Homily – April 8th, 2023 – The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night


Homily – April 8th, 2023 – The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

Rm 6:3-11; Mt 28:1-10


That violent darkness that has come upon us and surrounded the Crucifixion of the Lord gave way to the joyful, peaceful and intense light of the Resurrection. It’s impressive to move from the darkness of the night into a ‘flame-glittering church’, at the beginning of the Easter Vigil. We really get to see and experience this ‘crossing’ from darkness to light.


Everything seemed to be over but, actually, it is just the beginning. How many times in our lives do we have the feeling that everything is over, that there is no more hope, but as a Christian people, as a Church, it is precisely in those moments that we need to remember that the source of our lives is this very Holy Night, when Light conquers darkness and Life conquers death in a definitive way.


We live on (actually we feed on) this Holy Night. This Night is our celebration of the beginning of a life without ending, which is the life that we received in our Baptism. And the joyful paradox is that, now, even when we die, ‘we will no longer die’. The resurrected life of Jesus Christ has opened the gates of Endlessness, the gates of the Paradise for us. 


The end is no longer a reality, it’s no longer ‘a thing’, because Jesus has overcome the end, He trivialized the end of everything, He ‘down-played’ the meaning of the end, which was death, and turned it into a beginning; He turned the finish line into a fresh start. 


We can’t fall into the trap of resignation, saying things such:‘Ow, this is over; I am beyond repair; I am cureless, I am hopeless.’ From now on, we must defy, and even disobey,everything that tells us ‘it’s all over’. In the Easter Proclamation we sang: His Blood ‘wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness’.


God has the power to replenish with Life what is dead in us. The great springtime of the Church has arrived. Easter is like a Spring, when the dead nature finally rises to life, when it is awakened from sleep. The colors, the scents, the fragrances, the warmth tell us that the dry branches, whether apparently or definitely dead, are not the end. 


The final state of the tree that boldly passed through winter is a green and flowering branch. The final state of the Man who boldly passed through the Cross is a glorious and life-giving heart. What felt like the end, was just the very beginning!


We can say, then, that Spring is the Easter of nature, and Easter is the Spring of the Church. Thus, we can pray: O my soul, the New has come, Springtime has come!


Actually we are called to live every day grounded in this Easter Grace, turning our lives into a great Easter. We must exercise this trust in the Newness that overcomes the old. We must set out with the women who go to the tomb on the break of dawn, on Easter morning.


As a matter of fact, we can head to the tomb with an even greater hope than they did, for they go there (working the graveyard shift, so to speak, very early) expecting to find a dead body; instead we go convinced that we’re going to find an empty tomb. Life lives! We know that Jesus is not there, for He has been raised, just as He said. 


But before that happens, we must cross the darkness of this night, actually we needed go down to the underworld and then up again, we needed to cross the Red Sea.


At the center of the set of readings and psalms that we have in our vigil, we find the core passage from the book of Exodus, when a people of slaves rediscover their dignity as a chosen people, they were under the weight of slavery, but they were created to be free, a free people who sing the miracles and wonders of God in their lives and in their history. 


“The Lord swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. And when the water was divided, the people marched into the midst of the sea on dry land.” 


The people were surrounded: behind, the Egyptian army;around, the desert; and in front, the Sea. ‘Death, death and death’. But Moses was a child who had been rescued from the waters! He knew that God was able to handle that! And, indeed, God opens a way through and into death, through and into the sea. He makes a way where there seems to be none. 


And not only do we cross it, but God doesn’t even allow our feet to get wet. To say that He is not only faithful, butperfectly faithful. Yes, going through the Cross is frightening, but the ‘New Moses’ who goes ahead of us, Jesus Christ, knows that the Father turned the death of Cross into Resurrected Life. That’s why He calls us: ‘Follow me!’ Trust!There’s a Promise Land on the other side, there’s a New and Holy Life on the other side.


We are this liberated, loved, washed clean, regenerated people, and we are the heirs of God’s miracles; and the greatest of all miracles is the new life we receive from Christ. I was this, I was that, but today, I am a new creature, because I am rooted in the Love of Christ, and the lymph, the lifeblood that runs through the arteries and veins of my spirit is the Holy Spirit of God, the ‘eternally-living-Life’ of God, His Resurrection Power. 


At the beginning of our Easter vigil we bless a new fire. How wonderful! The Risen One lights a new fire in our heart. A new hope, a new faith, a new love, a new mission. And while we light it, we pray: ‘Sanctify this NEW FIRE, and grant that WE MAY BE INFLAMED WITH HEAVENLY DESIRES.’ 


As St. Paul says: ‘We must think of ourselves as being dead to sin and living for God.’ We don’t need to settle for the desires and the longing for that Old life we had in Egypt, in the lands of our slavery. The springtime of God has come, with its tasty fruits, with beauty, with holiness, with Shalom, the fullness of divine gifts. 


Christ is risen! There is no more reason to sin! A fire of heavenly love is now burning in our hearts. May the Holy Spirit keep it forever aflame within us! Amen!


Fr. Cristiano Pinheiro C. Bede

Shalom Catholic Community

New York, April 8th, 2023 – Easter Vigil


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