This evening during the Vigil we have heard some highlights of a great story – the story of the relationship between God and humanity. We started right back with the creation of the world, then listened to an account of the great event of the Exodus and then onwards hearing the prophets in Israel and eventually culminating in the Easter story.
What the Easter Vigil reminds us is that what initially was meant to be a great story of love, unity and peace between God and humanity in creating us, became a story of God having constantly to recalculate because humanity’s turning against God as represented in the Fall of Adam and Eve had devastating consequences. Where there was meant to be unity, division exploded; where there was to be harmony, malevolent jealousy infected history; where there was meant to be heavenly freedom, a hellish slavery bound humanity in chains of all kinds of selfishness, war, hatred and lack of peace.
In sending his Son to save us, God wanted to love us to the end. He came right into history, into our world and from within our world, would work with us in re-writing our history.
This was no simple step. This is what the past week, Holy Week, has been reminding us of. Jesus, the Son of God, when he entered into our world, had to drink the cup of suffering even to the point of experiencing the passion and death on a Cross. As we heard in these days, representing all of us and experiencing our pain, our vulnerability, our inability to turn things round, Jesus even reached the point of crying out, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?”. It seemed heaven gave no answer, God was silent. So often, people experience that.
But then came the great breakthrough and this is what the Gospel from Matthew tells us this evening. God did not remain silent. God raised Jesus from the dead.
Let’s try to understand that a little more. The Resurrection is not simply the story of one man coming back to life. That would simply be resuscitation. What happened in the Resurrection was something much greater and has a direct bearing on each of us.
When the women meet the Risen Jesus, they fall down before him, in other words, they recognise who he is, not just an ordinary man, but the God-Man alive among us. And Jesus’ first words to them are wonderful: “do not be afraid”. Jesus then invites the women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where they would see him there. Galilee is where they had met Jesus in ordinary every day circumstances. Now it’s as if the story is beginning all over again. A new world is now really beginning because Jesus has gone through division and malice, mockery, misunderstanding and death and has come out the other side, as it were, and is now present in the world as a life-giving, reconciling, uniting force.
Writing some years ago, Pope Benedict described the Resurrection as a qualitative leap in the history of “evolution”. In other words, Jesus has entered a totally new dimension of existence and now as Risen and seated at the right hand of God the Father is everywhere now bringing about a new world, transforming it. And yet Jesus still has a human heart. He knows and understands our experiences from within. But now he is able to be present to us with a power and peace this world does not know.
Pope Francis too reminds us, “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force”.
What we heard in the reading just before the Gospel is St. Paul telling us that this irresistible force of the Resurrection has reached each one of us through baptism. He explains: in our baptism we went into the tomb with Jesus and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from dead, we too might live a new life. We must imitate him in his resurrection.
To imitate Jesus in his resurrection means recognising he is with us even in the valley of darkness. Perhaps we don’t understand a trial or difficulty we are going through but the Risen Jesus is with us, working mysteriously all the time.
We can imitate Jesus in his resurrection also in our love for one another in our Galilee, that is, in our ordinary everyday life. Jesus himself promised: where two or three are united in my name, I am there among them.
In these days of the Coronavirus, let’s strengthen our belief in Jesus Risen. And let’s celebrate his presence among us. We are seeing so many signs of his presence in the countless efforts being made by healthcare and essential workers, people greeting each even with social distancing, people cooking and doing messages for those cocooned. So many giving of their best.
We are part of the Resurrection story. In the words of the Exsultet, we can proclaim: “Christ. . .who came back from the dead is shedding his peaceful light on us”.
The Risen Jesus wants to be among us. He wants us to know the joy of the Resurrection with the hope and light and love that it brings.