Easter Vigil Homily

Matthew 28:1-18

©Marian Free

In the name of God, who in Jesus shows us how to be truly free – of our fears, our anxieties and our insecurities. Amen.

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

If Friday is Good, if on the cross Jesus defeated evil and death and deprived them of their power why did he need to rise? What can the resurrection do that the cross has not done? 

If you have been a part of our liturgical celebrations over the past few days, you will know that they are of one piece. During the Last Supper, Jesus turned convention on its head and demonstrated that there was another way to do things. He showed that powerlessness was not weakness, that service was not enslavement and that death, and the powers of this world were not to be feared.

On the cross, Jesus exposed the ineffectiveness of worldly power and authority. By submitting to a wrongful arrest, false accusations and an unjust punishment, Jesus denied them their ability to coerce and deprived them of their ability to force him to their will. By refusing to fear death, Jesus rendered death incapable of exerting power over him.

But there was still more to do. If Jesus’ death on the cross signalled the defeat of evil and death, then the resurrection provided proof positive that the refusal to engage with the powers of this world renders them impotent, and that when we hold fast to the values of the kingdom, instead of being seduced by the false values of this world we open the doorway to a different ending to the story,  a story in which evil and death do not have the final say and do not determine our response to life’s circumstances. Jesus’ resurrection is evidence that in the final analysis love will triumph over hatred, that vulnerability freely chosen is stronger than force, that meeting violence with non-violence strips violence of its power and that true freedom is won when one seeks not one’s own well-being but the well-being of all people.

Conversely, the resurrection demonstrates the futility of using force to kill love, the foolishness of using the law to suppress goodness, and the uselessness of relying on oppression to quench the thirst for freedom or the desire for justice. The resurrection makes it clear that ultimately love cannot be extinguished, that freedom will not be denied and that in the end good will triumph over evil.

Jesus’ resurrection is proof positive that we can choose not to be consumed by worldly values, a desire for wealth and power, the need for external recognition or the protection of our personal safety and comfort. Jesus’ resurrection informs that we, and therefore the world, will only be truly free when we, like Jesus, refuse to be bound and limited by hatred, greed, bitterness, resentment, anger and unhealthy relationships. Jesus’ resurrection is a reminder that if we resist the urge for external affirmation or gratification and if we rise above the pettiness of human existence then we, like Jesus, will be truly free and the powers of this world will have no power over us. We with him will be raised from the sordidness of competition, ambition and desire, freed to be truly ourselves – created in the image of God.

The resurrection means that we are:

free to truly live – unconstrained by all those things that bind and limit;

free to embrace our own divinity – unfettered by those things that threaten to overwhelm our true nature;

free to step into the future – released from all those things that would threaten to hold us to the past; and

free to love selflessly and unconditionally – unencumbered by all those things that separate us from each other.

Friday is Good, because death and sin are defeated and the resurrection is proof that the only power they have over us is the power that we give them.

So let us claim the victory of the cross and live in the power of the resurrection.

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!