What a strange Good Friday that was! Joe and I rang the funeral bells at 3pm to indicate the beginning of the liturgy, and heard people outside trying to get in. An awful reality. Locked out of the church. Then we prostrated ourselves before the altar in an empty church, before alternating in reading out the various prayers and passages from Scripture. At the end of it all, as we were putting things away, I said: “Well, that’s the strangest Good Friday ever.” To which Joe immediately replied: “I think the first would have been a bit stranger.” Of course. This is the paradox of life: it is always new, yet still always Christ.
We can get life wrong by thinking it is pure knowledge, and so not something that must be lived. As though Christ does not have to become incarnate in our lives. Or we can get it wrong by thinking the novelty of my life makes me the centre of existence. As though the truth of my life is not Christ.
We see something of this paradox in the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. There we remember the one sacrifice for all time, and the institution of the Eucharist that makes that one sacrifice forever new. We remember the one Lord, who alone can save us, and we remember his command to “Do this in memory of me” that we might participate in his saving acts. And we see the truth of that living memorial spelt out so beautifully in the Easter Vigil.
The Vigil has four parts to it. The first part is the coming of the Easter light and the proclamation of the Good News in the Exsultet. The second part is the extended meditation on God’s Word as revealed in salvation history. The third part is the welcoming of new members into the Church reborn in Baptism. The fourth part is the communion at the table of the Lord, the memorial of his death and resurrection until he comes again. We see in this wonderful liturgy the roadmap of life with God.
God springs us from our slumber with the light of Christ, his wondrous love on the cross, and God secures us in the knowledge of God’s power with the Easter message. Christ is risen! The powers of the world have fallen. There is nothing to fear. God’s truth, God’s goodness and God’s love are triumphant. Life is not in vain. Indeed, the fulfilment of its promises are more glorious than we can imagine.
God then teaches us what this means. How we are supposed to live. What is the substance of our faith and hope. God does this through the story of God’s life with the People of God, and most fundamentally in the life of Christ, truly divine and truly human, showing us how all this has been prepared. That God will go to any lengths to save us, yet without ever demeaning us, without ever robing us of our truth, our freedom or our history. Instead, God will constantly seek to raise us up. To have us share in the divine life, to become brothers and sisters of the Only Begotten Son.
If we accept this, if we say yes to God’s yes to us – God’s declaration that creation, and especially each one of us, is good – if we accept this, then we are truly reborn. We are called brothers and sisters of God for in fact that is what we become. A truth so startling, a reality so blinding that we rarely take it seriously. Not only does every baptised person become something new, but our eyes are opened to understand that God gave his only son for each person we encounter. Somehow every person we meet really is a centre of existence, someone worthy of everything, because of God’s act of creation and redemption.
And it is this realisation, this divine solidarity, that is expressed at the table of the Lord. Not only does he gather us together as one in his bride, the Church, not only does he feed us with himself, he entrusts himself to us. He commissions us to share his life with the world. To take his light into the darkness. To proclaim to the poor and the lost and the suffering the good news that he is risen. To go out and baptise all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. And to gather the whole world to the heavenly banquet, that Christ might wash our feet and share God’s life with us all.
So, brothers and sisters, let us rejoice in this light, in this truth and this life. Let us know God’s invincible love. Let us become, like Christ, people who think nothing of giving our lives, Christ’s life, away, because we see one another as beloved of God. And through our words, through our actions, through our lives, let’s take Christ, our light, out into the world that all may share our joy. He is risen! Alleluia!