Roll away the stone and meet the risen Jesus

Homily for the Easter Vigil

by Fr. Tommy Lane

This is the most blessed and most joyful night of the year as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. We are so accustomed to hearing of Jesus risen from the dead that we could say “Oh yea…we know all about it” and miss the grace of entering fully into this celebration, But think about it, Jesus rose from the dead! Death is not the end. It is only the door to beyond. Let us not allow the resurrection of Jesus to have to fight for room in our lives, let Jesus’ death and resurrection be the center of our lives. We began our celebration tonight with a service of light, which symbolized Jesus rising from the dead, and bringing light to all of us. The light of Christ has shone in the world scattering darkness forever. We had been waiting for this moment for thousands of years. We heard in the readings tonight an account of the creation of man and woman (first reading) and the liberation of the Hebrews from Egypt (third reading). This was in God’s plan for mankind, but the highpoint in God’s plan for us was the resurrection. This is the greatest celebration of the Church. This night is the most blessed of all as we heard in the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation. Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that there is life beyond the grave. Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that there is more to each of us than meets the eye, that we have an immortal soul. Although our body will return to dust, our soul will live forever with God.

What is the purpose of life? What is your goal in life? Where is your heart in life? Life has only one ultimate goal, to prepare for the next life, and if you are not preparing for your own resurrection you are like a train that has become derailed. What happens to a train that gets derailed? It goes nowhere. Can you take your house to heaven with you? Then why make such a fuss about your house? Can you take your car to heaven with you? Well then, why become so engrossed in your car? Can you take your bank account to heaven with you? Use your money for the spread of the Gospel. Why are you so busy that you have no time to pray to God every day? It is God you want to meet in the next life, isn’t it? I cannot understand anyone who says they believe in God but do not pray every day. It is a contradiction to say that you believe in God if you do not pray.

Think of the glorious future that awaits each of us. In the letter to the Romans which we heard tonight Paul wrote that we will imitate Christ in his resurrection (Rom 6:5). Paul wrote to the Philippians, “For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the Savior we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body.” (Phil 3:20) Just think of it, you will be transformed to become glorious like Jesus. Do you live like someone who believes in such a glorious future? If you do, surely everything in this world takes on a new perspective, so that, as I said earlier, we do not become possessed by our possessions. And since you are promised to be transfigured to be glorious like the risen Jesus why do you not pray for a substantial amount of time every day? Do you see why I say it is a contradiction to say that you believe in God but you don’t pray? The reason we have so many problems is because we don’t pray enough. Pray, pray, pray. Again, what is life all about? “Our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the Savior we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body.” John, in his first letter says something similar, “My dear people, we are already children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.” (1 John 3:2) Our second reading at Mass tomorrow concludes,  “But when Christ is revealed - and he is your life - you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”

Why can we expect such a glorious future? Because we are baptized. That is why baptism is so important. When we are baptized we are adopted by God as his very own sons and daughters. In the same letter John says, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1) You were adopted by God as his son or daughter on the day you were baptized. Do you see why I am saying it is crazy to get so caught up in the things of this world and not to pray? Think of what happened to you on the day you were baptized. You were born again. You became a son or daughter of God.

In our New Testament reading tonight we heard Paul tell the Romans that when we were baptized, we left behind our old life. We entered the tomb with Jesus and rose again to new life. (Rom 6:3-4) What he means is that when we were baptized we took on a new lifestyle, leaving sin behind to live a new life with Christ because we became sons and daughters of God.

The three women in the Gospel came to the tomb wondering who would roll away the stone for them (Year B, Mark 16:1-3). Perhaps they hoped the soldiers keeping guard would roll it away for them to allow them anoint Jesus’ body. But when they got there the stone was already rolled away. Have you allowed a stone to prevent you from meeting the risen Jesus? Have you allowed the stone of becoming engrossed in what you have and own and what others have and own be a stone to block your way to Jesus? You were adopted as God’s son or daughter on the day you were baptized. If you are not living like a son or daughter of God roll away the stone. If you are not happy, that is a sure sign that the stone needs to be rolled away in your life. If you knew the risen Jesus you would have such joy in your heart that you nothing else could give you. Think of the total change that occurred in Paul’s life after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. You must roll away the stone for that. Listen once again to the beautiful invitation from God in the fifth Old Testament reading tonight,

Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
Though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
And, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
Your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
And rich food to enjoy;
Pay attention, come to me;
Listen, and your soul will live. (Isa 55:1-3)

God has adopted you as his son or daughter. Thank God for this most wonderful privilege. If you had met the risen Jesus you would certainly know it. If you haven’t yet met the risen Jesus, roll away the stone, accept God’s invitation in our fifth Old Testament reading tonight and meet Jesus:

Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
Though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
And, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
Your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
And rich food to enjoy;
Pay attention, come to me;
Listen, and your soul will live. (Isa 55:1-3)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2003

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Easter Vigil

You Will Meet the Risen Jesus in Galilee in Your Everyday Life

Jesus Risen is the Light of the World 2008

Christ is Risen! The Night is as clear as Day! 2011

Related Homilies: Passover Expectation of the Messiah, the Eucharist and Easter Vigil 2010

excerpts of funeral homilies

belief in the resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)

stories about the next life and death