Readings: Genesis 1.1-2.2; Genesis 22.1-18; Exodus 14.15-41,15.20; Isaiah 54.5-14; Isaiah 55.1-11; Baruch 3.9-15,32-4.4; Ezekiel 36.16-17a,18-28; Romans 6.3-11; Mark 16.1-8 (See the readings at usccb.org)
Song referred to in this homily: Because He Lives by Matt Maher
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve heard a decent amount of Scripture tonight! At times it might have seemed a bit boring… is this ever going to end??… We’re waiting… come on, get to the end of the readings… Ohmygoodness, there’s another one?? Get to the good part! Get to Jesus rising from the dead! Let’s go! If you thought that at any point during the past 45 minutes or so: Good! That’s part of why we do this, partly why we have such a solemn vigil with so many readings from the history of salvation: because we as a people have waited for so long for our redemption.
God’s plan for us is not like microwave popcorn — hit some buttons, wait 2 minutes and 40 seconds, and then: Done! God’s plan for us has been more like a crockpot. Waiting and waiting. Wondering if it’s ever going to be finished. But the end result is the best thing ever, more than we could have ever imagined.
So tonight we heard God’s plan that was enacted over centuries and over millennia. We heard that story of creation, how God created the universe, the earth, everything in it over a period of time (science tells us, over billions of years! Hopefully the readings tonight didn’t seem quite that long!). We heard how harmonious creation was, how perfect God’s intention was for us: made in his own image, in perfect relationship with everything. But we also know the sad story, that humanity fell. We sinned. We rejected God. So God acted to rescue us from ourselves.
He chose a special people, born from Abraham. We heard the story of how God foreshadowed our salvation through Abraham. Whereas Abraham was ultimately not required to give up his son, his only son Isaac, who carried the wood for the sacrifice, on Good Friday we heard the opposite. We heard how God the Father did give up his Son, his only Son, who carried the wood for his sacrifice.
Then we heard about how God saved his special people from slavery in Egypt. They passed through the waters of the Red Sea, after centuries of waiting!
We heard several of the prophets who wrote down the words of God during the time of yet another horrifying defeat for the people. Nearly 6 centuries before Christ, Jerusalem was sacked; the Temple, the house of God was destroyed; and many of the people were taken captive. In the midst of that calamity, God spoke powerful words of comfort. So we heard from the books of Isaiah and Baruch and Ezekiel. We heard tremendous promises of hope, as the people waited for God to rescue them. Imagine how this would have sounded to a people who were waiting, who were suffering the loss of everything; and imagine these words being spoken to you:
“I am about to set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. … In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear.”
“Incline your ear, and come to me; listen so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant.”
“Hear the commandments of life, O Israel; give ear and learn wisdom!”
“I am about to act. … I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you to your own land.”
My fellow Christians: What I proclaim to you this evening is what St. Paul proclaims to you, what the empty tomb shouts out in its deafening silence: Our long wait for redemption has been fulfilled!
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him!” And, “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him!”
We are now living in a world where death is not the end! Jesus, God in the flesh, has risen from the dead.
We are now living in a world where sin does not have the final say! Jesus, God in the flesh, has borne the weight of our sins on the Cross and he’s emerged victorious to offer us unfathomable mercy.
We are now living in a world where God has chosen to dwell, not just among but in his people for all eternity. And we are that people!
Our lives now have hope and direction because Jesus lives. The tomb is empty. “He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him.”
This is the Good News! We can be filled with life because Jesus has won for us his life. We can share in the glory of his resurrection and have our sins forgiven and walk with him to eternal life, where there is no weeping, no mourning, no pain, no darkness, but endless, jubilant Light.
Isn’t that worth the wait? I should say so!
Tonight we have the wonderful opportunity to recommit ourselves to following Jesus, risen from the dead. We have the opportunity to renew our sharing in his resurrection through the solemn vows of our baptism. We have the opportunity to once again make a conscious choice to reject sin and to choose to live in the freedom of the children of God. May we take this opportunity seriously, and truly recommit our lives to Jesus.
I’ll close with some words from a new song by Catholic musician Matt Maher:
“Amen! Amen! I’m alive; I’m alive because he lives! …
Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because he lives, every fear is gone.
I know my life, my future is in his hands.
Amen! Amen! I’m alive; I’m alive because he lives!“
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