A Reflection by Fr. Ron MacDonell, SFM, on the readings at the Easter Vigil
I wish you all a Happy and Joyous Easter. I was remembering where I was last year, in Brazil. I spent most of Holy Week in the Wapishana indigenous communities on the savannah plains along the border of Guyana, with two Sisters of Charity and a lay leader. To get here, we needed a 4-wheel drive truck to go over the dirt roads. It was the beginning of the rainy season, and we got stuck only once, thankfully. We spent an hour pulling down branches to put in front of the truck for traction. Finally, we got free and continued to the community. There we witnessed the deep faith of the people as they accompanied Jesus during his Passion and Death, and celebrated the joy of the Resurrection.
Then my mind wandered to thirty-three years ago, to Mexico, where I spent Holy Week in a Tzotzil community in the hills of Chiapas. Our Easter Vigil started at 7 pm and lasted until after midnight, with preaching after each of the readings. For lighting the Paschal fire, the people made a bonfire and lit sticks of pine which shone like brilliant torches in the dark night. The Easter light of Jesus was live on the Mexican hills.
This evening, all over the world, in Brazil and Mexico, in China and in Kenya, and here in Toronto, we, the disciples of Jesus, are celebrating this astonishing Good News: Jesus is risen! He has conquered death! His love for us has opened the road of new life, of life-everlasting! When the women go to the tomb, they are filled with terror, amazement and fear. Where is Jesus’ body? They begin the Easter journey of discovering the Risen Jesus. He was the same, but different. We are invited on the same journey of faith, to discover the Risen Lord in our lives, in “our Galilees” – our families, our workplace, our nation.
The Easter Vigil Mass presents us with elements to help us on our way, to draw us to Jesus, and to embrace the everlasting life that he offers us.
Genesis speaks of the creation of Light. Jesus says to us, “I am the Light of the world.”We can ask ourselves, “How closely do we let the Light of Jesus shine in our lives, in our words and actions?
God’s word teaches us. The reading from Exodus reminds us of the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. This is the first Passover. Now Jesus, by his death on the cross, becomes the Lamb of God at the new Passover. He liberates us from slavery to sin, which leads to death of the soul, of the spirit. “What does it profit someone to gain the entire world, but lose their very soul?” Jesus invites us to freedom.
In Genesis, we hear of the creation of water. Moses parts the waters of the Red Sea on the road to freedom. Ezequiel speaks of the cleansing power of water. Jesus is baptised by John in the River Jordan. At Cana, he changes water to wine, the new wine of joy and love.
Finally, we celebrate the Eucharist. We remember Isaiah inviting us to a banquet, to “delight yourselves in rich food.” This rich food is Jesus, his flesh and blood that we receive in communion. He becomes part of us; we are called to incarnate Jesus in the world. We are called to love one another, as he loves us.
Our world, more than ever, perhaps most especially in urban centers like the GTA, needs hope. We need the Good News of Jesus! In our terrorist age, we care called to be builders of peace. In our electronic age, we are called to turn off our machines and visit with people. In this age of climate change, we are called to look at our lives and care for our planet, this home that God made for us.
Fire and water, Word and Eucharist: Jesus is calling to us.
In a few moments, we will renew our baptismal promises. I invite you to a moment of reflection. Go back to the day of your baptism. Most of us can’t remember, so I invite you to imagine your parents and godparents taking you to the Church. What was flowing through their hearts that day? What is in your heart this day – your joys and sorrows, your hopes and fears? How will this renewal change us tonight? How are we called to share in the Resurrection? I invite you to a moment of quiet reflection.