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Homily for Easter Vigil, 2024

A few years ago, we had a series of online talks on the structure of the Mass. One of the last talks was on the Easter Vigil. This was because in the Vigil we see the Mass in its fullest form. Not only do we have an extended liturgy of the Word – one that brings out more clearly both the pattern of salvation history and the dialogical form of the Word of God through reading and response, we also have an extended welcome and very importantly tonight, the sacramental rites of initiation, tonight welcoming Ellie and Tillie into the Church.

The Missal describes our liturgy today as made up of four parts. First, there is the Lucernarium and the Easter Proclamation (known as the Exsultet). As we saw and heard, this moves into the Liturgy of the Word in which we hear about God’s creative and saving act, and the covenant between God and God’s people. Soon, we will move into the third part, the Baptismal liturgy. The final part of the liturgy is that of the Eucharist.

It is perhaps worth memorising these parts and their sequence. As you are no doubt sick of me saying, the Eucharist is the memorial, the real presence of Jesus Christ who is life. The Mass then looks like Jesus, and therefore life looks like the Mass. And the Easter Vigil then is perhaps the fullest portrait, the fullest description we have of what like looks like.

The whole of salvation history is set out in this structure. We have light entering into the darkness, the primal act of creation, which we have just heard, and this taken to new depths in redemption, where God’s love pierces the darkness of even sin and death, our worst moments as revealed to us yesterday when we try to kill God and end up killing ourselves.

But also let us not forget all the other moments of darkness and confusion, or even just questioning in our lives. In all these moment, we find a call, a vocation, a word from God. A word that seeks to illumine us, and lead us out of darkness into the light, lead us into ever greater horizons, a richer life.

But that invitation is always an invitation that creates and respects our freedom. In the liturgy of the word, we experience that conversation of heart speaking to heart, of God’s work beckoning us on, seeking our response, our Amen, at ever deeper levels. This dialogue, this covenantal relationship draws us ever closer to God until, as in salvation history and as in our liturgy this evening, we are prepared to meet our Lord, the Rising Sun who enters fully into creation to become one with us.

The advent of our Lord, the good news he brings, the good news that he is, the unforeseen depths of love that he pours out on us on the Cross, this cannot help but make our hearts cry out. And in this, we are formed a new.

Again, this is the pattern of life, a pattern seen in education, a pattern seen in scientific endeavour, a pattern seen in loving relationships. This movement demands our all, and when we give everything, it breathes new life into us. This is what we will see perfectly in a few moments, with Ellie and Tilly, when we, with them, will profess our faith that Jesus is the Lord and truth of our lives, the beginning and the end, as we heard just outside the church.

And that divine potential is precisely to sup with God. To celebrate. To wonder at God’s love. And to take our place as members of God’s family.

And in some way, not only does the liturgy tonight, not only do the reality of the Scriptures we have heard and the story of salvation they witness to, not only do all these things reveal life to us, in some way they reveal life to us because they bring us up into God’s life.

The light breaking forth from these candles is a pale reflection of the fire of the Holy Spirit. The words we have heard point to the one Word of God, who exists before all time and is the same yesterday, today and forever. The freedom that is manifested in the dialogue and most of all in the sacraments of initiation invites us into the sovereign freedom of God, God who is completely unconstrained, completely impassible, who is moved by nothing except God’s very self, the love of the Trinity, yet still comes to get us, to be with us.

This is the ultimate vision of which we get a glimpse tonight. The kingdom of God. A kingdom of love and truth. A kingdom of peace and mercy. A kingdom of holiness, in which all tears will be wiped away. Where the worst, the unforgiveable is redeemed, and represented to us in the blinding light of love

Let us receive these blessings in humility. Let us wonder at our creation and redemption. And most of all, let us not keep these wonders to ourselves. Let us sacrifice ourselves out of love, for our brothers and sisters, for the life of the world.

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