back. Life is not the same, for Jesus, for the women, for disciples. Dare I say, for us also?
The readings we have just heard are like photos in a family or community album. Each year on this night we gather to sit down and look at these pictures. We gather here to listen to the stories and poems about God’s ways in our faith community’s story. We sit and listen to the stories and words of the prophets and apostles. Every time we look at a family or community photo album, the pictures remind someone of another story, of another member of the family and community. Sometimes the stories are the same, sometimes they are not. A new memory is added. It is like that with the words and rituals of this Easter Vigil. Each year the same words are read but each year they sound new and different. Something in them is heard for the first time. Why? Because each year we have grown and experienced another piece of life since the hearing last Easter. This year a particular word hits us; it makes sense, more sense than ever before. God is penetrating into our hearts ever more deeply. Each year we hear these words and each year we become these words more and more. Or so we hope.
In the Easter Vigil we are offered our full dignity once again, from creation to covenant, to the fully new Adam in Christ Jesus. If the words we hear seem to have a home in our hearts, it is simply because they are about us human beings at our deepest level. These words are all about where God and the human heart come together. These words, stories, images from Scripture give meaning to our place in the world. They put us in touch with some very basic realities. So basic that to ignore these words is to court spiritual death in every way. The words we have heard give us back our humanity in a world that pulls us faster and faster into inhumanity, into violence, consumerism, a rape of the earth our common home and which we heard God created good!
We are drawn back into a love affair with God. We heard it in the Easter Proclamation: the things of heaven are wedded to the things of earth, the divine with the human. Tonight is a wedding night between God and us, his people. We are drawn into the power of promise, fidelity and love. These stories from the Christian album put us face to face with our tendency to wander off and listen to another story. But they also make us face our God who is willing to never be angry again, who is willing to gather up all the lost, who is willing to restore honor; who is willing to create a new family where the bond is not just our human blood but a blood that now has divine member within it. And even more, a divine member whose blood means life eternal for all who will believe. In the end, the stories we hear tonight and the images stirred up by prophet and apostle proclaim loudly and clearly that we are precious, of inestimable value; and because of that we find ourselves this night rescued, saved and made clean. Every part of God’s word says that life lasts. They say that life endures because God has become involved in that life by entering into life’s worst moment, a violent death. And in that worst moment, he has turned it upside down and made life come out on top.
There is nothing we have heard tonight that says that our God will fail us. There is nothing here tonight but fidelity to the end, steadfast love for ever and ever. There is nothing here that speaks of an end without hope. Everything speaks of a change, of a new world, of a transformation of what is old. Everything here speaks of a God who is deeply personal, wonderfully intimate. If, as Baruch says, God can get the stars to respond in chorus to his call, how much more can he get us to respond, we who have a share in his breath, who are his image in the world.
After we have looked at the family album or those photos on our tablet or cameras, we close them and put them away. But we feel connected again to the family story. We may know someone better now than before. Our acceptance of a certain member has been enhanced. We don’t close the album and remain the same person as before. Tonight, we cannot gather around the fire, bring it inside and listen to stories told around that light without being changed, renewed. We have to feel ourselves re-connected, grounded, grasped by the wisdom that penetrates all things. We have to feel that we have moved one more step in the direction of a life without end. We have to feel the embrace of our Father who does not want to loose anything he has made.
Tonight we should know that what binds us to God is a covenant of love that leads us into peace. Tonight the original unity of creation is put in front of us again. We are at the beginning of life. We are at the first day when God said, ‘Let there be light.’ A light that shatters any darkness and there is only day. Tonight God becomes very personal, very loving. He says the name of his Son over a dead body, and life is stirred again. So much is life stirred that this life has the power and force of an earthquake. It shakes up everything. Believe me, a new chapter in the human story has begun. A new chapter in your story and my story begins with this dawn on the first day of a new world.
Christ is Risen, alleluia.
He is truly risen, alleluia.
Joel Macul, OSB