Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Easter Vigil

April 8, 2023
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Genesis 1:1-2:2
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Isaiah 55:1-11
Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’”  Jesus speaks these words to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, His friends and followers who had experienced the pain and trauma of the last several days of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Furthermore, they have arrived at the tomb, and it is empty. In their fear they then encounter an angel who announces to them that Jesus has risen from the dead. The angel then directs them to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus who has gone before them. On their way to tell the disciples, Jesus appears to them, accepts their homage, and tells them not to be afraid. Jesus also tells them to tell His disciples that He is risen and that they are to return to Galilee where they will see Him.

The return to Galilee is a return to where they first met Christ, were called by Him, and followed Him. It is a return to the beginning, but it is not a reset. Because all that has transpired in the past remains factual, but the Resurrection transforms the past including sins, so that we can sing joyfully and with awe, “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault, that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” All that transpired since Galilee has changed and has not simply been reinterpreted. The abandonment of Jesus by all the Apostles but John, the denial of Christ by Peter, in fact, every sin committed since Eden is forgiven and redeemed by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus sends them back to the beginning because He has transformed time from being merely the non-sequential instances known as “now” with its sudden and bitter expiration of life into death and oblivion, to become the gift of the unfolding of God’s Providence into the eternal.

I offer a key distinction between what we call “now” and what we call the “present.” The “now” is an atomized unit of time without reference to the past or to the future. It is one point along a line without relation or reference to other points. The “now” is unintelligible in itself. It drives us with passionate demands even as it disappears in an instant. The present is extended time — it is related to the past and to the future — individually, communally, and with a destiny that is meaningful and ultimately eternal.

For example, we demand to be served “now.” We expect to express ourselves “now” by texting and tweeting whether we are communicating or not. How often do we witness people, even ourselves, attempting to liberate themselves by their own power by stimulation of passions with compulsivity and addiction? The selfish “ego” demands an exit “now.” This is part of the slavery about which was sung in the exsultet, from which God ransomed us by giving away His Son! Pain compels us into the “now” without reason or hope, simply sensations and emotions: but the present opens for us the path to healing and redemption through the mystery of redemptive suffering of the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ has transformed time and has returned the present of time to us and delivered us from the tyranny of the “now” in order that we might live in the present moment nested between the past that has been forgiven and redeemed and the future that we as His servants by grace are able to shape in accord with His plan.

As Pope Benedict XVI wisely observed, “From time to time, people dream that it would be nice if we not only could travel through the vast extent of the universe but also had a vehicle with which we could wander through the ages and become contemporaneous with them. Something like this can happen in the mystery of the Church’s liturgy. It can happen because the Resurrection of Jesus is not past; rather, by the Resurrection, He is in fact elevated from what is passing into what is lasting, into what is enduring.”

At the start of this vigil, we blessed the Easter Candle, and I traced the Sign of the Cross and the numbers of the year, 2023, with a stylus while praying, “Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. To Him belongs all time and all the ages; all glory and dominion is His now and forever. Amen.” Jesus Christ is risen TODAY. It is only through the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist, that we enter the eternal present of the Resurrection. “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault, that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Jesus Christ is risen today.

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