Easter Vigil – Homily

Easter Vigil Year A
Genesis 1:1-2:2
Genesis 22:1-18
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Isaiah 55:1-11
Romans 6:3-11
Mark 16:1-7
March 30, 2024

Tonight’s liturgy is the highest liturgy of the year.  To understand the meaning of tonight’s liturgy, we must understand the symbols and rituals of this most solemn liturgy.

We started outside in the darkness.  The darkness points us back to the beginning, the beginning spoken of in the opening verse of tonight’s first reading.  “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss.” 

A formless wasteland…there were no buildings, no people, nothing we see on earth today existed.  Everything was in darkness.  Imagine standing in complete darkness.

Then God set about creation.  The first thing He created was “light.”  Our Easter fire brought light to the darkness.  From the Easter fire, we lit the Paschal Candle.

The Paschal Candle is not simply a candle with decorations on it.  The candle itself is an image of Christ, who is the light of the world.  On the candle are symbols. 

The most recognizable symbol is the Cross, the instrument the Lord used for our salvation. 

On the Paschal Candle there are the Greek characters Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  Three times in the Book of Revelation, the Lord refers to himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:13).   The Lord is the beginning and the end.  The beginning as our creator.  The end as Jesus is our Savior as we look to spend eternity with God.

On the Paschal Candle we also find the numbers for the present year, 2024.  Here we should think about how we count our years, from the birth of Jesus.  Time itself is marked by God.

As we enter into the church, our individual candles were lit from the flame of the Paschal Candle, reminding us of how we receive the Light of Christ in our Baptism.

Then the Exsultet is sung and readings from the Bible are proclaimed.  These tell the story of Salvation History, the history of God’s relationship with his people.

The first reading is the story of creation as told in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.  We need to understand the purpose of this story. 

It is not meant to provide a scientific explanation of creation.  It is not meant to answer “how” God created.  This creation story provides meaning to creation.  The question of “meaning” is far more important than the question “how.”

Remember, “the earth was a formless wasteland.”  This reading tells how God brought “divine order” to creation.  The Big Bang Theory talks about how creation happened and how the universe continues to expand. 

The Big Bang Theory does not answer two questions.  First, it does not put a cause to the first moment of the “big bang.”  Secondly, it leaves the order we see in creation to chance.  Why is there light?  Why are there different types of plants and animals?  Why are there two, and only, genders? 

It is the Divine Order that God established in the world.

Our second reading is the story of Abraham sacrificing his Son.  I’ll offer two points here.  First, Abraham was willing to do whatever God asked of him.  Are you?

Secondly, do you see Jesus Christ in what happens in this reading?

God tells Abraham to offer Isaac up “as a holocaust.”  Three thousand years later, God will offer his son Jesus for us.

Isaac carried the wood that would be used for the sacrifice.  Jesus will carry the wood of the Cross upon which He is sacrificed.

Isaac does not resist.  Jesus is obedient, even to the point of his death on a Cross.

When Isaac asked his father Abraham, “where is the sheep for the holocaust?” Abraham responded, “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.

Indeed He will.  God will provide his own Son as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God stops Abraham before he sacrifices Isaac.  When the appointed hour arrives, God will offer his Son as the sacrifice for our sins.

Thank you Jesus!

Then, we turn to the story of the Exodus.  The parting of the Red Sea as the Israelites head to the promised land prefigures our beginning towards eternal life in the waters of Baptism.

The angel of God led them on their way.  Do we let God lead us?

When the Egyptians came after the Israelites, God stood between them as He fought for his people.  That day God saved them from the Egyptians.  Jesus saves us from our sins.

Isaiah speaks of the spiritual waters for those who are thirsty.  Are you seeking the living waters of the Holy Spirit that are God’s free gift to us?

We are to “seek the LORD while he may be found.”  This can mean changing our ways.  As things are, God’s ways are far above our earthly ways.  His thoughts are above our thoughts.  Are you willing to die to the things of this world, to be baptized into the death of Jesus so that you “might live in newness of life”?

Jesus came and did mighty deeds. 

He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it

Jesus was then crucified.  Oh, the agony.  He was beaten, mocked, and scourged before being hung on the Cross.

Why?  To save us.

Yet, seen only in human terms, his Crucifixion seemed like a defeat. 

It was not.

On the first day of the week,” the women went to the tomb.  Because of the Passover, Jesus had been laid in the tomb in a hurry.  They went to give him the proper burial rituals (we should do the same for everyone who dies today, see “Funerals, Mass Intentions, and Purgatory”). 

They found the tomb empty. 

This is good news.  No, it is great news!  Jesus Christ is Risen.  He was not defeated on the Cross.  In fact, his death on the Cross was a victory, victory over sin and death.   

Earthly death is not an end.  It is a new beginning for those who hand themselves over to Christ.  Are you willing to hand your whole life over to Christ?

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