Monday, 18 April 2011

The Easter Vigil - Year A

Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10
When God made us he drew us from the depths of the immense ocean of his love. He set us on this earthly shore and invited us, by means of a deeply embedded desire for him, to freely return to him in love.
From the very beginning our existence, therefore, our deepest essence, was ordered to a relationship with God. Every tribe and nation from the very commencement of human history has somehow lived this truth and expressed it culturally as religious seeking.
God created us and established us in an inescapable relationship with him – inescapable because it is part of our very constitution, like our need for oxygen and water, sunlight and food.
And God saw that it was good.
When Adam and Eve turned from God they turned also from their own inner self as well as from each other. We could say they found themselves in dis-grace. Their destiny to return to God could now no longer be accomplished. They, and we, were doomed to live in a profound inner frustration which could never be resolved; made for union with God it was now no longer possible to reach him – ever.
The story of Adam and Eve's rejection of God was repeated many times throughout history. Every time God made overtures of love towards us we, so to speak, ran away:
… the more I called to them, the further they went from me (Hosea 11:2).
The correct word for this running away from God is sin. It started with Adam and Eve and it continues to this present day, in fact, it's everywhere. And strangely, as Lent made clear, just as, humanly speaking, the desperate awfulness of the Cross makes sense only when we realise that its victim is totally innocent, so too the ecstasy of Easter makes sense only if we remember that we are sinners.
If on every page Sacred Scripture reveals the incomprehensible love of God for his people, it also reveals their determined and reprehensible refusal to respond.
Awareness of sin doesn't put a damper on the joy of Easter, it is part of its essential glory, the very foundation of its victory. Those of us who suffer from the modern reluctance, even refusal, to allow the reality of sin onto the stage of the human drama, will inevitably find that their celebration of Easter is reduced either to a vague and impoverished notion of 'poor Jesus on the Cross', or to a hunt for chocolate eggs with the children and a big sleep in the afternoon.
Easter is all about what God should have done to us sinners but didn't.
What do you do with a dog who, despite your best efforts, refuses to obey you? Who even bites you? What do you do with a fruit tree that won't bear fruit? What would you expect God to do with a people who, century after century, continue to defy him to his face? What would you have done?
Easter is about what God should have done to us sinners but didn't.
We might put the dog down or pull the fruit tree out by the roots but God says: My heart recoils from it, my whole being trembles at the thought. I will not give rein to my fierce anger … for I am God, not man: I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy (Hosea 11:8-9).
And so God himself, the heavenly Father, sent to us a man called Jesus born of a woman named Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. This man came to do the will of God his Father and to give him the loving obedience we refused him.
All that God had been looking for in the human race he finally found in Jesus; and finding it in Jesus he found it in mankind. Finally God’s yearning for a true relationship with his people was satisfied.
We killed Jesus; the most loathsome expression of our sinfulness. The passion and death of Jesus were the ‘test’ God had in store for him and we were the ones who put him to that test. God was taking our own evil and making it a part of his plan, to show us how much He loved us, how much we are worth in his eyes.
And now he is Risen! He has conquered death .. and in Him .. we have all conquered death. Alleluia!

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