HOMILY ON THE EASTER VIGIL
THE POWER OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
My fellow Christians, beloved people of God, I don’t know how you felt in that Praeconium Paschale, that Easter proclamation called Exultet, which ushered us tonight into the Liturgy of the Word. A great proclamation that invited all the powers and angels of heaven to exult, all the corners of the earth to be glad, and this holy building of the Mother Church to shake with joy filled with mighty voices of the people.
Why can’t we rejoice when the only Son of God used his own blood to pay Adam’s debt and wipe away the record of our ancient sinfulness. Why can’t we rejoice in a night that the pillar of fire vanished the darkness of sin, a night that our Lord and Master broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld in order to free us from worldly vices and gloom of sin. This is a charity beyond telling, on the only night that became bright as day.
You and I are celebrating a night with a santifying power, that dispels darkness, washes fault away, restores innocence to the fallen and joy to the mourners. A night that drives hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty. Above all, it is this night that enabled and witnessed the wedding between heaven and earth.
At this juncture, I have to present an outstanding question. What master of any religion offered a night like this by conquering death? Among all the religions that existed before and after christ. Could it have been Akhenatem of Atenism in Egypt, Siddhartha- Gautama who founded Budhism in india, Zoroaster of Zorastrianism in Iran, Confucius of confucianism in China, Epicurus of Epicureanism in Samia, Zeno of Citium who founded stoicisS in Phoenicia, Pythagoras of Pythagoreamism in Samia, Montanus of Montanism in Phrygia, Marcion of sinope who founded mmMacrionism in Greek, Plotinus of Neo- platonism in Greek, mani of Manichecism, Arias of Arianism, Pelagus of Pelagiansim, Nestorius of Nestorianism, Eutyches of Monophysitism, Muhammed of Islam in Arab. Name them, among all, only one is highly outstanding, our Lord Jesus Christ, God who became man, and founded Christianity in Galilee.
I will give you three substantial reasons why Christianity stands high above other religions based on transition, prehistoricity and modality. With regard to transition, every other religion moved from man and tended towards God. It was only Christianity that made a movement from God to man and that is why it’s sucess is assured beyond death. Come to think of it, in the areana of divinity, man is a weak being and can only gain its value, its teminus and quem through a higher being. This is very practical in the hierarchy of beings- chemicals, plants, animals, man and so on. No lower beings offers value to itself. Chemicals gains its value only when it is absorbed by plant, plants reache its final destination when fed upon by animals, all animals, chickens and goats which are at our homes now waiting for Easter festivity cannot offer values to themselves until, a man descend on them to offer them their final destination. which is to be in man. In the same way, our own teminus ad quem is to be with God and just like other beings we cannot grant ourselves that awesome state. There must be higher being to grant us that mysterious transition. It is only in christianity that incarnate transition ( from God to man) occured, for the redemption of man.
Another difference between christianity and other religious is based on prehistoricity. There is a foundational rationality behind Christian religion. It was not just born out of faith alone. Now, let us line up all masters of religion and then put up some questions as a test for them. Begin by asking them one after another- Did anyone know that you were coming into this world? Can you step out of the line and say Yes someone expected me? Again, since no one expected them, let us even ask them, if any of them was conscious of how he will exist or be born, what subject he will teach and how he will die? Many of them will end up telling us stories of how one angel gave them book in one bush or mountain and so on. Therefore, among all the innumerable masters of religions in the world, only one person can step out to say Yes, that he was very conscious of his coming, and in fact, he once mentioned, before Abraham was, I am, that the manner of his coming was prophesied and made known to the world, together with his mission, death and resurrection. And that is our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, this is not to prove his divinity but to assure us that we got a noble prehistorical background and reason for studying and following him.
The final difference between Christianity and others, is that they all got a method, forumlar, law, or rule to fellow in order to have life. But our Lord did not give any rule. Rather he said ” I am the Truth”. Truth was identified with his person, because he is God, saviour of all men. The religion that began with defeat and came out of it by resurrection, that defied death. And that is why he can give hope in all trials and tribulations. We have a God who decided to stumble through his throne to give us life in abundance.
The resultant effects after the resurrection enables us to observe the great signifiance of these three existential differences between Christianity and other religions. It was the news of resurrection that made Cleopas and his friend to turn from their road to Emaus back to Jerusalem without fear, the same news made the apostle to come out courageously from their hiding place, institute the Church on the Pentecost day and began to celebrate the sacraments, the power of resurrection made the early christians to offer their life such that their blood became the seed of Christianity, it is the knowledge of the resurrection that enabled our Church Fathers to secure the most enduring administration for Holy Mother the Church.
Even in our own time, it is the eternal fruits of the resurrection of our Lord, that made bishops and priests to renounce marriage and shut their offspring. I could vividly remember when I was still in junior seminary, I went for a holiday at Benin, where my parents lived. An old Edo woman, was asking me “so you mean that you will not have a woman, and you will not do ….” and she began to smile, immediately I cut the joke of what she was referring to. But due to shame, I was silent. However, I didn’t have much crisis during my seminary formation. It was in the morning proceeding my deaconate ordination that the sacrifice I have chosen for the sake of this resurrection became clear to me. It was that morning, I realised the mental agony of our Lord in Gethsemane. Immediately I finished my final address to my parent and siblings, as my father started speaking, ( May his soul rest in peace), I could not control my tears as I ponder on the sacrifices I was about to undergo. Look at the religions women, most of them could have given birth to men and women above my age, to care for them at their old stage but they sacrificed all, no money or property of their own because the event of this night (resurrection) is too promising. You too, not minding all the pleasures of this world, chose christian life with its demands of monogamous fidelity and love of the cross because no religion can be compared to that whose master in death fixed appointment with his followers and yet did not disappoint them in three days as he promised.
It is expedient to note that inspite of the hardship of this world and the gory details of Nigeria in particular with all its economic melt down, corruption increase, with no hope before, during and after her poor education, the news of death and death in various kinds, yet we are still sustained in power of the resurrection. And this is why I wish to conclude by being more existential in this our faith journey. I therefore challenge us to ask ourselves, why are we celebrating Easter in a world that is more like a Good Friday. I will tell you. The answer is to be found in two distant scenes in the lives of our Lord. The first scene took place in the garden of Gethsamane. When the saviour in his magesty goes to met the devil in the guise of Judas. The Lord told him- “this is your hour and the power of darkness”- The important word here is hour.
The second scene took place when the Pharisees came looking for him. He said- “Go tell that fox who has his mind to kill me that he is helpless. He cannot kill me until I have done my work. And I have three days work to do”. This is a figurative language. This important word here is Day. Put the two scenes together and there emerge this lesson. Evil has its hour but God has it’s Day. And that evil hour is inseparable from God’s Day. That is to say, unless the seed fall to the ground and die, it will never have its Day of bearing fruit. Unless there is a good Friday in our lives, there will never be Easter Sunday. Unless there is a crown of thorns, there will never be the helm of light, unless there is a scourged body there will never be a glorifed body and there is the answer to the question – How can we celebrate Easter on a world that is more like a good Friday. Remember our Lord never said blessed are the peaceful rather the peace makers. Peace must be made and won in a battle. The via crucis is the via pacis, meaning that the Way of the Cross is the Way of Peace. The suffering is part of the day. That is why our Lord kept the scar he recieved in the hour of defeat.
However, to pass through that hour of evil alone is no guarantee that we will have peace. We have to pass through that hour with Christ. The two thieves passed through that hour but only one received the promise, “this Day, Paradise”; St. Paul says if we die with him, we shall also live with him. Now apply this lesson- that only those who come to Calvary with him, shall ever come to the day of victory. Look at Nigeria and many who who are suffering in it. Where we have all been kissed by some Judas, and smitten by some soliders, misjudged by some Caiaphas, mocked by some heretics, crucified by some Pilates, but all those who suffer in Christ, have a place that Easter holds for us, because evil has its hour but God has it’s Day. This eternal place can only become fruitful for those who remain faithful to the sacraments, the gracious fruits of tonight’s mysterious event, beginning with whole hearted devotion to the Holy Mass, from which flows all the Treasures of the resurrection.
Bear this in mind, not the rate of shouting at prayers, that determines the efficacy of the answer we receive, not the amount of holy water water or holy oil we consume that determines the physical healing we receive and not the weight of heavy penance given at the confessional that determines our forgiveness. We gather our power from the faith in the resurrection expressed concretely in our relationship with God and neighbour.
May God grants us his grace to live according to his word. Amen! Happy Easter!!!