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Bishop's Homily for Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday

March 31, 2024

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa]

The Saturday after Jesus died was, as the seventh day, a day of rest.  But there were different ways of observing it in different places.

 There was a fever pitch of rejoicing in hell!  The demons relished their victory.  They had convinced many people that good was bad and bad was good.  They laughed at the disciples of Jesus who said they were so faithful, yet abandoned, denied, and even betrayed him.  They delighted in Pontius Pilate, who knew the truth but did not want to be bothered any more with those pesty people, so he washed his hands, thinking he could wash the blood off of them with water.  Sweet!  The demons who had often been so insulted by Jesus when he ordered them to leave people they enjoyed being with, were beside themselves because God himself had been put to death.  How delicious was that?!

 Then there were those on earth who experienced that Saturday in a variety of ways.  Some also rejoiced that the one who dared to confront them and call them hypocrites was finally silenced forever.  Some who simply could not accept the radical things he said and left his company, sadly shook their heads, not surprised that he got what was coming to him.  Others truly mourned and grieved, not only because someone they loved so dearly was gone, but because their own hopes for the future were dashed with his death.  They thought he was the Messiah, but it was obvious he could not even save himself.  Some felt guilty about the way they had abandoned him and shame for their own lack of courage.  For most, however, it was just another Saturday, like any other, a day of rest after a week of hard work.

Heaven, on the other hand, was atwitter like people giddily gathered to await the guest of honor for a surprise party.  They could hardly wait until the next day.  They wondered which of them would be chosen to go down and roll away the huge stone from the tomb, and which of them would be selected to sit in the tomb and surprise the world with the most unbelievable news, that Jesus had risen from the dead.  They all wanted to see the expressions on people’s faces when the one who was so brutally slain on the cross was standing right there in their midst, more alive than he had ever been.

 Then came that first day of the week, on which God first said, “Let there be light!”  And there was light -- so bright that no darkness could ever overcome it!  God had recreated the world by raising his only begotten Son from the dead.  He made all things new in the Alpha and Omega of our faith, the beginning and the end of our story, the Lamb once slain who lives forever.  In one glorious moment in time, God not only rolled a stone away from a tomb, but he opened for us the Garden of Eden, that Paradise from which we had been exiled.  Long before, Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking they needed to eat a particular fruit or do some other thing to be like God, when all the while they were already like God, made in God’s own image and likeness.  They ate the forbidden fruit, but God in his mercy locked away the most precious tree, the tree of life, because he could not bear the man and the woman living forever without knowing who they truly were.  But on that Sunday, God rolled away the stone to Paradise, led us to the cross, the true tree of life, and let us eat the fruit of that tree had borne, the Body and Blood of Jesus himself, so that we could live forever.

 Centuries later, there is still some rejoicing in hell, because we people simply forget who we are.  We continue to call good evil and evil good is so many ways.  We continue to betray each other in the pettiness of gossip or in the horror of war.  We continue to deny the truth, because it is more convenient to do so.  There is still indifference on earth; still grief because some think Jesus is no longer with us; still despair when we forget who we are.

 But now, heaven is wedded to earth forever.  Strengthened by the prayers of the angels and saints, we dare to renounce Satan, and all his works and all his empty promises.  Even in our doubting weakness, we dare to profess our firm faith in the God who is love.  We dare to claim that we are soaked forever in the very name of the God in whose image and likeness we were made, baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  We are bold enough to believe that a little anointing with Chrism can set us on fire with such love that the Holy Spirit sustains that fire forever.  And we dare to climb the tree of life, knowing that it is often painful, but believing that there we can feast on its fruit and live forever.

 Jesus is still with us.  And though there are those who wish to bring darkness back into our lives, we know that this Lamb, who sacrificed himself for us, lives forever, and wants to live in us.  No matter what may come, no matter how difficult our crosses, it is always our duty and our salvation to bring light to the world by singing day after day, and year after year, always and everywhere, “Alleluia!”