Easter Vigil Mass
4/5 April 2015
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 8.00pm
My dear friends,
The ceremonies of the past three days have brought us to the end of the earthy life of Jesus Christ. They were not happy days and didn’t bring us joy. It was a shameful and painful death, accepted and courageously seen through for a purpose. It was neither defensible nor deserved. The manner of death confirmed mankind’s need of redemption and highlighted the love of God which could overlook the pain, rejection and suffering involved to establish a new dispensation in the relationship between God and his people.
The Scripture readings in our Vigil Mass this evening take us through the fickleness in man’s relationship with God since creation brought light and life to our world. There is often an incompleteness in our relationships which death makes us feel with more intensity. The scene which opens before us in the Gospel reading is reassuring, if frightening for the women who went to the tomb. They are not paralysed by their fear. Their presence and the spices they bring are an expression of their love and care. When a child is born, he is born into the arms and care of a mother. A child is unready to live in this world. Given a mother, everything changes. Our birth into eternal life is not totally different to our birth into life. The hands that receive us at death are not the rough hands of the world.
Death is part of all life. The traditional family set of prayers usually included a prayer for a happy death. Young minds usually associated a happy death with being cradled in the loving arms of family and Church, fully at peace with God and everyone around us. Sadly unredeemed mankind is very much aware that the reality is very different. Some die in broken and compromised situations, maybe still bitter, unforgiving and unforgiven, angry, indifferent to God and community. Death often catches people before they have had or taken the time to say things that should have been said or done things that should have been done.
I am thinking of a man in his fifties who was unable to forgive himself because his mother (when he was seven and unaware that she was dying) had asked him to come and hug her and he, inhibited and male, had refused. It was now more than forty years later and he was still hurting. I can think also of the funeral of a man who just before he was killed in an accident had a major blow-up with his family and stomped out of the house in a rage of anger. There are times when we are too preoccupied with our own lives to reach out to others. We may now feel that what was left unfinished lies irrevocably unfinished and we may be ravaged with guilt.
In a few minutes time, you will be invited to renew your baptismal promises and asked – Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? If we accept the communion of saints, we believe that we are still in vital communion with those who have died. We can continue to communicate with them and our relationship with them can continue to grow. Reconciliations which, for many human reasons, could not be achieved in this life can now take place. We must not forget that, on the cross, Christ forgave the good thief.
We have come to the end of our Holy Week ceremonies. The week has left us deep in appreciation and admiration for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. He has healed the breach between our faithful God and our fickle selves. We can truthfully make a new and a fresh start. The journey has not ended. We have a better understanding of the role of death in life and in linking with eternity. We do not yet fully understand the mystery with which you have graced us but we can accept in faith your assurance that later, we will understand. We believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him. His life now is life with God. We too should be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. Amen.
+Liam S. MacDaid
4 April 2015