Easter Vigil, Cycle C

Tonight’s Gospel shows an understandable confusion on the part of the apostles, but also the noble calling of being a witness to the Risen Lord, something to which every believer is called. The Apostles would be privileged witnesses to what Jesus said and did, but the holy women got the scoop: early on that first Easter Sunday morning went to the tomb and angels helped them process the incredible even that had taken place. The angels helped them to see that the empty tomb was all part of Our Lord’s plan. For their dedication to Our Lord they were blessed with being the first witnesses to the Resurrection, witnesses who announced it the Apostles themselves. Peter, to his credit, went to check the tomb, but Luke doesn’t say what he was thinking and he was uncharacteristically silent.

The readings of the Easter Vigil are many and long because they represent all of salvation history. The Old Testament hardly spoke of the resurrection of the dead, and even then the Jews believed it would only come at the end of time. Yet here were signs that it had happened in their lifetimes. The candles we light from the Paschal candle blessed on this solemn night represent the light of Christ spreading like the light of dawn. Today’s Gospel doesn’t show Our Risen Lord appearing to the disciples who had believed in him, yet the empty tomb poignantly symbolizes the dawn of a new life in Christ that we celebrate this evening, not just due to the amazing event of the resurrection, but also due to so many catechumens who receive the light of Christ tonight through baptism.

As we contemplate the candles in our hands that remind us of that day when we received the light of Christ through baptism, it’s a good moment to ask ourselves whether the amazing implications of the Resurrection have dawned on us. Let’s pray in this newly born Easter season that the light of Christ shines in everything we do.

Readings: Romans 6:3–11; Luke 24:1–12.

Good Friday, Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion (2)

As we contemplate Our Lord crucified today, we behold a tragedy, the tragedy of an innocent man publicly executed. Jesus’ only “crime” was to identify himself as the Messiah, and that’s who he was; he did so to the Sanhedrin, so they decided to have him killed, and he did so to Pilate. As today’s Gospel reminds us, Jesus had his ID card hanging right over his head: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” If the execution of a guilty man doesn’t give us remorse (and it should, since it presents a failure of all society, not just the criminal), the execution of an innocent man does, or should.

This tragedy is even more profound when we gaze upon the Crucified One and remember that we should have been on that Cross instead of him. An innocent man is dying, brutalized on the Cross, for us. Adam and Eve’s Fall and our sins incurred the death penalty. After all God had given us and done for us, we repaid him by turning our backs on him, again and again. Yet his response leaves us as dumbstruck and confounded as the kings of the world mentioned in today’s First Reading: he takes the punishments we deserve upon himself. He doesn’t just say, “never mind, I forgive you”; he hands himself over to evil men to be tortured and executed. He teaches us how horrible the effects of sin are, not just to us, but to him, and that our sins have consequences.

Even in his last words Jesus asks the Father to forgive us for our ignorance. Today is a day not to dwell on the tragedy we inflicted on the good God who came to save us, but the love with which he did. Let’s die to sin and turn back to God and back to love.

Readings: Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12–13, 15–17, 25; Hebrews 4:14–16, 5:7–9; John 18:1–19:42. See also Good Friday, Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion.