HOMILY FOR THE EASTER VIGIL, YEAR B 2015

HOMILY FOR THE EASTER VIGIL, YEAR B 2015

It is not hard to see the both the importance and the beauty of this evening’s ceremony. in some ays it is the most rich and the most beautiful of all the liturgies in the Catholic Church. All our senses get involved in the service, and the symbols reflect that sensuality: images of light and darkness, reflected in the fact that we enter church in darkness and gradually the light of Christ in the Easter candle spreads throughout the church. Incense can add the sense of smell, or the burning wood as we prepare the Easter fire. Our sense of touch is involved as we hold the candles and become ourselves light for the world. Our hearing is enriched by the glorious song of the Exulted, the psalms and the many readings that take on on the journey through time from Creation, through the Exodus, through the Prophets and into the fulfillment that is Christ Jesus. And we conclude by tasting our Lord in wine and bread as we become one with him in his Resurrection.

We use also the symbol of water, remembering our baptismal rite and we are doused again in the waters of baptism, remembering the journey through the Red Sea to salvation and liberation.

In our poster this Lent that invited people to our Holy Week services we asked you to come and spend a Liberating week with us, and so i would like to say a few words about liberation as well.

This week we have seen that through the death of Jesus we have been liberated, freed from our sinfulness by a gift so generous and amazing that it is hard to believe. God so loved us that he gave his only Son. He didn’t have to do it, he didn’t have to do it this way. But he did. He loved us so much that he took away our slavery to sin and opened the gates of the kingdom for us. St. Paul explains this evening that “we have been buried with [Christ] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, … we too might walk in the newness of life.” This is our liberation – that “we might no longer be enslaved to sin… death no longer has dominion…”  The sheer enormity of this event, this act of liberation sometimes fades into something we take for granted, but each year on this night, we hopefully get some sense of the awe that that should inspire in us, the hope it should generate, and make us feel that love that generated such a response from God.

St. Mark’a Gospel, unlike the other Gospels, ends the Easter event with the women fleeing from the empty tomb in amazement and terror – and in fear  They had not yet understood what had happened, they could not yet feel the liberation they were soon to feel. But they did feel! Awe and amazement are striking emotions! The event of he Resurrection had not yet come clear to them and in their fear they did not know what to do, so they did nothing.

I think that for many of us, the implications of the Resurrection create the same response in us. because we have not truly felt or understood the enormity of this event, we do nothing – it doesn’t affect us in any way. We so need to meditate on this event, and to discover along with the travelers to Emmaus, the apostles as they came to slow realization, St. Paul as he saw the light and countless Christians who changed their lives because they finally understood the enormity of this liberation.

I pray this evening that all of our parishioners, those here present and those not with us, come to feel and know the enormity of God’s love, and the amazing richness of the gift God has given us, so that we can have a private Easter in our own lives, and come to God with awe and thanksgiving. Our secular culture has made Easter a bunny rabbit day and a coming of Spring celebration rite, and are so missing the point of the liberation. I was so saddened when I googled Easter images on line to see if i could find some pictures to use, and all i got were flowers, rabbits and eggs. No sign of Jesus at all. How sad.

Let us definitely put Christ back into the Easter of our lives, see the movement through history to this remarkable day, and come to it with great gratitude for our liberation from sin and death. And a truly enlightened Easter to all of you!

This is the tremendous Good News of liberation we bring you tonight!

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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