Easter Vigil 2017
Abbot Damien Toilolo, O.S.B.
I was at an abbot’s meeting a couple of years ago and the keynote speaker told us a story. He said there were 2 Jesuit missionary priests who had been in India for 3 years, working with the Hindu people there. And among the people there was a young Hindu teenage boy who took to the priests and liked to be around them, helping them out, learning from them. One of the priests had given the teenager the gospel of Mark to read. So the boy took it home read it; he found the story so interesting that he read it all in one sitting.
When he returned the next day to the 2 priests, he was a little upset. The priests noticed this change and asked him, “Are you ok?” He said, “You mean “he’s alive?” They said, “What? He said, “You mean he’s alive?” They said, “Who?” He said “Jesus. You mean He’s alive?” They said, “Yes, of course He’s alive.” And he said, “Why didn’t you tell me that?”
Because we live in a Christian society, we know that everyone knows that Jesus is risen. And so we believe there’s no need for us to tell the story of the resurrection. But consider the fact that the Church celebrates this feast every year... by preparing for it for 40 days with particular penances and fast days and special liturgies. And again...it’s done every year.
The truth of the matter is that this miraculous story of Jesus’ death and resurrection needs to be told again and again and again, even to Christians... because everyone, including believers, needs what this story gives: hope, life, and a faith that tells us no matter how far we’ve fallen away from God, it’s never too far.
As Fr. Luke said yesterday, through His death and resurrection, Jesus went ‘all the way down’ through the darkest darkness, through the most powerful sin, and through the ancient enemy of death to rescue us...because there we were dying in our sin, and it is only He Himself who could rescue us.
God never intended us to die. He did not create death. He hates death. And so He did something about it. He went to the root of the problem: sin. Sin is the cause of death. And so Jesus died for our sins and conquered death...and because of His resurrection, we too will rise from our grave on the last day. God found a way around this predicament of sin and death. He was the way, the solution to the problem.
The death and resurrection of Jesus not only has implications regarding everlasting life, but this life too.
When we find ourselves going through a particular dark time in our life...when things seem to be unusually messy and confusing and difficult, and we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, even then, we can still live in hope because of Jesus. Just knowing that Jesus has already conquered death and darkness, and the evil wiles of the enemy like discouragement and confusion....gives us courage and faith to know that He is also with us in these difficult moments of our life. He is there with us in the struggles of life....always by our side.
We are here tonight because someone passed on the faith to us…just like we stood outside in the dark and passed the flame to each other. Person by person, and candle by candle carefully and slowly the light spread. Protecting our own flame, but making sure the next person’s was lit.
May we always remember our purpose in life: is not necessarily to be successful in our career, but to be faithful to God…faithful in spreading the Good News that Christ is Risen. That he is alive. That we have forgiveness, hope and eternal life in His name.