Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter(Year B)

April 3, 2021

Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:2; Psalm 104; Exodus 14:15-15:1; Psalm Exodus 15; Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28; Psalm 42; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 118; Mark 16:1-7 https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/040321.cfm

St. Anselm Church – Sudbury, MA


Title:  ‘He is going before you to Galilee’

On this solemn night, a night of all nights in the year, we gather to hear the story of salvation told again. It’s the story of our human relationship with a tender God, unfolding in history.

It is good to remember. We walk not alone, but in the footsteps of forbears whose faith was deep even though they faltered and hesitated and sinned. We are not so unlike them — whether great and famous or obscure and simple — our faith too can be deep and yet challenged, sincere and yet we don’t always measure up to our values.

One thing remains — the faithfulness of God towards us — who holds us in love.

We heard the story from its beginnings — the creation of the world and all its wonders — crowned by God’s own great leap of faith: creating humankind in God’s very own image — with a soul, free will, judgment and intellect (too smart for our own good sometimes).  Only such beings as we could be capable of such great good, great love; but also only such beings as we are capable of deep wrong through a misuse of our free will for unholy ends. Because we have freedom like no other creature, we hold in our hands this power to choose life or death, to magnify and celebrate all life, or to be a dealer of death and ill will. 

Sin is what led to such desperate circumstances as the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt, a great suffering that moved God’s heart. He liberated them from their bondage, just as in more recent times God has worked liberation for others oppressed by the sin we humans at times unleash upon one another.

God works liberation through righteous people, people faithful to the good, like Moses, who led the Israelites out of their enslavement in Egypt, against all odds, and by winding paths into a land where they could thrive.

God stands on the side of the oppressed always, raising up a moral cry for virtue and purification through the voice of the prophets of old, and the prophets of more recent times.

God even purifies the faithful, whose ideas about who God is, at times gets warped.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6) — telling religious people that God cares more for the disposition of their hearts & that we live lives of mercy, than for ritual pieties if they are not backed up by a life lived lovingly.

In the fullness of time, God saw our need for salvation so urgent, so compelling — like the pangs that tear at the hearts of a concerned parent for their sick child —  that God took on flesh, was born in human likeness, Jesus — Son of God.

He loved us completely — curing the sick, teaching the hungry heart, reconciling those estranged, humbling the self-important, raising up the lowly.  He came to be our friend, no matter who we are, no matter what we have done. 

He loved us completely, and he loved us to the end. Loving without limit is unpopular with the worldly; loving unconditionally is not the way of the world. And so God’s only begotten Son paid the price of great love: the powerful turned against him, the fearful and small minded could not see the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Love in Jesus before them. The world chose death, not life, for Jesus.  We do, after all, have free will (at times too much for our own good).   

But Jesus shows us that it is worth it to love completely, to love unconditionally. For thought the world killed him, God is stronger than death. Earthly death — which may seem so final for us — can be overcome and is by God who lives always and forever. 

On this, the third day from his execution, Jesus rose from the tomb!  He vacated what his loved ones thought to be his permanent resting place. He resumed his life yet more glorious than before. He shows us that the Divine Will conquers ALL sin.

Christ calls us too, to faith in our saving God, that we too might follow him in loving completely, and even though we will die, following in his pattern we too will rise in glory.  For God wills life.

When the women in the gospel go to the tomb of Jesus, they get the shock of their lives to find it open, his body gone and the appearance of an angel telling them:

“‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’” 

The mourners’ moods are changed from grief to amazement. They will see him again! He has somehow come back from the grave. How great is God, they must have felt!

Now, why Galilee? Why did the angels say he has gone before them to Galilee?  Why would Jesus not come to them first — right where they were? Right in their dens of mourning and grief, their houses of hiding where most of them had taken shelter for fear for their own lives at Jesus’ arrest. Why not there? 

Jesus, upon rising from the tomb, was on his way to Galilee, the angels said.  Galilee was home. Nazareth was where he grew up.  Galilee was where he spent a lot of his ministry.  Galilee was not the center of life and sophistication, but a place where a lot of people struggled on the margins — recall the fishermen with no catch, the beggars and the lame on the edges of town eking out an existence, the sinners whom no one else could bring themselves to forgive–the tax collector, the adulterer; remember the hungry crowd assembled on the hillside to listen to Jesus words of hope and a new and liberating way to live in heart and in deed. This is the Galilee that called at the Risen Lord’s heart — the Divine heart of Mercy. 

“There you will see him, as he told you” the angels said to the women.

This is the announcement to you and me as well.  We will see the Risen Lord also in Galilee — our own Galilee.  We will see the Lord risen, bringing salvation about when we get close to the suffering people, the situations needing healing, hope; the circumstances of life that challenge us to LOVE COMPLETELY the way Jesus did. 

Because he goes before us. Whenever we arrive at a tough situation, Jesus is there already saying “help me to bind up this wound” or “help me to cast out hate with love” or “Help me restore the dignity of this beloved friend”. 

Do we have the courage to set out for Galilee — our Galilee?  Take heart in Jesus, your friend and savior, who goes before you!

Let us pray:

Free us, O God, from our fears. Free us from hiding. Give us hearts of mercy.  So we can go where you go, love like you love, and rise to live our life in God who lives forever!  Amen.