by Fr. Tommy Lane
In 1992 I spent the month of April in Israel as part of my studies. During that time I had the great privilege of celebrating Holy Week in Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday I walked from Bethany to Jerusalem in the Palm Sunday Procession. On Holy Thursday evening I concelebrated Mass very near where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. After Mass I went to Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and spent part of the night with hundreds of people there in prayer remembering Jesus’ agony in the garden and his request to his disciples to stay awake and keep watch with him. On Good Friday I attended the celebration on Calvary and on Easter Sunday I concelebrated Mass a few feet away from the tomb and a few days later I concelebrated Mass in the tomb.
The rock of Calvary and the tomb are very close together, now under the roof of the same church in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Calvary was a quarry at the time of Jesus and his cross was placed on a piece of rock in the quarry. The tomb was merely cut into the rock of the surrounding hillside. Because Jesus’ tomb was so important, as time went on the rock surrounding his tomb was cut away so that from the outside the tomb looked like a chapel as it does today, a small chapel inside in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The tomb was vandalized later by a fanatical anti-Christian so that the tomb seen now is only a replica of the tomb where Jesus was laid, although the base of it is the original. Fragments of the stone which covered the entrance to the tomb may still be seen preserved beneath glass inside the tomb.
About a week after Easter Sunday I was on a Jewish bus, traveling from one Jewish part of Jerusalem to another Jewish part of Jerusalem but passing through an Arab part of the city on the way. Suddenly one side of the bus was pounded by rocks and boulders. All the shatter-proof windows were badly damaged. The driver stopped the bus immediately, jumped out, took a small handgun from his pocket and began to shoot after the four Arab youths who were responsible. They escaped.
Life is like that in Jerusalem, the holy and unholy are mixed together. In Jerusalem you will have to find the holy in the midst of the unholy. That is also the case for each of us, we search for the holy in the midst of the ordinary. This was also the case for the disciples after Jesus rose from the dead. In the Gospel tonight (Matt 28:7 Year A; Mark 16:7 Year B) we heard the angel telling the women in the tomb that Jesus would go before his disciples to Galilee and they would see him there, and then Jesus himself appeared to the women and told them to tell the disciples that they would see him in Galilee (Matt 28:10). In other words they would find the risen Jesus in their ordinary lives back in Galilee. The disciples did not have to do anything extraordinary to meet the risen Jesus after he rose from the dead, simply return to Galilee to their ordinary everyday lives. We have had a beautiful celebration this week of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Now we will return to our ordinary lives, we will return to Galilee and with eyes of faith we will see the risen Jesus present in our ordinary everyday lives and meet the risen Jesus in our ordinary everyday 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 for ever. We had been waiting for this moment for thousands of years. We heard in our 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 humankind, 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.
In the New Testament reading tonight we heard Paul tell the Romans that when we were baptized, we left behind our old life. We, so to speak, entered the tomb with Jesus and rose again to new life. (Rom 6:3-4) When we were baptized we took on a new lifestyle, leaving sin behind to live a new life with Christ. Soon I will bless the new Easter Holy Water. We will renew our baptismal promises and I will bless us all with the new Easter Holy Water. Notice that the water is at the foot of the cross symbolizing the new life that we received because of Jesus dying and rising for us. The new life of grace flows from the cross. When we were baptized we entered the tomb with Jesus, died to sin, and rose with Jesus to live a new life of faith. During this Lent we went into the desert as Jesus did and we tried to overcome sin and temptation. When we renew our baptismal promises soon and reject Satan, let us really mean what we say. Let us really rise to a new life with Jesus leaving sin behind. Let us really try to leave the pattern of sin behind. It was great to see such large numbers of people confessing their sins this week. Let us not quickly fall back into our old ways of sinfulness. By confessing our sins this week we have risen from the tomb of sinfulness with the new life of risen Jesus. Now that we have come out of the tomb of sinfulness, and that soon we will renew our baptismal promises and will reject Satan, let us stay out of the tomb of sinfulness not to go back in again.
We have had a beautiful celebration this week of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The risen Jesus has gone before us to Galilee. Now we will return to our ordinary lives, we will return to Galilee and with eyes of faith we will see the risen Jesus present in our ordinary everyday lives and meet the risen Jesus in our ordinary everyday lives. It is there we will see him.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 1998
More homilies for the Easter Vigil
Related Homilies: Passover Expectation of the Messiah, the Eucharist and Easter Vigil 2010
belief in the resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)