With the rise of video streaming services such as Netflix, people talk of binge watching, that is, they sometimes watch at one setting between 2–6 episodes of the same TV show. I hope it’s not irreverent to say the Easter Vigil is a holy version of binge watching. We’ve listened this evening to four Old Testament readings, a New Testament reading and a Gospel, as well as all the psalms, all in one go!
This is the great feature of the Easter Vigil, we get to hear the whole story – right from the beginning – the account of God’s creation, the Exodus story of liberation, excerpts from the Prophets who kept hope alive when the People of Israel took wrong turns and risked despairing. It is a wonderful story that culminates, of course, in Jesus, God’s own Son sent into our world to save us.
A few years ago, there was a film that became very popular, some of you might remember it, Jesus Christ Superstar. When we were children in school we learned songs from it. It was a good musical telling the life of Jesus, except that they left out one part – the Resurrection.
The Jesus story without the Resurrection is fake news. The whole point is that Jesus who died on the Cross and was placed in a grave, rose from the dead. A new story that changed the course of history began from that very place where a large stone had been placed, blocking out hope. The women who came to the grave were “amazed”. It was totally unexpected. It was something completely new.
The Angel said two things to them that we need to note. First, he says, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” This is key for us. The death that had seemingly conquered Jesus didn’t have the last word. Victory over death is his. Jesus’ Resurrection plants in our heart a new hope. And not just hope for victory over death at the end of our lives, but hope in the face of every situation of death, difficulty, division, adversity that strikes us.
Going back to our binge viewing. We’ve viewed a lot of episodes this evening. And unlike the Jesus Christ Superstar film we’ve remembered the Resurrection. But let’s be careful the story does not finish here either.
There is a second point the Angel said to the women, “Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him’ ” Galilee was the place they had first met Jesus in their ordinary life. It was the place many of them had grown up and worked in. Their families and communities were there. The Angel was promising them that Jesus is now to be found Risen in our ordinary world. The Angel is also, as it were, saying to us, “Go to your Galilee, you will see Jesus there”. The point is that the story does not finish with the account of that morning when the women went to the tomb. We now continue the story. Because of our faith in the Risen Jesus, we are messengers of hope in ordinary everyday life witnessing our belief that God is able to turn everything to the good, because even from the grave he brought life. Our personal and community stories are to be further episodes in the great story we have listened to this evening in our Easter Vigil. In our lives, people should be able to view how what happened in this Easter story still happens afterwards in 2021.
We need to ask for the grace for ourselves, that we not go rolling back the stone blocking the hope that is on offer to us in Jesus’ Resurrection, and that we can really go out to show people Jesus’ story is still going on, that, though two thousand years have passed, the story is not over, that, just as the stone sealing the entrance of the tomb was rolled away, so too the stones in our hearts, the stones that are the difficulties we meet in life, the stones of divisions, can be rolled away.
He is Risen! Yes, Jesus is Risen and sits now at the right hand of God. We can hope. We can have courage knowing that he is also alive among us, journeying with us, going ahead of us, leading us homewards. We sense his presence the more we love one another (that’s why he gave us the New Commandment). Where Jesus is, hope conquers.