HE HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD!

PASCHAL VIGIL: HOMILY


Christ Our Risen Savior

JESUS, THE CRUCIFIED IS NOT HERE, … HE HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD! This announcement met at first with mingled fear and joy on the part of the women to whom it was directed. The message seemed too good to be true, and contact with a heavenly messenger, overwhelming in his power and purity, inspired them with as much dread as joy. Shortly after, when they meet Jesus, the first thing he says to them is "do not be afraid". The Lord wants his resurrection to be an occasion of joy and hope for those who put their faith in him.

That is his message to us tonight as well. Easter is indeed a feast of joy for all who believe that our Lord, who had died on the cross to win us for the Father, now lives in glory. Having risen from the dead, he will die no more; he lives eternally. This is the central truth of our faith; it is on the foundation of the resurrection of our Lord that all the truths of our belief depend. The very structure of all four Gospels is determined by this conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God and has risen from the dead. A German exeget has put the case very forcibly in a study of the Easter Gospels.

There is no presentation of the way of Jesus that would not have been conceived from the point of view of his perfection, of the resurrection and glorification of the one who was put to death. There exists no transmission of the prophetic preaching of Jesus that prescinds from his Messianic dignity and its disclosure in the closing events. The case is that through many cross references and extensive bonds throughout, a firm structure is established in which the resurrection is the key stone (Heinrich Kahlfeld, Die Oster-Evangelien, in Paschatis Solemnia, ed. B. Fischer and J. Wagner, Basel 1959, p. 23).

The whole of the New Testament, not only in its content but in its very presuppositions and structure, witnesses to the belief of the apostolic Church in the resurrection of Jesus. In the Gospel just announced to us we are present at the very moment when this conviction of faith arose in the heart and mind of Jesus' disciples. Hearing this message we ourselves are invited to put our faith in this truth and to allow it to penetrate into the depths of our spirit. Our faith in this mystery is more than assent to a truth that we admit with the mind. Belief in the resurrection must become the motive force in our lives, leading us to fashion our values and actions in keeping with the perspectives it opens for us. Once we allow it to touch the hidden recesses of our mind and heart, it inevitably challenges our whole manner of thinking and feeling about ourselves and the surrounding realities of life. It requires a lifetime of inner work to align our habits of mind and our actions in a manner worthy of the fact that we are destined to spend all eternity with the risen Christ in the presence of the Father. Daily we must guard our thoughts and the desires of our heart so as to prove worthy of such a vocation. This is the work of many years, even of a lifetime. None of us completes this labor of the spirit except in the very act of dying, and only by the continual support of God's grace. To spend ourselves in this work of the spirit is what this mystery of Christ's resurrection calls each of us to undertake throughout our lives.We are not alone in this work. We are all engaged in it together as members of the Church. Each of us has a contribution to make to assist others to remain dedicated to this undertaking and to be faithful to its demands to the end. By prayer, by example and by thoughtful and energetic acts of charity we give a fuller meaning to our lives as we build up the mystical Body of Christ.

Our celebration of this Easter Vigil takes place in the context of the Eucharist. Here at the altar the reality of the resurrection that is announced in the Gospel is enacted. Our Lord comes to us tonight in this Eucharist, in his glorified, living body, not only to refresh our memory but to refashion our heart and our soul. He comes to us to conform us to his mind and his dispositions of heart. Let us make it our resolve to read and meditate daily on his teachings and example so that we might better understand what he expects of us in our search to imitate him. In coming among us and in uniting himself with us in a holy communion he gives us a pledge that he accompanies us on the way. He will guide and sustain us that we might not falter. This Eucharist is an assurance that already we have a share in his life; it is also a pledge that if we remain faithful to him we shall know the fullness of joy together in the presence of the Father who loves us and gives us a share with his risen Son in the Kingdom of his glory.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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Abbey of the Genesee

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