7 April. Easter Vigil: Mass
Rom 6:3-11. The Christian has gone down into the tomb with Christ, leaving sin behind. Now he lives only for God in Christ Jesus.
Mark 16:1-7. Jesus is risen from the dead. The fearful women find his tomb empty and are told that He will meet his followers in Galilee.
The Cymbals Clash
I don’t know whether you have ever been at a live performance of a really big orchestra. If you have, there is always a lad at the back with a pair of cymbals. As the music reaches a crescendo, he clashes the cymbals. Well, the cymbals are dashing today because this is the climax of the Christian year. This is such a climactic feast that its reverberations will be felt in the Church from now until Pentecost. The Church celebrates Easter, not just for today but for fifty days, over a period that’s called “The Great Sunday.” Why all the noise? What does the Resurrection mean?
Firstly, it means that this person, this extraordinary person Jesus of Nazareth, who was nailed into timber, hammered into the ground, buried under stone, put death completely into reverse and rose to new life. Death is so prevalent, in our experience so final and irreversible, that it really takes beating. He beat it.
Secondly, it means that the Resurrection is not just a historical fact, it’s a continuing experience. We do not say “Christ rose;” we say “Christ is risen.” He is risen now. “Where two or three are gathered in my name . . .” He is present in his spirit – in his word, in the Mass, in Holy Communion, in the Sacraments, in other people. He’s here as our inspiration, our Saviour and Lord.
Thirdly, it means that the Resurrection is ours. It’s not just a personal achievement on Our Lord’s part. It’s a public company in which we all have shares. And according to himseLf, the cost of a share, the price of a share, is faith. Not uninformed swallowing of everything, but a basic if sometimes faltering faith in him. “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live” (Jn 11:25).
Fourthly, it means that life is not a dead-end. It’s not a cul-de-sac. We’ve all met situations in life, indeed in our own community, where people died young, in an accident perhaps or from an unforgiving disease. Life can be so uneven, and death is so indiscriminate, that we need something to balance the scales. That something is the Resurrection. You need it to round things off. It’s the one thing that rounds off our jagged existence. And God “will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone” (Apoc 2 1:4).
And fifthly, Resurrection means that we should be improving things now. Resurrection cannot be for the sacristy. It has to be for society. Every Easter is an invitation to build a better community a more just society a risen world. An Easter people can never be complacent in the face of poverty, injustice and starvation.
Finally, one thing I hope is that the Resurrection will be recognisable in its familiarity that we’ll welcome it not because it’s new and different but because it’s something we’ve already begun to know. So I want to end with a short poem that’s called “Resurrection,” written by a Czechoslovakian poet, Vladimir Holan. It celebrates the ordinary things in life, and their continuation in the life to come. It celebrates in particular the central role of mothers. It goes like this:
Is it true that after this life of ours we shall one day be awakened by a terrifying clamour of trumpets?
Forgive me, God, but I console myself that the beginning and resurrection of all of us dead will simply be announced by the crowing of the cock.
After that we’ll remain lying down a while… The first to get up will be Mother. . . We’ll hear her quietly laying the fire, quietly putting the kettle on the stove and cosily taking the teapot out of the cupboard. We’ll be home once more.
First Reading: Epistle to the Romans 6:3-11
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Mark 16:1-7
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”