HOMILY FOR THE VIGIL MASS OF HOLY SATURDAY
HOMILY THEME: AWAKE, O SLEEPER… CHRIST SHALL GIVE YOU LIFE!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * Gen 1 : 1 – 2 : 2, Gen 22 : 1 – 18, Ex 14 : 15 – 15 : 1, Rom 6 : 3 – 11, Matt 28 : 1 – 10.
A. THE DETHRONEMENT OF THE REGIME OF DARKNESS
The Catholic Church ( and indeed many other Churches) all over the world begins the celebration of Holy Saturday with the liturgical service of light and the proclamation of the Exultet – our most hilarious liturgical song of joy. From the 1st reading we understand that in the beginning the whole world was in darkness and God said : ‘Let there be light and there was light’. But the darkness of evil continued to wage war against the light of God . When Adam and Eve sinned, the world moved back to darkness. And when the sons of Israel ( represented biblically by Jacob ) sinned against their brother, Joseph, they moved into the slavery of darkness in Egypt. Thus, the story of sleep, darkness, redemption, resurrection, repentance and regeneration is the principal story of Christianity.
The motif of redemption began from the 3rd reading of today when the Isrealites were rescued from slavery in Egypt and sent through the desert to the promised land. Some still wanted to go back to the darkness and slavery of Egypt and complained against Moses and God. But God finally rescued the Isrealites from the bondage of Egypt and took them to the promised land.
In Christ Jesus, the story of redemption is brought to its climax in the account of the death and resurrection of Christ. According to the Office of the readings of today, Christ’s first assignment when he expired was to go and wake up all those who have fallen asleep starting from Adam. When Adam, the first created man sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all : ‘My Lord be with you all’. Christ replies : ‘And also with your spirit’. He raises him up saying : ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light’. And that is why Our Exultet begins by celebrating this redemption saying : ‘Rejoice, O heavenly powers… Rejoice O earth.. For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam’ s sin to our eternal father!’.
The motif of repentance and purification began from the desert when the Isrealites rebelled against God and were punished severely by the biting of the serpents. They prayed to God through Moses and were told to look up to the raised image of the golden serpent as the most primitive sacramental of that time , Num 21 : 4 – Next was during the time of Christ when John the Baptist directed the people to look at the lamb of God, Jn 1 : 29. Jesus himself told them that, ‘As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert so must the Son of man be lifted up so that whoever believes in him will be saved’, Jn 3 : 14. He later emphatically told them that, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of man then you will know that I am he’, Jn 8 : 21 – 30. This was fulfilled at Calvary when he was lifted up on the Cross and even his executioners confessed : ‘Truly this is the Son of God’, Mk 15 : 39.
Today’s 1st reading from the New Testament captures the essence of our baptism in Christ as the first sign of this repentance : ‘When we were baptised in Christ Jesus, we were baptised into his death…so that as Christ was raised from the dead we too might live a new life… You must consider yourself to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’, Rom 6 : 3 – 11. And so, our Exultet says : ‘This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement are restored to grace and grow together in holiness’.
It is a necessary follow up after our baptism that we consciously undertake to take up a new life in Christ by being daily configured to his Word . Our Exultet continues to make everything clearer : ‘Of this night scripture says : ‘The night will be clear as day : It will become my light and my joy… The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride. Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night, receive our evening sacrifice of praise, your Church’s solemn offering – Accept this Easter candle – a pillar of fire that glows to the honour! May the Morning Star which never set find this flame still burning – Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead and shed his peaceful lights on all mankind’.
Christ , the morning star of resurrection can never allow us to remain asleep in sin. The message of our gospel this night says : ‘There is no need for you to be afraid anymore. Jesus is no more in the tomb, for He is risen’. Go to Galilee, there you will see him in the fellowship of the brethren, Heb 10 : 25.
Shalom! Happy Easter beloved friends!
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