Here is the homily for the Easter Vigil. Blessed Easter greetings to one and all!
Because the Resurrection of Jesus is a reality and a mystery yet to be fully understood, it is difficult to describe. And yet, because of the difference it makes for us, in terms of our faith, we must do our best to express our understanding, and define it as best we can. Indeed, if Jesus Christ is not raised from the dead, our faith makes absolutely no sense.
St. Paul says as much in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 17, 19-20)
So, what is this Resurrection of Jesus? And what is this New Life that He now enjoys, and promises to those of us who believe in Him? Perhaps one of the simplest explanations is given by Pope Benedict XVI in the Second Volume of his book, Jesus of Nazareth:
“Jesus has not returned to a normal human life in this world…He has entered upon a different life, a new life – he has entered the vast breadth of God himself, and it is from there that he reveals himself to his followers.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, II, pp. 244-245) Does this not make sense? Jesus told His disciples He was returning to the Father. (John 13:3) What else could that mean except that He was to take up His life again, (John 10:18) a life which is in the ‘vast breadth of God himself?’
At the same time, Jesus’ Resurrection is not isolated from our human journey and experience. Jesus’ ‘return to the Father’ was and is for all of us. Jesus’ Incarnation, life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven were for our salvation, expressly to grant us access to Life in God. Meaning, the New Life of Jesus “opens for us a new dimension of human existence.” (Benedict XVI, ibid, p. 244), and this new dimension of human existence is our Life in God through the Risen Christ.
Even though the fullness of this New Life will only be lived when we ‘passover’ to the Father (in eternal life), we none-the-less have access to this new dimension of human existence here and now! This is what our Faith in Christ and our sacramental life in the Church is all about. Jesus does not belong to the past. He is our Contemporary! Jesus is for us today! This Newness of Life is a present experience. Jesus is LIFE, and thus He is present to us today.
This is what St. Paul tells us this Holy Night in his letter to the Romans: “We were indeed buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Romans 6: 4)
We experience this ‘newness of life’ through Baptism and the Sacraments of the Church. We experience this ‘newness of life’ in the hope that is ours in the face of trials, disappointments, illness, even death. This ‘newness of life’ is the ‘infusion’ of the Divine Life into the daily life of the believer. This ‘newness of life’ is what underlines and highlights all that is good, beautiful and true.
This ‘newness of life’ takes over when the answers of this life fall short. This ‘newness of life’ supports us when the events of this life let us down. This ‘newness of life’ is what invites and allows us to trust in God when He seems to request, even demand, more than we seem capable of giving. This ‘newness of life’ is what allows us to transcend this life when we are willing to live the Gospel commandment to die so that we may truly live.
Jesus Christ, as our psalmist tells us tonight, is ‘the stone which the builders rejected, who has become the cornerstone’. (Ps 118) Because Christ has conquered death and lives no more to die, and because we who believe in Him share in that victory, we, with the psalmist are able to pray ourselves: “The right hand of the Lord has struck with power; the right hand of the Lord is exalted. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Ps 118)