April 5, 2012 - The Resurrection of the Lord, Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

Today's Readings

Tonight I bring you a message of great joy, the message of Alleluia. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Crucified is risen. Indeed, he is risen. Alleluia. He was and is and always will be God, the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father. In the fullness of time, he descended to earth and took the form of a man, becoming fully human and like us in all things but sin.

He was wounded for our offenses, scourged for our iniquities, crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. He descended to the place where our first parents and all humanity were held prisoner because of sin. He broke down the gates. He was able to die because he was human, but, because he was God, he was able, on his own authority, to call forth all sleeping humanity to enter into his joy.

We wait here in vigil with Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James. We wait here in vigil with all the angels of heaven who saw what was done to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on the cross, and are waiting in anticipation of what God will do next. We wait here in vigil. And we feel the earth quake. And we see the flash like lightning. And we hear the stone rolled away.

And then the message. Be not afraid. You are looking for Jesus, but you are looking in the wrong place. Why do you seek the living among the dead? You are at a tomb, the abode of the dead, but the one you seek is alive. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Did you not listen to his words? Did not believe that he would be raised?

Do not call this incredible. Do not say that this is unbelievable. You are seeking him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What is more credible than that the Truth Himself spoke truly? What is more believable than that He Who is Life is alive?

Doubt no longer. Come and see the place where he lay. Come and look, but do not linger. Be amazed but not immobile. First come to where he is not, but then go quickly and tell his disciples. Tell his disciples nothing less than the truth. Tell his disciples that he has been raised from the dead. Go quickly and tell his disciples, because he has been raised from the dead and is fully alive, not like a weak man healing from injury nor like a sluggish sleeper rolling out of bed. He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee.

Hurry, let us catch up to him. He has gone before us and is waiting for us. This is no time to pause among the dead; this is no time to stop and smell roses. This is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation.

Let us join that long line which marches in procession behind Christ. Let us join Abraham, our father in faith, who by faith was able to march with his son up the mountain, who had such faith in God’s promise that through Isaac he would have many offspring that he feared not to raise the knife against his son whom he loved, believing that God was able even to raise him from the dead.

Let us join Moses and all the Israelites who marched even through the midst of the waters which were like a wall to their left and to their right. Fearsome waters which drowned Pharaoh and all his soldiers. Waters which are a symbol of our baptism, when, chased by the enemy we went through the water and the enemy was drowned.

Let us join Isaiah and Jeremiah and Baruch and Ezekiel and all the prophets who feared not even to march into their towns and proclaim that the Lord was unhappy, that the Lord would punish. Prophets who spoke even when thrown to the bottom of a cistern. Prophets who spoke even until death at the hands of those whom they were trying to save.

Let us join with Mary the Mother of God, with Peter, who denied Jesus but returned, and Paul, who persecuted Christians but eventually spared himself no suffering in the name of the Gospel, with Mary Magdalene the apostle to the apostles, who proclaimed the good news to those who would evangelize the world, and with all the saints who throughout the ages have formed a glorious procession marching toward their Lord.

Let us join with them and not delay. Let nothing of this earth prevent us from giving our whole hearts to the kingdom and reign of our Lord and God. He has been patient and has waited even until now for our whole heart, for our whole life, for our very selves and nothing less.

He has been patient, but his patience will not last forever. It cannot. We are living in the last age of the world. Death has been conquered. There is nothing left except that the invisible should be made visible. We are waiting but for one thing. We are waiting for Christ to appear.

Here we gather at this vigil, the greatest of all vigils, the vigil from which other vigils take their name. We are waiting figuratively with Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of James for the Resurrection. We wait only figuratively because the Resurrection has already occurred.

However, we also wait in reality for Jesus to come again. Some night will be the world’s last night. And we wait tonight both as a symbol and in reality. We wait as a symbol of how we hope to be waiting on that night: vigilant, with lamps lit. We wait because tonight may very well be the world’s last night.

We hold vigil tonight in imitation of how we will live in heaven. The whole church is gathered together tonight throughout the world. Waiting for God to come and make a new heaven and new earth. And if tonight is not the world’s last night, if we wake tomorrow to sunrise and not angels trumpeting, we will continue our lives which are themselves a vigil.

The life of a Christian in this world is a life of expectation. The life of a Christian in this world is a life of hope. The life of a Christian in this world is a life preparing for the next world. We have a trip ahead of us. We have spent Lent packing. We opened our luggage, that is, we opened our hearts and looked inside, taking out those things which would never make it past the TSA screeners, taking out also what is merely useless junk taking up space, dead weight slowing us down, and putting in all and only the items which are necessary for this journey: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Faith, Hope, and Love. We have packed this bag and stand tonight here waiting for the flight to arrive.

However, do not be mistaken. The waiting of this life is not really like waiting for an airplane, simply sitting. Nor is it like the waiting of an expectant father (at least as portrayed in old television shows), pacing back and forth across a room. This waiting is the very active waiting of a woman in labor. This waiting is the waiting of a runner in a marathon who is waiting for the finish line.

So today we remember and rejoice that Christ has died and rose from the dead. Today we remember and rejoice that we have died with him in baptism and we shall also live with him. Today we and recommit to die to sin and live for Christ in every moment until we reach the finish line, until the mystery of our faith is perfectly accomplished: Dying you destroyed our Death, Rising you restored our Life, Lord Jesus Come in Glory!