Easter Vigil (Fr. Francis)
Holding our breath
ON THIS NIGHT, some 2,000 years ago, the world held its breath and waited. Down the centuries and through countless messengers, God had uttered promises to the chosen people of Israel. We heard many of these promises proclaimed in the readings tonight: the promise of goodness and holiness, the promise of rescue from the waters, the promise of redemption from slavery, the promise of deliverance from oppression, the promise of ransom, the promise of justice flowing like a river, the promise of mercy, the promise of peace, the promise of salvation from sin, and the promise of life abundant and eternal.
Tonight we gather to remember the moment when the embodiment of God’s most clear and perfect revelation, Jesus, had been executed by the state and lain in a grave. He had been assaulted by forces of oppression and cruelty and evil. And he suffered, died, and was buried. And now we are left to wonder, will the promises of the ages prove empty? Have our hopes been in vain?
WHAT HANGS IN THE BALANCE are life’s big questions. So much of our lives we spend focused on the details of our day: making a living, keeping a household running, meeting deadlines, chauffeuring the kids to various practices and games, watching our favorite TV shows, or pursuing our favorite hobbies. We know these ordinary daily activities can all hold deep meaning in their own right, but typically our lives travel along on the surface. Yet always, just beneath the surface, the big questions loom.
Tonight we gather together and gather our courage to face the big questions of our existence. In fact, we not only face them, we enter into them. We enter into the mysteries at the very heart of human life: “Why are we here? Why do we suffer? Is there a God? What is God like? What does God want from me? How can I find eternal life?”
We cannot take these questions head on. Instead we have to engage in ritual and story and myth. In typical paradox, which is the hallmark of all great religions, we hear Saint Paul ask us, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Into his death. And so in the past few days we have shared the Last Supper with Jesus. On our way toward eternal life, we have walked the way of the cross with him. We have been placed in the tomb with him. And now the promises of the ages are more than academic concepts. This is our life—my life and your life—that we’re talking about.
WILL THE PROMISES of the ages be fulfilled by our God? The grand story of salvation—from Creation, through the flood and the wandering in the desert and moments of our unfaithfulness as well as our moments of holiness, through Crucifixion, through Resurrection, and to this very moment of our lives—offers a clear and resounding answer to that question. And it is, “Yes!” “Yes!” “Yes!”
For Jesus, the one who was faithful even unto death, has been risen by the power of God on this very night. And so each one of us, including the new members of the church we welcome tonight, is called forth from our own situation—with our own blend of heroism and haplessness and our yearning as well as our resistance—to take up our part in this story of faith and salvation and the outpouring of love that overcomes all powers, even the power of death.
Wish you Happy Easter! Alleluia!
Fr. A. Francis HGN