Easter Vigil homily 2015

Easter Vigil Homily

                                                                                                                                April 4th, 2015



The poet Mary Oliver writes:


                                                And consider, always, every day, the

                                                determination of the grass to grow

                                                despite the unending obstacles.


                                                                                                                --“Evidence”, p.44




Life has its obstacles; unending obstacles it seems when faced with one thing after another.  “It’s Always Something” was the title of comedienne Gilda Radner’s biography, written after she was diagnosed with   cancer.  I recall my Mom reading it soon after it was published.  She enjoyed Radner’s humor on Saturday Night Live; who didn’t?  

Life has its obstacles which leave us with all types of questions—a maze of questions with no clear way to an answer.

In tonight’s Gospel the women carry spices to anoint Jesus’ scourged, wounded and lifeless body.  They make their way to the tomb they hope to enter.   However, due to the numbing nature of grief they overlooked a practicality, and   ask one another:

                         Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?

These women, emotionally drained and without strength, face an obstacle too heavy for them; a very real obstacle.  In this stone, too, we discover a metaphor of the disciple’s dead and lifeless faith; for they lose faith and scatter.  Not only that: one denies Jesus and another betrays him.  They think only of themselves, determined to save their own skin.  They forget the love that first called them, and the desire that fired their courage to let go of everything and follow.

Do we not see something of ourselves and our own scattered nature?    

The stone that seals the tomb reminds them of the stumbling block of His death.  Their hope now shattered, the women carry out customs familiar and known.  With jars of ointment, they’re at a loss and carry inside themselves a grief that cannot be spoken.  Clinging to the jars they bring with them.  They hold on to a familiar practice since the capacity to hope has slipped from their wearied hearts; hearts weighted by questions that have no answer.

Eventually, the obstacle and question of death weighs upon us all.  The death of those we’ve loved, and the senseless slaughter and tragedy faced worldwide is an insurmountable obstacle that can make us question and wonder and doubt.

At times, I questioned my Mom’s suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Why did it have to be this way?  Sometimes, I’d look  up and  jokingly say to God,  “Pick on someone your own size!”    What kept me clinging to my sometimes threadbare faith were those graced moments:  when  she’d utter something out of the blue   I  knew was from God;  a word  that bolstered my faith.  Momentarily, the stone and obstacle would roll away.     

Much of what happens does not make sense.  Yet, with the death of Christ, we behold a God who empathizes; who is with us. In Christ there is revealed a love stronger than death; that “All shall be well; all manner of being shall be well”.  The senselessness of sin and suffering   gives way to the God who wipes the tears from all faces.  This is no pipe dream.  It is the Good News.  The stone has been rolled away. The stone rejected is alive and holds all things together.   Alongside and within, God meets all the obstacles we face, and with a love that will bring us through a darkness that gives way to light…”the Living Flame of Love”.

The women palpably sense that promise as they see the stone rolled away and a man dressed in white announcing:

       He has been raised.  He is not here.  He is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see him.

The Risen One is now found where once he touched and healed lives.  He’s discovered within the ordinary rhythms of life and despite locked doors;   Mistaken as the gardener he calls one of his own by name.   When he sees those whose nets are empty he speaks words they take to heart.   And the miracle happens.  Afterwards, he makes breakfast as he brings them back to earth and helps them see that the sacred and secular are one; that nothing can separate us from the love of God for we are part of a seamless whole, the very fabric of God.  

This is the Good News and why the tomb was emptied. 

“No tomb could hold Him” because he’s now found within the hearts of those who believe and love.

The stone is rolled back.  Death gives way to life.  “The soul is immortal and grace bats last.” as the writer Anne Lamott puts it.

Let me end w/ a passage from Marilynne Robinson’s novel “Lila”:  (Lila faces the death of Doll--the woman who raised her --in this exchange with her husband John Ames)

If the Lord is more gracious than any of us can begin to imagine, and I’m sure God is, then your Doll and a whole lot of people are safe, and warm, and very happy.  And probably a little bit surprised.  If there is no Lord, then things are just the way they look to us.  Which is really much harder to accept.  I mean, it doesn’t feel right.  There has to be more to it all, I believe.

                                                                                                                                                (pp. 142-43)

There has to be more to it all.  There is more to it all for the stone is rolled away and Christ is Risen:  who keeps us safe, and warm and very happy for we are made for Love; for God who is our only Joy.

Fr. Tim Clark, Pastor

Our Lady of the Lake, Seattle

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