Deacon Cornell's Homily


Genesis 1:1-2:2
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Isaiah 55:1-11
Ezekiel 36:16-17a,18-28
Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10


March 30, 2002 Easter Vigil, Cycle A

This vigil liturgy is called the Mother of all liturgies for good reason. It is so rich in symbol and ritual action: from the Easter candle to the range of readings from old and new testaments, to the water of baptism and the oil of confirmation, bells and incense. So there is not much that I need to do in terms of exhorting us to enter more fully into this liturgy. I just want to point out a few ways that our readings relate to what we do in this liturgy tonight.

In our first reading we hear how God regarded all that he created as good. That is fundamental to our Catholic view of the world. Even after the fall, even when we sin, the world and we humans are part of a creation that God still deems as good. From the act of creation to the end of time, God is determined to bring creation to the fullness of its potential to be good. Isaiah reminds us that God’s word does not return to God until it has accomplished what that word says.

The second point of this sweep of salvation history is that we humans are the ones who make this world broken and full of sorrow. We do it to ourselves when we turn away from who God made us to be. We enslave ourselves. But no matter how often we do that, God is with us to help us be free. Time after time, from the slavery in Egypt to the slavery in exile, God brings his chosen people from slavery to freedom. But God does not force this on us. We have to choose freely to follow God away from slavery towards the freedom of God’s love. And there is only one way to this freedom: that is we have to die to self, the self that wants to be in control, the self that turns inward in selfishness and self importance. All the images we heard tonight speak of this dying. The death of the Egyptians in the Reed Sea, the death of Jesus on the cross, and the death we experience in the waters of baptism. It is by dying to this false self, that we become free to live as God really made us to live, with hearts and spirits that open us to God and to each other.

And the last point is that resurrection is not the end of the story. We acknowledge that at every Eucharist when we proclaim that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” We are not to be afraid (but of course we are), but we are to look for Christ to go before us where we will see him. Where do we see Christ before us?

In a few minutes we will baptize Nathan and Derek. They will die with Christ in the waters of the font, and then they will rise again to “put on Christ”. All of us will also be given the opportunity to renew our baptism promises remembering that we too, died with Christ in the waters of Baptism, then rose with Christ and were anointed to be priest, prophet, and king like Christ. Then, along with Renee, Nathan and Derek will be anointed with sacred chrism so that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them to be more like Christ. So standing here on this holy night, we stand here between the death of our Lenten sacrifices, the death of Jesus on the cross, the death we all experienced in baptism and what lies ahead, the part when Christ will come again. Too often we think that phrase means that Jesus will suddenly appear in time, that it really has nothing to do with us. But that is not what our faith tells us. Christ is not just Jesus; the Christ that will come again is Jesus as the head, but all of us as his body. Christ will come again when we fully start to live as God created and renewed us, as members of Christ’s body. Christ will come again when we act not out of fear, but out of love, the way we been freed to act through baptism. Do not be afraid. Let us go forth from this resurrection celebration, and be what we have become in baptism so all the world can see Christ, in the flesh, our flesh.

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