Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Vigil Year A

Recently, an animation movie hopped into town, with a character named EB voiced by “l’enfant terrible” of the British entertainment scene—Russell Brand. He resigned from BBC after a scandal which involved leaving an obscene voice message on air during a phone-in session. This is just the side-salacious dish. What is more important is EB the character. Who is he and does he have anything to do with what we are doing tonight? From the looks of it. Nada. Nothing. First of all, EB actually stands for Easter Bunny and the premise of the movie centres around EB assuming adult responsibility of distributing Easter Eggs on the one day that matters most: Easter. In the movie, if at all any connexion can be made, the animation seems to show a total discontinuity with Easter by secularising what Easter is all about. They have this important deadline to meet with absolutely no connexion to why there is one in the first place. All we know is that there are billions of eggs to be distributed.

Present-day Easter Bunny has obscured the central message of what Easter is really about. Whilst Easter Bunny cannot be further away from Easter, the Easter Egg actually is strong symbol to what we are doing tonight. How? Let me tell you a story I read once about and it concerned a retarded [1] child named Stephen.

His Sunday school teacher wanted to illustrate the meaning of the resurrection and new life. So she gave them each an empty plastic egg shell and ask them to put an object into the empty shell to represent new life. One child had a tiny flower in it. “A lovely sign of new life," said the teacher. Next came a rock which the teacher thought could have been Stephen’s. But, its real owner shouted: “Moss! Moss on the rock symbolises new life”. The teacher had to agree. Then what followed was a butterfly and the child was quite sure that hers was the best. The fourth was empty and this time the teacher was quite sure that it should be Stephen’s. Politely, she passed it, to reach for the next plastic eggshell. Stephen spoke up: “Please! Teacher do not skip mine”. “But, it is empty”, said the teacher gently as not to “hurt” Stephen’s feelings. "That's right," said Stephen, "The tomb was empty, and that represents new life for everyone."

The story continues with Stephen dying on account of his deteriorating retardation. But, the profound insight we learn from such a written-off soul is what the Resurrection really means. The Resurrection’s most powerful symbol is the empty tomb. Contrast it with how we always want to fill up whatever is empty. I have this Easter Egg left outside my door by the Easter Bunny. It is filled with a heart-shaped chocolate piece. Most of our commercial Easter eggs seem to have missed the point.

My dear neophytes-to-be. You who will be baptised are signing up for this: the empty tomb whose emptiness symbolises the eternal life which Christ has won for you. St Augustine’s famous prayer about “restlessness” is helpful to understand what the empty tomb means. “O God, my heart is restless until it rests in you”. This restlessness is probably the equivalence of the empty tomb. There is a emptiness which can never be filled with things of this world. Try as we may, things of this world will only crowd our hearts but never will our hearts be at peace. Instead, things of this world can only weigh us down. No matter how much we try, we cannot belong to this world. Instead, that emptiness is symbolised by a restless heart longing for God. We may be in this world but we do not belong to this world.

Christianity is the Resurrection and no less. There is a difference between a resuscitation and a resurrection. Lazarus was resuscitated. It was miraculous but not really out of this world because he would die again. The resurrection is like a resuscitation and yet totally unlike it. According to Benedict XVI, and note that he uses the language scientists would go gaga about, “the Resurrection is the greatest 'mutation', absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life”. In the case of a resuscitation it might just be a newsworthy anomaly but this, the resurrection concerns us and the whole history of mankind. Through faith and baptism we become a part of this history.

So brothers and sisters, through baptism and a life lived in faith, death will never be able to hold on to us forever. The possibility of the Resurrection means according to St Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”[Gal 2:20]. And this is the implication of the Resurrection, it is not only now but for eternity
[1] Politically incorrect. Special is the preferred term. But, what is so special about special when the result remains being marginalised.