What are we celebrating tonight? In the hymn of praise ‘Exultet’ sung at the beginning of the liturgy, several times references are made to ‘This is the night’.. What is this night we are celebrating? We are celebrating the night when the Lord saved our fathers, freed the people of Israel from their slavery; the night that destroyed the darkness of sin; the night when Christians were washed clean of sin and are restored to grace and to grow together in holiness; the night when Jesus Christ broke the chain of death and rose triumphantly from the grave; the night when the fault or sin of Adam became a necessary sin to gain a Redeemer for us, that fault which became a happy fault; that night that became our light and joy; the night that acquired the power to dispel all evil, to wash all guilt away, restored lost; innocence brought; mourners joy, cast out hatred, brought us peace an humbled earthy pride; the night when heaven was wedded to earth and man was reconciled to God; the night during which we plead with the Lord to accept our evening sacrifice of praise as the Church’s solemn offering. (The Exultet)
Tonight such is the Night we celebrate, commemorate and experience in our lives. This night therefore is important for us because it is the Night that gives us the joy and peace to last for eternity. Because on this Night our Saviour rose from the dead on account of which sin, Satan and death have no lasting power over us. This is the night that tells that now, because of the Resurrection of Jesus, all of us are capable of experiencing true joy, true peace and true light. This night tells us that once again we can be free from within and that we can experience a genuine and authentic interior transformation of our lives that can influence all our thoughts, actions, decisions and life itself.
If such is the night that we are experiencing, then, what are we waiting for? What are we longing for? What are we yearning for? What is the dynamic power and energy that urges and motivates our life? What is the determining factor in our life? What kind of life that we want to live?
That ‘Christ is Risen, Alleluia’ has to be the motivating light and energy of our life. For, as we heard from the letter of St. Paul we who have been baptized into Christ, were baptized into his death. We were buried with Him into baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
This night makes us experience the newness of life. What is the newness of life? It is the newness which the apostles experienced. The newness will be unfolded to us day by day from tomorrow as we listen to the Acts of the Apostles. The newness which apostles experienced is the newness we are called to experience. Let us then consider two aspects of this newness.
Firstly the Apostles experienced a kind of inner freedom that they had never experienced earlier. The obsessions of the mind, body and soul that express themselves through various ways of attachments to this material world were destroyed. Now they began to open the doors of their hearts and minds to a power they had not experienced earlier. They became unselfish in their love, and unconditional in forgiveness of one another. They were ready to embrace enemies rather than hate or condemn them. They were ready to undergo sufferings rather than escape from them. They were ready to give their life to the preaching of the Word rather than afraid of dying for the Lord in the process of accomplishing their mission. In other words, they became courageous rather remaining timid and coward. Their life became an open book to all. They reached to as many persons, groups and communities as possible. They travelled to places wherever their sense of mission led them. Such was the new sense or level of freedom they experienced.
Secondly, owing to their experience of the Resurrection of Jesus they were transformed. Their own transformation became the proof of the Resurrection of Jesus.
They became joyful and energetic. They did not require anyone or anything else to motivate them. They began to understand the words and deeds of Jesus anew. They obtained greater insight into the person and mission of Jesus. They became eloquent and effective preachers of the Word of God. No power on earth could now prevent them in fulfilling their mission. They began to form new Christian Communities wherever thy preached the Word of God. They became living witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus and the Person of Jesus. They were no more influenced by the values of this earthly world but by the values of the Gospel.
The world didn’t take notice. Only those with whom he broke bread and to whom he spoke words of peace, were aware of what happened, Still, it was this hidden event that freed humanity from the shackles of death.” Resurrection, therefore, is an experience of hope. Once again, in the words of that same author Henri J.W. Nouwen (With Open Hands),
Hope means to keep living amid desperation and to keep humming in the darkness. Hoping is knowing that there is love, it is trust in tomorrow it is falling asleep and waking again when the sun rises. In the midst of a gale at sea, it is to discover land. In the eyes of another it is to see that you are understood… As long as there is still hope. There will also be prayer… And you will be held in God’s hands.
May we all continue to experience the Peace and Joy of the Resurrection of Jesus until we celebrate Easter again’, be our prayer for one another.
God Bless you. Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Dias