Homily

Mar. 31, 2018

“Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever!"

The Vigil of this great night begins with the service of light. We all gather around the big pot of fire. The priest echoes as he lights up the Paschal candle, "May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds". All other lights in the church are turned off. The Great Paschal Candle Light alone radiates the evening. We light the Paschal candle and joyfully march behind the Light of Christ. The Easter Exultet is proclaimed which captures the joy of this great night, "Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever!" The message is that Christ the Lord is risen from the dead. Christ breaks the chains of darkness. The empty tomb bears witness, as the angel says to the women, “He has been raised; he is not here”. Christ is not in the darkness. He is not in the void. He renders death powerless. He rolls the veils away. 

The Genesis account of creation narrates the power of light over darkness. God says, “Let there be light. God saw that light was good, and God separated light from darkness " (Gen.1:3-7). In the exodus account, God makes himself available to the Israelites in the form of Pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire in the night. God shields his people from annihilation, protects them from their Egyptian assailants. God's light surrounds Israel and delivers them.

In the Holy week, we experience the struggle between darkness and light. The forces of hatred attempt to extinguish the light of goodness, love and mercy. Christ the Light of the World, is crucified. Betrayal reigns over trust. Hatred ridicules love on the cross. Falsehood threatens truth. Gossip and rumors oppose transparency. Injustice intimidates fairness. Conspiracy mocks confidence. The shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter. Wailing and crying take to the streets. Fear grips the universe. Criminals gain freedom in place of the innocent. Pilate queries the authority of Jesus, questions him, “Truth, what is that?” (Jn.18:38). The gospel laments, "The sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land" (Lk.23:44). This is the calamity of the death of Christ. At the death of Jesus, darkness takes a momentary reign because everyone rejects the light.

But that’s just the beginning. Christ’s resurrection is the force that restores light to the world, “…life that was the light of men; and light that shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it" (Jn.1:4). Pilate and the Roman soldiers wrongly think they are the heroes. They imagine that everything will end on Good Friday. They only know about death, they don’t know about the resurrection. Sunday morning takes them unawares. The Light beams irresistibly. Scripture says of the power of Christ, “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" (Matt. 27:54). Jesus is indeed “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.

Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome set out to anoint Jesus’ body. They find out that his body is not there. The tomb is empty. They have no idea that Jesus goes to the tomb to destroy the powers of death, to dispel darkness. His death is different because He is Lord of the living and the dead. He dies to free us from the bondage of death. Mark reports that the women are utterly amazed. They are amazed because something extraordinary; indeed, something super-ordinary has happened. The whole world is amazed today at the resurrection of Christ. That’s the true story, our salvation story. The tomb is the witness. The burial cloths are present. The angel is there to confirm it. Christ has conquered. His glory fills us. Darkness vanishes forever in our lives.  

Prior to his death, Christ says to his followers, "I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ in our liturgy tonight. At the beginning of our celebration, the priest lights his candle from the paschal candle, then everyone lights her/his candle and gives the light to the other. In that process, everyone’s candle is lit. The church becomes aglow with light. What a beauty is the movement of this light. That fulfills Christ’s words, “anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life". We must appreciate the mystery of tonight’s celebration, and therefore be agents of light.

In Christ, “Darkness vanishes forever”. The Psalm tells us, "In your light, Lord, we see light" (Ps.36:9). Again, we read, "Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame". Christ frees us from shame, pain and fear. He frees us from darkness and death. He frees us from sin and iniquity. He frees us from hatred and lack of forgiveness. He makes us children of light. Let us take this light home; it is the light of love, compassion, sincerity, fairness, and peace. We are the children of the resurrection. We are the children of light. Christ has truly risen. He sets you free. Alleluia!

Apr. 15, 2017

WE ARE CHILDREN OF THE RESURRECTION, CHILDREN OF LIGHT 

Our Easter vigil begins with the remarkable ritual or service of light. Everyone gathers around the big pot of fire. We process from outside, marching joyfully behind the Paschal candle, the Light of Christ. As the priest lights up the Paschal candle he echoes, "May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds". This light is presented to the worshipping community. All other lights in the church are turned off. The Great Paschal Candle Light alone radiates the evening. The Easter proclamation of the Exultet captures the emotion thus, "Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever!" That is the Easter message: Christ the Lord is risen from the dead. The light of the world has become radiant. He has broken the chains of darkness. The tomb is empty. Death is powerless. Humanity is freed from sin. The veil of wickedness is rolled away. 

In Genesis account of creation, God created light to have power over darkness. Creation started with the declaration of light. God says, “Let there be light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth. And so it was" (Gen.1:3-7). Between verse 1 and 19 of Genesis chapter 1, the word light appeared about twelve times already. In the exodus account, God made himself available to the Israelites in the form of Pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire in the night. He guided and shielded them from their enemies. The Egyptians pursued Israel with the plan to annihilate them. But God's light surrounded his people and saved them from violence. 

The events of the Holy Week - passion and death of Christ- demonstrate this struggle between light and darkness. Dark forces of hatred tried to extinguish light of goodness, love and mercy. Betrayal reigned over trust. Hatred crucified love on the cross. Falsehood threatened truth. Injustice opposed fairness. Conspiracy mocked confidence. The sheep scattered. Wailing and crying took to the streets. Fear was everywhere. Criminals were released in place of the innocent. Pilate queried Jesus, “Truth, what is that?” (Jn.18:38). At the death of Jesus, "the sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land" (Lk.23:44). This is the calamity of the death of Christ. His resurrection is the super-counterforce that restores light to the world, “…life that was the light of men; and light that shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it" (Jn.1:4). Pilate and the Roman soldiers didn’t know that Sunday was coming. They thought it would all end with Friday. They forgot that light would eventually overcome darkness. 

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who went to anoint Jesus discovered that his body was not there. They had no idea that Jesus went to the tomb to destroy the powers of death, to dispel darkness. He died to give us hope. He died to free us from perpetual bondage of death. Simon Peter went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had told the apostles, and Peter was amazed. Yes, the world is amazed today at the resurrection of Christ. It is Easter Sunday; no fable or myth, but an historical reality, the fulfillment of our salvation story. The tomb becomes a passage to glory by the death of Christ. 

We must appreciate the mysteries of this night. Christ says, "I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ. The priest lights his candle from the paschal candle and every other light in the church is lit from there. Imagine the beauty of the movement of this light: from the paschal candle to the priest; from the priest to the congregation. One person lights the other’s candle, and so on and so forth. Suddenly, the whole church, the entire congregation is filled with light, everywhere is aglow with light. That's how we are supposed to light the world of others as we encounter the great light, Christ, our CENTRAL CIRCUIT. 

Let us reflect deeply on the mystery of Light tonight; “Darkness vanishes forever”. The Psalm echoes, "In your light, Lord, we see light" (Ps.36:9). Again, it says, "Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame". The resurrection of Christ has freed us from shame, pain and fear. It has freed us from darkness and death. It has freed us from sin and iniquity. It has made us children of light. Can we take this light home and shine for others? Can we dispel the darkness of wickedness, hatred, anger, fear, frustration, division, in our homes and in our relationships? That is the meaning of the resurrection. 

May the light of Christ bring light into our lives. Amen.