Easter Vigil Homily

EASTER VIGIL HOMILY: JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN (MARK 16: 6)

Tonight is Easter Vigil in anticipation for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Easter vigil opens the solemn celebration of the Easter time. This vigil, according to the ancient tradition of the Church is 'the Mother of all holy vigils. It is the night the Church awaits in prayer the Resurrection of the Lord. That is the reason for leaving the Altar bare until after the solemn Vigil, when the time approaches for Easter joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days. It is the night the Church celebrates the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, namely, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. In the Easter proclamation, we reverberate the characteristics of this night: "It is the night when God led our forebears, Israel's children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea. This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin. This is the night that sets we, Christians apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading us to grace, and joining us to God's holy ones. This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld. This night is as bright as day and full of gladness."
My brothers and sisters, the Easter Vigil is divided into four parts: the solemn beginning of the Vigil or lucernarium which is characterized by the blessing of the fire and preparation of the Candle, procession into the Church and the Easter proclamation (Exsultet). The second is the liturgy of the word; nine readings are proclaimed, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament (Epistle and Gospel) and Homily. Part three is the Baptismal liturgy and part four is the liturgy of the Eucharist.
The message of the resurrection is echoed in the Gospel (Mark 16: 1-7): ...do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen...Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee..., there you will see him... said the man in a white robe. Why Galilee? What is the significant role of Galilee in our salvation history? According to Pope Francis, "Galilee is the place where the Apostles were first called, where everything began!" Going before them to the place where they were originally called means a lot for his apostles and indeed for all of us, his present disciples. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).
Jesus Christ wanted them to converge in Galilee in order to revisit the whole thing on the basis of the cross and its conquest, fearlessly: “do not be amazed”. Pope Francis also said "to revisit the whole thing – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read the whole thing starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love." For us gathered here tonight, Jesus Christ is going before us to Galilee. Where is our own Galilee? Jesus Christ wants us there instantly without delay. He has a message for us there. As it is certain that he has risen, so let us move from his tomb where we have been in prayer and fasting since Good Friday that is, after his death, to Galilee where we will see him.
Before we get there, I want to ask you these questions: Do you still remember the date of your baptism? Do you still remember the date of your First Holy Communion? Do you still remember the date of your Confirmation? Are you still as immaculate as the white garments you put on the days of your baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation? Immediately after this homily, we shall move to our own Galilee. There in Galilee, we will welcome our new members into the mystical Body of Christ, the Church and also renew our baptismal promises, namely, renunciation of Satan and all his empty show, profession of our belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as our belief in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Also in Galilee, we will see Jesus in the breaking of the bread- the liturgy of the Eucharist. Not only that, there in Galilee, we recall our individual salvation history that we were born anew by Baptism, strengthened by Confirmation and nourished by the Eucharist.
Are you ready and willing to go to Galilee? There in our own Galilee, will you transform the words of the baptismal promises into action? Will you allow the Eucharistic Jesus to increase your union with him and with his Church, preserve and renew the life of grace received at Baptism and Confirmation and make you grow in love for your neighbour, strengthen you in charity, wipe away venial sins and preserve you from mortal sin in the future? (cf. Compendium, CCC 292). Will you actually participate fully or will something obstruct (hinder) you from participating?
Why is it necessary to renew our baptismal promises? It is necessary to renew our baptismal promises because it focuses our attention as stewards on answering Christ’s call to follow after him, proclaiming his Gospel in word and deed, putting the Eucharist into action, building up the communion of faith, and sharing Christ’s peace with a broken world. The sprinkling of holy water immediately after the renewal of our baptismal promise compels us to reflect on our baptism, calls us back to our central identity as Catholics, and strengthens us anew “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:10).
The renewal of our baptismal promises, which will soon be done, is directly related to our observance of Lent. Lent has had a twofold purpose. It prepared the unbaptized to celebrate the rites of initiation by putting them through a period of spiritual preparation, and it absorbed the faithful in a period of repentance and renewal. Christ has risen and is present among us, calling us each day to follow after him. The baptismal water of Easter also performs a twofold purpose. It baptizes the catechumens and it refreshes our covenant with God in Christ through the renewal of our baptismal promises. It “seals” our resolve to follow Jesus more closely and faithfully.
Finally, let us make this Easter the best Easter in our lifetime, and also, celebrate it as if it is the only Easter we have to celebrate in our lifetime. Let us not throw the joys of this Easter into a mud as we leave Galilee for all corners of the world. Let us always remembering the words of Jesus Christ: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation", Mark 16: 15. Let us stop compromising our faith over power, wealth, earthly honour, fame and our posts on social networks. . All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus should consider ourselves initially dead to sin and now alive to God in Christ Jesus. May the risen Lord be in us, be for us and be with us and also with our country, Nigeria- the God's own country.

 

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