Homily for Easter Vigil Year C. 20-04-2019 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
Old Testament Readings and Psalms: Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26, Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 and Psalm 46, Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16, Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18, Isaiah 55:1-11 and Isaiah 12:2-6, Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 and Psalm 19, Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalm 42, 43, Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143, Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 98
New Testament Reading and Psalm: Romans 6:3-11 and Psalm 118:1-2 15c-17 22-23
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, this night we celebrate the greatest Christian mystery, the hope on which hangs the entirety of the gospel of Christ – that is, the resurrection of the dead. That is why tonight’s celebration as the memorial of the holy night of Christ’s resurrection is called “the mother of all holy vigils” because we await the Lord’s resurrection. This night of the Lord’s resurrection signaling our final deliverance from sin, was long foreshadowed in the lives of God’s people as we hear from the readings. For the Jews, there are three nights which all point to and culminate in this night of Christ’s resurrection, making it four most important nights in their lives that show the depth of God’s love for His people as demonstrated in His saving acts towards them.
The first most important night in the life of a Jew is what is captured succinctly in our first reading, the night of God’s creation when God willing our salvation brought forth creation out of nothingness, bringing light into a darkened world. The second, is again contained in our second reading, the night when Abraham our father in faith whom God chose offered his only son Isaac to God just the same way God would sacrifice His only begotten Son Jesus for our salvation. And the third most important night in the life of any Jew is yet again found in our third reading tonight, and that is the night of the first Passover which occasioned the Exodus of Israel from Egypt when God delivered them from the land of slavery to lead them through Moses to their own land of freedom, the Promised Land. And just as Moses led the people in the darkness of the desert sustained by the Pillar of Fire, so too, Christ as our pillar of fire will show us the way to the true Promised Land, which is heaven. While the fourth and the last most important night in the life of any Jew is the night when the Promised Messiah, Christ, shall come to deliver His people from bondage and set them free from their enemies who dominate them. This is what we have in our gospel reading tonight, recounting the story of the resurrection of Christ our light symbolized by the paschal candle, who by His resurrection has brought light into our darkened world. This mystery we celebrate tonight commemorates Christ’s victory over sin and death when He finally delivers us not just from physical slavery but most importantly from the spiritual slavery of sin and sets us free by destroying even our greatest enemy, death. No doubt this is the completion of the salvific work of God begun at creation which was pointing to the salvation that Christ would bring by His death and resurrection.
As we may well know, Christianity as a whole stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. St. Paul clearly emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 - “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” And he continues in the same chapter from verses 16-18 “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” So in the resurrection of Christ, death is swallowed up in victory. As such, we can ask together with St. Paul tonight, ‘Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)’. That is why tonight we shout and sing Alleluia, because by the death and resurrection of Christ, He has conquered sin and death, and we all who believe in Him have a sure hope in the resurrection of our bodies after we die. This truth is affirmed by Tertullian, who also attests that: ‘the Christian hope is the resurrection of the dead; we are what we are because we believe in the resurrection.’
Therefore, what we celebrate tonight is a feast of the Lord who has triumphed over death, but also it is a feast for us who shall triumph over death at the end of our earthly course. So it is not enough to accept that God exists without believing that He sent His Son to come and save us from our sins. And it is not enough to believe that God sent His Son Jesus Christ and He was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, without believing that this Son of His later died and was buried. And it is not enough to believe that yes, Jesus carried the cross, died and was buried, without believing that He also rose from the dead. For what marks out the Christian from others is this certainty that Christ is risen, and that He has transformed our own death into a new birth. This is what baptism achieves in us as St. Paul recounts in Romans 6:4 that “we were indeed buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” By this the Christian is invited to die to sin and to the ‘former man’ and be reborn into a new life in God, so that baptism as the day of our resurrection should also be the beginning of a totally new moral way of life for us. The transition from the works of flesh: “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, dissensions” to the works of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:19-23). As we celebrate with outbursts of joy the resurrection of the Lord tonight as an Easter people, let us pray and ask the Lord to transform us to become a true alleluia people who would praise Him not just with our lips but most importantly with our lives by making us die to ourselves, especially to sin so that we can share the new life of Christ leading Godly lives according to the works of the Spirit. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.