Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Vigil Year B

The resurrection breaks every category that can be used to describe human experiences. In the first place, there are remarkable miracles of being raised from the dead—the son of the Widow at Nain, the daughter of Jairus the official and most notable of them is Lazarus, the friend of Jesus; the gospel used for the 5th Sunday of Lent.

The various accounts of raising the dead are the closest we can have to the experience of what takes place today: the Resurrection. These dead may have been brought back to life but, that phenomenon cannot be compared to the Resurrection. It is like the Resurrection but all the categories used to describe the Raising of Lazarus cannot fully describe the Resurrection. It is everything and nothing like it at all.

Today we celebrate this “nothing like it at all” and what it means for us.

It is an invitation to life, not just any life, but life which the best imagination of it is only a fraction, if at all, of what it really is. It is unfortunate that our eyes cannot see beyond the veil of sin. But it is not just the veil of sin that is blinding. It is in the first place. But for so many of us, it is really to be caught up with the phenomenon of an event like the Raising of Lazarus. Lazarus, the Widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter represent possibilities; of what can be.

Even today, the life of technological advances represents at best a life of possibilities. Yes, we are able to send space craft to the furthest reaches of the universe and we might be able to perform the minutest of micro-surgery. Yet, the fact remains that life is contingent. People still die and Lazarus, for all his glory of being raised to life, lived a couple of years before he died again. So, Jairus’ daughter, the Widow’s son and Lazarus were just a taste of this real thing to come: The Resurrection. And nothing we have in this world, not even the best of possibilities, can measure up to the Resurrection.

Easter invites us to enter the Resurrection, that is, to live a life beyond possibilities.

How are we to do that?

We are invited to this life of grace that opens for us the treasure of the Resurrection. Tonight, we will witness how some people have come to discover this treasure so immense. They will be led through the waters of the Great Deluge of Noah, the Red Sea of Moses and Jordan of John to arrive at the Life of the Risen Christ.

What does this Life of the Risen Christ consist of? It consists of a surplus of possibilities. Our concept of a new life is often tied with the excitement of novelty. Novelty is just an excitement and every excitement must enter its inevitable phase which is characterised by the predictable, the dull, the boring (I am describing so many of you married for 15 years and more) and that is best described by the word: Mundane... defined in the dictionary as “of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one”.

If, the raising of Lazarus is mundane, that is, being raised to a life which is still within this world, then is it possible to live the Resurrection, here and now?

I had a conversation with some young people about some of the struggles that they had been having. It consisted of smoking pot, pornography, lying, fighting and cheating (and many of our young ones cheat in their exams), etc. They were somewhat embarrassed and so I asked if they thought I was disappointed with them for what they did? Their answer was a “yes”. My reply was a “No”. What they did was because they could not see beyond the possible. That they did something wrong wasn’t what disappointed me. (As a matter of fact, that we all sin does not surprise me [1]. That they didn’t do what was right was disappointing. There is a difference. To do what is right belongs to the surplus of possibilities.

The Risen Life that Christ invites us to is one which is marked by a surplus of possibilities. It is not particularly marked by avoidance of what is wrong even though that is very important. To avoid what is wrong is a good thing. But, it pales when compared to the great that we can be. That is why people have difficulty believing in the Resurrection.

Why? Because Christians are not convinced that in a world which is less loving, they can love more, in a world of poverty, they can give more, in a world of selfishness they can serve more. Instead, we are content with just the possibility that Lazarus can be raised to life... We are content with simply the possible and often we are no different from people who are not Christians. It is because of the Resurrection that we have saints who are like this Paschal Candle burning out their lives for others. Saints live for others.

Today, when our brothers and sisters walk through the waters of baptism, we ask that they be guided by the only light that is important in their lives: Christ the Light risen for all to see. We also ask that we who are lukewarm be given the grace to regain what lustre we ourselves have lost and once again shine with the surplus of possibilities which the Risen Christ has brought for us by His Life, Death and Resurrection.
[1] We read in approved popular devotion the Sacred Heart of Jesus as being unhappy because of our sins may be re-interpreted not as unhappiness that we’ve sinned but rather as a divine sadness [if God can be said to be sad] that we often not choose the better but settle instead for the mediocre.