Homily, Great Vigil

We are in the dark. We don’t know when this thing will end. We don’t know if we or people we love will become ill. We don’t know who is telling the truth.

We are in the dark and we need the light of Christ.

This year, more than ever, we need Easter.

In Ezekiel’s story of the dry bones, we see a valley of death. It is a lifeless place of dry bones, merely the faint memory of life. It feels hopeless. But as soon as God begins to speak, hope is born. Can these bones live? A shocking question that we would not dare to ask. But for God, nothing is impossible, and when God asks the question, we know the answer is yes. Yes, these bones can live. Yes, the darkness will end. Yes, the light of Christ will burn brightly and lead us from the edge of the grave back to life.

Over and over we see in Scripture that God brings life out of death. The people of God are liberated. The desert blooms. The boy Isaac is saved. The bones live. In this challenging time, we are tempted to think only about death. We hear the statistics, the number of those infected, sick, or who have died, and the temptation is to think only about the death. But Easter tells us that death isn’t the end of the story. This pandemic will end and the people of God will come back together to celebrate the life that is God’s free gift to us all. Just as the cathedral lights will come on and the organ start up when the Bishop proclaims Easter, so the lights will some day come back on in the world and life will return to our streets, schools, and industries.

But I dare to hope that it won’t return to normal. Our society had become like a spoiled child, never satisfied with what we had, paying little attention to those who had less, forgetting to take time with our loved ones and putting our own wants ahead of the common good. This time of enforced isolation, of extended time with some family members and cruel separation from others, this time of doing without new clothes, manicures, vacation trips, and parties; this shared experience could redirect us to be more family-oriented, to reprioritize our habits and our spending, to become more aware of the humanity that we share woth every other human being. This time, as hard as it is, could be the salvation of our culture, if it moves us away from the consumerism and toxic politics that have all but destroyed any shared value of community spirit.

My Easter hope this year is that there will be a cultural shift in our world; that, just as the world changed for ever when Jesus rose from the dead, so, when our world rises from its viral sickbed, there will be a new normal, a normal that brings us closer together and enables us to see more clearly the Christ in each other. To see, we need light, and the Paschal Candle reminds us that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. We need the risen Christ to go ahead of us, to lead us from the dark tomb to a new place of light.

The Exsultet hymn calls us to rejoice tonight as the light shines out. For this is the night when everything changes. This is the night when we pass with Christ from darkness to light, from sin to redemption, from death to life. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, ever burn in our hearts, and may we come to know the full joy of Easter. Amen.

The Great Vigil of Easter, April 11, 2020
TVR Penelope Bridgesv
Preached after the Vigil readings

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