Gn 1:1--2:2 or 1:1,26-31a
Gn 22:1-18 or 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, ] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.. This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
(from Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily, 2019)
The women brought spices to the tomb, but feared that their journey was in vain, since a large stone barred the entrance. The journey of those women is also our own journey of salvation that we are making this evening. At times, it seems that everything comes up against a solid barrier: the beauty of creation against the tragedy of sin; liberation against infidelity; the promises of the prophets against the listless indifference of the people. So too, in the history of the Church and in our own personal history. It seems that the steps we take never take us to the goal. We can be tempted to think that dashed hope is the bleak law of life.
Today we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not end with a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your tombstones? Why do you give in to resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of stones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations dash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end with the tomb, because today we encounter the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. We are built on him, and, even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?
Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a graveyard of hope. By a series of complaints we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb-psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him. He is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!
There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?
God asks us to view life as he views it, for in each of us he never ceases to see an irrepressible kernel of beauty. In sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand. In Easter he shows you how much he loves that life: even to the point of living it completely, experiencing anguish, abandonment, death and hell, in order to emerge triumphant to tell you: “You are not alone; put your trust in me!”.
Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women heard the angels say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6). They had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus, spoken back in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him, to turn back to him with all our heart. To return to a personal, living love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum” faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is more than a historical personage from the past; he is a person alive today. We encounter him not in history books but in life itself.