Our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul shares his thoughts for the Easter Vigil homily:
Gn 1:1–2:2, Gn 22:1-18
Ex14:15–15:1, Is 54:5–14, Ex 55:1–11
Ez 36:16–17a, 18–28
We have just heard the story of the myrrh-bearing women. They come to the tomb as new light is dawning. But their experience, at first, is anything but a new dawn. It is all negative; it is an experience of absence. Where is the body? The body of the Lord is not there. That is what they have come for. They have come to complete the work of burial. Their reaction is one of puzzlement, they don’t understand. Just as at the birth of the Jesus angels spoke to bewildered shepherds the good news of a birth, so now two angels announce the victory of God over death: “He is not here, he has been raised.” And this proclamation is followed immediately by the angels’ summons to remember. “Remember what he told you…”
In other gospels we hear the angels send the women back to the apostles with the good news of risen life and to tell the apostles to go back to Galilee to see Jesus there. But that is not what Luke would have us do. We don’t go to some familiar place to see Jesus. The angels send us back to memory. There Jesus lives and there we will hear what he has to say, not about the past but about where new life is now.
Our activity these past three days have been about memory or anamnesis. That is the goal and purpose of keeping Passover. On Thursday night we heard the Lord tell Moses that eating the Passover lamb each year was a memorial feast of when the Lord passed over the community, not killing them because the blood marked them as belonging to the Lord. The blood of the lamb became the symbol of life. Eating this meal each year would bring the saving act of that first lamb to bear on the present life of the community. We heard that Jesus took bread and shared it as his body and took a cup and said it was a new covenant in his blood. Each time he gave the command: “Do this in remembrance of me.” And so we take bread and a cup as his body and blood and keep his memory. The power of his body given up for us and his blood poured out as forgiveness is as real for us today as it was the day he gave the command to remember him this way.
The memory we are keeping these days is not just a repeat of some past action, it is a bringing the past forward to touch and change our lives today. We have not been on a walk done on memory lane these days. We are remembering because in these actions and words lie the meaning of our lives as our God has given it to us and worked it for us. At that same supper table of Passover, Jesus washed disciples’ feet. He became their servant. And the command: when you do the same to one another, you are connected to me and you will find your identity. When you lay down lives for one another, then I am not in a tomb waiting for burial rites, but am alive among you and my way is alive among you. I am indeed risen and visible. To remember the words and actions of Jesus is to know him now in the present and to bring him alive into our world and time.
Hopefully, this vigil our memories have awakened in story and in prophetic words and images. The creation story is not heard in nostalgia. Creation is happening now, we are there and creation is here: light is bursting out of darkness and the victory is that darkness cannot overcome it. Tonight, standing around the fire, we have captured, as it were, this primal light of creation and recognized it as the risen Christ. We carried him as the Passover candle and proclaimed victory and gathered around him in this light. We have remembered that he is light now in the midst of many a shadow of death that threatens so much of the human family in form of division, separation, violence, economic unbalance. We are people who are at the first dawn and see the light spreading gently and believe it can transform the world. Remembering that enables us to see and name light where others only name despair, brokenness, paralysis, blindness and death.
The women at the tomb were called to remember. Remember what he told you about himself, about the whole story of being handed over, crucified and then raised. Remember his words and with them remember the whole story. It is easy for us to cut short the words of Jesus, cut short his story. We are remembering tonight so that we will remain in his word and not cut out a word or cut short any of his story and his life. Jesus will be alive for us today and any day when we remember, when his word and life stand in front us as the new life, the new creation, a living hope. The faithful women were treating Jesus as over. Their challenge to us is precisely to see that Jesus is not over, not in the past, but living ahead of us.
Resurrection is the future. Remembrance, what looks at first sight like going into the past, is needed so that the future is grounded and rooted in the risen Lord who once lived among us but now is raised so that what he lived, we might live in our time: loving the stranger, speaking gently, taking a hand to lift up the weary, standing by those who have no voice, not being afraid of those who don’t like to hear about offering the other cheek, and lastly remaining faithful, like father Abraham, to the God of the covenant, in the face of all insecurities all alternatives that pull us away from the source of life.
You see, the transforming moment for the women, was no longer to be anointing the body of the dead. Their moment of transformation came, Luke says, in remembering Jesus’ words. In that moment of transformation brought about by memory/anamnesis, they became messengers of good news, like the two angels in the tomb. In their remembering, they allowed Jesus to be the interpreter of what was at first perplexing and incomprehensible.
What of us? Have our memories been awakened this Passover Triduum so that when we leave here, we will go out into a new way of life beyond imagining because Jesus’ words have transformed our hearts and made them Spirit filled? Will we allow Jesus to interpret our lives in all their moments, but especially those that seem a dead end? Our remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, his Passover, wants to work its way into our very self so that all we see and do are grounded in the power of a love that calls forth life, freedom, forgiveness and peace.
Christ is risen, alleluia! He is truly risen, alleluia!