Homily: Easter Vigil, 2016

Sacred Heart Cathedral
26th March, 2016

During the first part of this solemn liturgy of the Easter Vigil, we listened to the story of God's dealings with his chosen people, taken from some of the books of the Old Testament. It is a story born out of a people's experience of God who is both Creator and Saviour. The recurring theme is the incredible love and goodness of the Lord who gives life to his people and who is abidingly faithful to his promises. Then we heard the prophet, Isaiah clearly foretell “See now, he is the God of my Salvation.”

On the first Easter Sunday morning, St Luke describes the women making their lonely and grief-stricken way to the tomb. They had undoubtedly heard read in their synagogues the words from the Old Testament that we have listened to tonight - perhaps they had even heard Jesus himself preach on them. But these readings would have been far from their minds and hearts as they struggled to make sense of the apparently meaningless death of the one who most embodied the creative, wise and saving love of God.

The stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb in many ways symbolise the ‘stone’ which impedes their vision that weighs down their hearts and indeed at times ours. It symbolises those obstacles that can and frequently do, restrict our ability to understand, to believe in and accept God's offer of love and life. Yet here in the empty tomb, is where God is seen at his most loving. The tragedy, injustice and pain of Good Friday are transformed into the hope, joy and healing of Easter Sunday.

When we celebrate Easter, we are celebrating the fact that Christ is alive in our lives, that he is a living person for us, and that his life is experienced and revealed in many and various ways in our own lives. Through our Easter faith we believe that there is a real meaning to life, a vitality to every day, a purpose to those efforts of loving which can tire our hearts and distress our spirit and make us feel lonely and empty as Christ did at times during his life and especially during his Passion. We believe that the meaning and purpose of life is that we are called to love - to love God with all our heart mind and soul, and to love one another as he has first loved us.

So in what ways might we experience that he is a living and loving Lord for us? We will know that Easter is real, that he is alive, when with his help, we make our own lives sources of light and life for others; when our words heal and encourage; when our hearts become more alive with compassion; when we stand firm for the value of life itself in all its aspects.

Easter is not real just because it is proclaimed in the liturgy: it becomes real when people are healed, consoled and strengthened by the life-giving Christian love we show to a brother or sister. Easter is real when we become "sacraments" of the presence of the risen Christ, the light of the world, and of the values which he taught during his life on earth.

When we renew our baptismal promises again in tonight's liturgy, we are given the opportunity to commit ourselves afresh to following in the footsteps of the Risen Lord - personally, as a community of faith, and as God’s family.

In practice that means that we must, with God’s help, persevere in our efforts to die to sin and to live for God in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. He challenges us to give expression to our new life not just in church or on special occasions; but in our homes, our neighbourhoods and in society, every day of our lives. In this way, our faith comes alive and we live the 'truth' of today's Easter feast. I wish you all the blessings of our loving Lord and God, as He is risen, Alleluia!