Year C: Easter Vigil 2016 Armidale
In the Northern Hemisphere where the first Christians lived it is now spring, so our Northern brothers and sisters in faith are celebrating Easter in spring time. Spring is a season of hope in which light and life return after their winter absence. In spring the days start getting longer and we can enjoy more daylight hours. I for one love it when the sun gets up in the morning before I do! And in spring life returns to the countryside as the trees that seemed dead through the winter begin to grow green leaves and sprout beautiful blossoms.
Yes, spring is the season of hope. It’s no accident that many couples choose to get married in spring! Throughout the centuries many people have commented that spring is the perfect time to celebrate Easter, for the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead is the source of our hope. In his resurrection life triumphs over death and light triumphs over darkness.
But in the Southern Hemisphere we celebrate Easter in autumn. What might this mean for us? Well, at the moment our days are getting shorter so we see the darkness triumphing over the light. And whilst autumn provides us in Armidale with a fabulous explosion of colour in the autumn leaves this will only be short-lived, for the trees are actually losing their leaves and will soon seem dead. So in autumn it seems that death triumphs over life!
I think it’s actually very fitting that we are celebrating Easter at this time of year. We live in a world and a society where darkness and death seem to be triumphant. Internationally we see the violent hatred of terrorism, the persecution, even genocide, of Christians, and the plight of millions of refugees. In our own country we notice the public vitriol heaped upon those who speak for Christian moral values. And within the hearts and souls of many the temptation to gloom and despair seems strong. When faith and hope are lacking people tend to close themselves off from God and from each other and seek their joy in mere worldly treats which leave us ultimately unfulfilled. It’s as if our world was living through a long autumn or a long winter where light and life just can’t seem to break through.
But in the midst of this long winter Jesus Christ does break through to us bringing us light and life. On the morning of the resurrection the women and the Apostles coming to Jesus’ tomb could not have been gloomier! They had decided to centre their entire lives on Jesus and now he was dead and buried. Everything they had believed and hoped about him all now seems false. All their plans and their entire future has been thrown into chaos. But into this darkness comes a shining light and a bolt of hope like lightening. This light and this hope is Jesus Christ risen from the dead, for the one they thought dead has defeated death and is actually alive, he has risen from the dead as he said he would.
Perhaps we are so used to hearing the Easter Proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection that we are no longer surprised by it! So I think it’s good to transport ourselves back in time and in our imagination watch the reaction of the women and the Apostles as they first realise that Jesus has really and truly risen from the dead. How I would love to have seen their eyes light up, their whole expression change, and their shoulders lift from slumping as life, light, and hope returned to their hearts and souls.
Just as the risen Lord burst into the darkness of their lives, so too he bursts into the darkness of our own lives to bring hope, joy, peace, light, and life. We are recipients of these gifts not only as witnesses or believers in Jesus’ resurrection but as actual participants in it! That’s right, we too have risen from the dead with Jesus Christ and we did this when we were baptised.
We are privileged tonight to witness the baptism of Edward Ryan who will be introduced to you in a moment. The connection between baptism and the Lord’s resurrection was spoken of by Saint Paul tonight in his letter to the Romans: “When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death …we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead we too might live a new life. If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. … (So) you must consider yourself dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.” (Explain)
This is why we make a big deal of baptism at Easter time. After Edward’s baptism you will all be asked to renew your own baptismal promises and you will be sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of your baptism. Whatever darkness exists in me, whatever struggles, difficulties, concerns, and sins afflict my daily life, I open them all today to the healing light of the risen Jesus and to the cleansing waters of my baptism.