Homily for Holy Saturday Vigil, Year A 2014
Rather than offer the usual homily this evening, I have decided to punctuate the many readings this evening with short little reflections to help you through the readings. We will not be reading all the nine readings, but I hope the ones chosen will show us the pattern that the church wants us to observe this evening.
Our first reading is the creation story from Genesis. This created world is a world of movement, unfolding in constant change, and is very good. The words “very good” imply it is not yet perfect with a lot of space for improvement and reproduction. There is still room for the first humans to create as God does – music, science, art, theology and human reproduction itself.
Our second reading is the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis. What followed the creation story was the story of the first humans’ loss of innocence. There was human rebelliousness, but it showed God’s faithfulness and wish to reconcile. Humans create evil, but the story of our redemption is the story of God overcoming evil with goodness again. In the next story we get one step closer to God’s plan to overcome evil as God makes an agreement, a covenant with Abraham in which God blesses one nation in order to bring goodness to all nations. Notice that Abraham’s test end with God saying that by Abraham’s offspring “shall all nations of the earth gain blessings for themselves” because of Abraham’s obedience.
Our third reading is from Exodus and what happened after the Hebrews leave Egypt and Pharaoh changes his mind about their leaving. The Hebrews have been in captivity, and because of the covenant with Abraham, God doesn’t abandon them but takes an active part in their becoming free. God always gets involved with the poor and downtrodden in society. God has been quite patient with Pharaoh but shows that he will not put up with injustice, and with ever increasing intensity things happen that change Pharaoh’s mind, however briefly. When he last changes his mind and chases after the Hebrews, God intervenes through Moses and his staff, and destroys the oppressor.
Our fourth reading is from the Prophets – specifically from Ezekiel. Immediately after the Hebrews are set free, they constantly forget God, however, and the liberation that God wants changes to personal liberations. The prophets come about as spokespersons for God who is trying to bring about this human, spiritual liberation. The prophets warn people that they are on the wrong track, the challenge the people to do better, the predict an age to come that will be God-centered. It is a dream of a kingdom of peace brought about by a descendant of Abraham, a savior, a messiah. As we read Ezekiel notice the progression of his vision from the Hebrew’s defiling the covenant, to God’s wanting to show that God’s name is about the true nature of reconciliation and love, and God gives a vision of what the new peaceful world will be like – clean, pure, caring (hearts of flesh, he calls that!) and full of the spirit. In his plan, all of this will be accomplished by his Son.
Our fifth reading is from St. Paul to the Romans. In the progression we have been following tonight, we see that Paul wants to show Jesus as the conclusion of this movement to reconciliation with God and to this new kingdom of peace, the kingdom of heaven. The event is the death and resurrection of Jesus of which we are all a part of through our baptism. We have now received the promise of the covenant with Abraham and we have been liberated. We are free to live for God through Christ, dead only to sin, and inheritors of the promised kingdom.
Our Gospel reading is from Matthew. It is the story of the women who first find out about the resurrection – again, interesting, that it is first made known to a woman, just as in John a few weeks ago, a Samaritan woman was the first to find out from Jesus that he was the Messiah. The short scene ends with he words: “Do not be afraid”. Indeed we have no longer to be afraid for we are in the new Eden and it is all “very good”.
Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]
Tags: Introduction to readings