Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (April 21, 2019)
We heard at the beginning of the Gospel the words: “When it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. The pre-dawn hour is intentionally mentioned in this Gospel where the symbol of darkness indicates the absence of the “light of the world.”
This pivotal celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is repeated every Sunday as a reverberation, a spiritual aftershock, a “little Easter,” a fifty-one-fold making present of this day’s celebration.
From the very beginning, God has been in relationship with us, his people: calling us forward from darkness into light, preparing us for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. We celebrate today God’s covenant, faithfulness, and everlasting love.
In our personal story, our first breath erupted in a cry as we emerged from the darkness of our mother’s womb.
Darkness can be darker than the total absence of light. We know that darkness, too. The darkness of hatred that ravages our world as terrorism, the darkness of the violence that stalks our streets and invades our homes, the darkness of the loneliness that comes from the death of one close to us, the darkness of the loneliness of the loss of a relationship.
Jesus came as the final chapter in the history of salvation. He proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” We commemorate that truth today in the presence of the paschal candle. Last evening at the Easter vigil service, the unlit Easter candle represented Jesus’ body - wounds and all. Outside, near the doors, a live flame leaped from dead wood to become a small blaze, symbolic of Jesus’ gigantic leap from death to life. Then, this candle was lit from it, the paschal candle re-presents Jesus in his new, resurrected life, the “life” of a candle is its flame. Two thousand years ago, Jesus moved from the darkness of the tomb that had become his second womb to his resurrected life, the light to the world.
Ritually, this single, towering Christ-candle, carried by the deacon led those present into church. The participants’ candles were lit from the Christ-candle. Light/life was symbolically passed from the flame of the Christ-candle to the candles each held to symbolize the dispelling of the darkness of our hearts and minds. A wave of lights slowly crept across the worship space. Now, the paschal candle, tall and majestic, alive with light stands as a symbol for all. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world.”
When Jesus walked among us, he also said: “You are the light of the world.” We who have thrown in our lot with Jesus, who have accepted him into our lives as our basic relationship, now have a share in his resurrected life.
Between now and the time of our meeting him face to face when we pass, we continue his life of light here, we share with others both the light of his warming compassion and the light of his wisdom.
Our candles are to shine in the darkness of our world. We are carrying the light of Christ within us, the spirit of Christ to all whose lives we touch when we visit the sick, telephone the hurting, stop for a visit to the discouraged, go to a viewing and comfort a family, speak out for the oppressed, respond to the needs of the poor.
Jesus’ story draws us in with the celebration of light and challenges us with new life. May each of us accept his gift and follow him each day to the end, walking together as the people of resurrection.
To that we can say alleluia. He is risen! Alleluia. So are we!