Homily, Mass of the Easter Vigil Year ABC: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings:(1)Gen1:1–2:2; Ps 104:1-2,5-6,10-14,24,35or Ps 33:4-7,12-13,20-22;(2) Gen 22:1-18; Ps 16:5,8,9-11(3) Exod 14:15–15:1; Ps Exod 15:1-6,17-18;(4) Isa 54:5-14;Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13;(5) Isa55:1-11; Ps 12:2-3,4-6; (6) Bar 3:9-15,32–4:4; Ps 19:8-11; (7) Ezek 36:16-17a, 18-28;Ps[a] 42:3,5;43:3-4;[b] Isa 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6[c]Ps 51:12-13,14-15,18-19; (8) Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Gospel[a] Matt 28:1-10;[b]Mark 16:1-7;[c] Luke 24:1-12.
Year B: The Joy of our Newness in the Risen Christ!
Tonight is the Easter vigil. It is a long but joyful night of all nights, solemnity of all solemnities, divided into 4 parts of beautiful and meaningful celebrations. Part one celebrates Christ, as the light of the world, which we started with the blessing of the lights, crossing the Paschal Candle with the Greek Letter- Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end, and who by his glorious wounds on the cross guards and protects us, our children, parents, friends, homes and nations. Processing into the church in darkness we ended part one with the singing of that joyful song of “Exultet,” basically putting our salvation history into a joyful music!
Part two, builds on the theme of Exultet. It is that patient reading, praying the Psalms and listening to the Word of God, who is Christ himself. Traditionally, about nine readings from the Bible; 7 from the OT, and 2 from NT including Paul’s Letter to the Romans 6:3-11. In part three, we are reminded of the meaning of newness in Christ, our baptismal liturgy and promises, dying and rising with Christ at Easter. In part 4, everyone, including the new members are welcome to the table of the Eucharist, in gratitude for what God has done for us.
In the creation account of the 1st reading and the Psalms, we see a God of goodness, universalism, orderliness, love, the sovereign of all creation, plants, the seas, lights, lands, mountains, animals and human, male and female in his own image of love and kindness, mercy and forgives, joy, patience an charity(Gen1:1–2:2). The 2nd reading reminds us of the calling and the faith, the sacrifice of Abraham, especially the unconditional and loving covenant of blessings that God entered with him, after the fall of our first parents, the rivalries of Cain and Abel, and the tower of babel which ended with the flood of Noah. Even when he had his own trials, including long period of childlessness, when Isaac finally came, Abraham was willing to give back to the Lord, what the Lord had given him, in the first place.
Our lives belong to God. God is our inheritance, as the Psalmist would put it (Psalm 16). He watches over our going and coming, which is evident in the 3rd reading from the Book of Exodus (Exod 14:15–15:1). The enslaved and exiled Israelites, marched through the dry, land. They witnessed God’s miraculous liberation, through the Angel of the Lord with the instrumentality of the Moses, a great prophet and a strong leader.
While in exile in Babylon as a result of sin, God did abandon his people, the covenant he established his people, especially those who called upon his name. In the 4th reading Isaiah 54:5-14, God the reading comforts and pities his people. He promised them an everlasting new covenant in the 5th reading, Isaiah 55:1-11. And the 6th reading, Baruch, a friend of Jeremiah, insists on God’s blessing and freedom to Israel if they do not worship other gods, or give their glory to others, rather than to their Maker, the God of Israel. Also while in exile, Ezekiel like Jeremiah and Baruch promises Israel a new heart and a new spirit of joy, strength and rebuilding of that which was once destroyed, killed: the temple, and even their faith.
What these scriptural passages, and Israel’s prophets foretold has been fulfilled in Christ’s events, his paschal mysteries, particularly in his resurrection which we all witness tonight, just as Saint Paul had witnessed in Roman 6:3-11.
Christian baptism, 3rd part of this liturgy, symbolizes our death, burial and rising with Christ! At baptism we renounce our “old selves,” sins, Satan, darkness, becomes followers of Christ, members of the church, God’s children and live in newness of life. We also let go many things, especially bad habits, and grow into union and friendship with Christ. Speaking of this union Paul says, “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” In other words, those faithful witnesses which we bore to Christ Passion during the past Holy Week, the sacrifices we made, those penances, the Stations of the Cross we walked, the suffering we accepted patiently have resulted in our faithful witnesses to the joy of Christ’s resurrection tonight.
Like those women, on the first day of the week in today’s Gospel (Mark 16:1-7) we are witnessing tonight, this day, the joy and the glory of the empty tomb; the hope and life that the Risen Lord brings! We are witnessing young man sitting on the right side of the entrance of the tomb, clothed in white robe. The place where Jesus was laid is empty. The sign of the empty tomb is a sign of a new presence to which the Disciples of Christ must joyfully bear witness.
There are many things and "darknesses" we can shake off in our lives, in the spirit of Easter. These could be voting out corrupt government in our nations. Those that are not serving the interest of the people and disrespect the dignity of the human persons. Cutting off bad habits, denouncing selfishness, terrorism, laziness, bokoharamism, ISISism, war mongering, violent, faithlessness, sorrows, despair and sadness. May the transforming joy, divine blessings, and spiritual newness, of the Risen Lord reaches to our homes, schools, factories, offices, towns, villages, nations and places of work!