And so the mystery begins to unravel. The women at the empty tomb are confused. Who has taken the body of their Lord? Why would anyone do this? Where have they taken him? They are further confused by the words of the men in brilliant robes:
Then the men remind the women of what they already know:
Remember what he said
to you while he was in Galilee, that the Son of Man
must be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.
And they remembered his words.
Remembering is an innately human activity. How often have we been told a story, heard a grandparent reminisce, or cried over a loved one who has died. Don't we all remember those major milestones in life: falling in love for the first time; that first kiss; school victory on the football field; 21st birthday celebrations; marriage; birth of a first child; confirmation or even ordination. Then there are the painful memories of trauma, tragedy and sadness in our lives. All memories are important, and evoke certain feelings and constitute who we are.
In our Easter Vigil tonight we are invited to remember the story of our salvation and the good news that Jesus who was crucified is now risen. Everything we do tonight - lighting candles, listening to the stories from scripture, renewing our baptismal vows, sharing communion - says that we are like the women standing in the tomb: we remember, we believe, we celebrate our Christian heritage and identity.
Shortly, we will renew our baptismal vows, our rite of initiation and we will be invited to dip our finger into the water in the font and to make the sign of the cross on our forehead. This reminds us that we are all fellow travellers on our common journey of faith. I hope that when you leave this service tonight, you will remember at least three things:
Firstly, I hope that you will remember that
you have been called in a personal and singular way by God. There is a
beautiful verse in the book of the prophet Isaiah that reads: "And God,
who created you, who formed you, said: 'Do not be afraid, for I have
redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine…..you are
precious in my sight and I love you." (Isaiah 43:1, 4) Those words were
set to a hymn tune by Gerrard Markland.
In other words, we did not just stumble into this Christian community. God's Spirit has always been active in our thoughts and spiritual quest.
And this brings me to the second thing I would like you to remember. Please remember that you belong here. The Christian community of St Faith‘s or St Mary‘s or whatever other Christian community you are a member of, is your spiritual home. You belong, and it is the place where you can thrive and flourish as a disciple of Christ. You belong.
And lastly, I would like you to remember
that, like the women in our gospel tonight, we too are sent to announce
the good news of our faith to others. We do this, not all of us by
overt preaching, but simply by living lives of courageous Christian
witness and moral integrity. By receiving the sacraments of initiation
we are sent and commissioned to be a sacrament - indeed a living
memorial - of the person of Jesus in our world. Our world, and the one
human family that inhabits it, is hurting and divided. Human greed,
fear, arrogance and blindness, are depleting the earth's natural
resources. Disease, poverty and violence are killing thousands
everyday. As disciples of Christ we are encouraged to always remember
to uphold the dignity of human life; to always honour and reverence
everything in creation and to above all demonstrate to the world what
it means to live in loving communion. As we remember, as we believe and
as we celebrate who we are in God's beautiful dream of humanity.