Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Reflection: Easter Vigil

The young man dressed in white, sitting where Jesus’ dead body should have been, says one of the strangest things imaginable to the women who visit the tomb: “Do not be amazed!” Given that they had gone there to lament and anoint the body of their dead friend, how could these women not be amazed?

Astonishment and amazement is a natural response to the mighty acts of God. Throughout the Scripture readings this evening we have recounted the history of God at work in the world and in our lives. God speaks—says a word—and the sun, the moon, the stars, the animals, all of humanity are born out of nothing. That is amazing!

God rescues the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, giving them freedom and life when slavery and death seem their only possible future. That, too, is amazing!

Throughout the Scriptures, God provides a way when there is no way, rescuing his people from slavery, defeat, and exile. How could one not be amazed when God is at work in the world?

But, biblically speaking, amazement is more than mere delight and astonishment. Underneath this word is also a sense of being terrified or afraid—that combination of fear and wonder that reminds us that we are in the presence of a God who will let nothing defeat his life-giving desires. So maybe it’s not so unusual that, in the face of the women’s wonder and fear, the young man says, “Do not be amazed!” This message is at the heart of the Easter story—that we need not be afraid because even death can’t stop God’s life-giving desires. “Do not be amazed” that God is at work in our lives and in our world and it is God’s life-giving desire that we overcome the fears that keep us from living life as fully as God intends for us.

Our new life in Christ is born from the font of Baptism. “Are you not aware,” Paul writes to the
Romans, “that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into his death so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” Here is our life in God—our hope beyond fear. God, whose mighty acts once rescued people from slavery, defeat, and exile, has defeated the powers of sin and death by raising Jesus from the dead. This same God makes us one with Christ through baptism and raises us to newness of life.

The first word of Easter is a word for all of us: “Do not be amazed!” We need not fear because God has raised Jesus from the bonds of death and we are called to live as people of courage, peace, and and every day of our lives.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.