Easter Vigil/Sunday

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March 30/31 2013

It only takes a cursory examination of the Easter Sunday morning narratives, to become aware that darkness played an important part in the events on that historic day. Light and dark are often mentioned in the gospels, particularly by St. John. Light is the sign of life and darkness is the sign of death. With the lifting of the darkness on the Easter morning, that was a change from the silence of the tomb into light and life.

Every time we experience the death of someone close, or in sudden circumstances, there is a emptiness, a void which is hard to fill. Rather it just had to be lived through, in the knowledge that eventually it too will come to an end. Mary and the other women decided to use the small window of opportunity that was open to them, to get on with the task of a dignified preparation of the body of Jesus for burial. Unfortunately they were unable to finish the task, as to their great surprise, they could not find the body.

It sometimes happens that the body cannot be found after a death and the grieving process cannot be completed. Here in Tasmania, after 20 years, there are still no answers to the disappearance of the German tourist, Nancy Grunwald, and that is a sad situation for her parents and family back in her homeland. The grieving of Mary and her companions was also incomplete, or so they thought.

For Mary, the search had to be completed, and so she sought the assistance of Peter and John. Only two days before, Peter had denied any knowledge of Jesus, and John was not always taken seriously because of his young age. But when the sun begins to rise, and the light reappears, John is the one who first believes that Jesus has actually risen, “as he said he would.”

It is possible at times that we too lose track of Jesus. Somehow we become absorbed by the issues of the day and the challenges of the moment, and the risk is that we can end up becoming Christians by memory only, with no energy or desire about us and the things we say. But the challenge is presented to us – to proclaim the message of the Good News.

We might ask the question what would have happened if Mary had remained silent, that she did not rush back into town to seek help and to get others to take up the search. It would have been a quite different outcome, very likely.

When we stop to think about the situation, they were not a very likely group of people, those to whom the first message of the Resurrection of Jesus had been entrusted.

Mary was said to have had a past; Peter, as I said,  had denied that he ever knew Jesus just two days earlier, John was thought to be too young to have any credibility, and Paul had been a persecutor of the followers of Jesus not very much earlier. If the story had been invented, it would not have begun in this way, relying on witnesses of this calibre.

The truth is that the love of the Father, the Father of Jesus, got to the tomb first, and reaching into the darkness that was found there, brought forth his Son Jesus back into life, into the company of his family and friends.

In his address earlier this week at his first General Audience, Pope Francis says that we have to learn from Jesus and to “go out of ourselves.” We have to break away from our routines, of putting our own interests first, and think more of others.

That was what Jesus did, through the gesture of the washing of the feet, the gift of His Body and Blood, and his readiness to submit to the circumstances that took him to his death. He was able, through the power of his Father, to break away from the shackles around him and we are called to do the same.

I pray that this Easter, no matter who we are, that we will take the opportunity to think about the deeper issues in life, and to again a sense of peace through the recalling and celebrating of the first Easter events, as we have done today and these past few days. This is unchangeable message of Easter which we hear again during this Easter Vigil.

The theme of baptism, as you know, is very significant within the understanding of Easter and in particular during the Easter Vigil. Tonight we are reminded of this because of the baptism which will take place in a few moment. It is our prayer that Yavin Anthony,  soon to be baptized, will also come to hear and to appreciate that same message of Easter as his life unfolds, and he becomes aware of the victory of God which has been   so much on our minds during these beautiful days of Holy Week.

We thank his parents for allowing us to have this special reminder, and we assure them also of our support and our welcome them as recent arrivals  in Australia from their country of origin, Sri Lanka.                                              

As is the custom on Easter Sunday, we have the opportunity to renew the vows that were made on the day of our baptism. That involves a renunciation of sin and a reaffirmation of our faith. It is a powerful gesture on our part to show our desire to “walk in the newness of life.” I invite you also to join in the ceremony of the renewal of our baptismal promises on this Easter Sunday.