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03 April 2021

Easter Vigile Homily of Fr. Paulus Budi Kleden

Easter, as the most important feast of the Church, proclaims the fundamental message of Christianity: that God is love, he is God of life who gives us life and calls us to promote it. It is not about a kind of idealistic, abstract life which cannot be experienced in this world. On the contrary, the life created and saved by the Lord is the real life, the life that we live day by day, with a lot of difficulties and problems, but not without hope and the experiences of transformation. The readings of this holy night open our eyes to see and understand our reality.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations similar to that of Abraham in the second reading of today (Gn 22:1-2,9a, 10-13,15-18) when we are confronted with rules and prescriptions, be they from the State, the Church or the Society, of which we do not understand well their intention and their reasons. How often do we see ourselves as victims of norms which are imposed on us? We have to live with decisions others have taken for us, decisions which ask us to leave things or people who have become very important, close and pleasing to us. We are confronted with instructions which seem to destroy our good name, or something that we have been working hard for years, something that has promised us a secure future, as Isaac was to Abraham. Such experiences challenge our freedom and put our obedience to the test.

What the Israelites went through, as told in the third reading (Ex 14: 15-15:1), also happens to us: standing before the sea, blocked, with no means to cross. Maybe as individuals or as a group, we have started a process of renewal with much enthusiasm and hope, but suddenly everything stops, everything is blocked. The way forward is encumbered, and yet we cannot return because that would mean becoming once again, slaves of the old world. This is a revisal of our perseverance, of our trust and courage, and also of our good will.

Similarly, the three women in the Gospel (Mk 16:1-7) and their attitude reflect certain situations of our life. Impelled by love, the women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. However, they did not think well about everything needed to implement such an act of love. They forgot a crucial element: who will roll back the stone from the entrance to the tomb for them? Not thinking of all that is necessary, not calculating all the consequences of an initiative, is also part of our reality. It often happens that only midway we realize what we are lacking something essential to complete our plan or project. We are not always able to plan everything, to measure well our strengths. An Italian proverb says: “Not taking a step farther than the leg”.

Easter enlightens us to have a better look at our reality. Certainly, our life is not only dark and full of desperation. Easter shows us that there is always a way out, that the Lord has the power to open for us a new path, indicates to us a different route; that a new reality does really exist, that it is not just a myth. With the Risen Lord, we can pass over from darkness to light, from the tomb to the resurrection, from death to life. However, we have to walk this path, accepting everything that life brings for us, without denying and rejecting the shadow/uncertain side of our reality.

Reflecting on the readings today I would like to underline three fundamental elements for such a passing over. The first is trust. The story of Abraham and the narrative about the Israelites demonstrate to us the importance of trust: trust in the Lord and in those who are entrusted with the responsibility to guide his people. We need to entrust our life to the Lord: It is He who has given us life, and as our Creator, he knows our weaknesses and vulnerability, as told the first reading (Gn 1:1,26-31a). This trust is the fundament of our hope in the Lord. And Václav Havel, the President of the Czech Republic, reminds us, that: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

The second element is perseverance. The long journey during the Exodus is the story and history of perseverance: of the Lord and of the Israelites. “The Promised Land” cannot be reached just in one day; to live in freedom and fraternity requires a lot of patience. Between Holy Friday and the resurrection of the Lord is a period of time when our perseverance is put to the test. To overcome a period of crisis, be it personal or global such as this Pandemic, we need to persevere. Perseverance makes us grow in faith and in human virtues; it helps us recognize our strength and weaknesses.

The third is compassion. The Paschal mystery is mystery of solidarity and compassion of the Lord who participates and shares with us our human reality. From this solidarity comes the light of hope. We, through baptism, as Saint Paul confirms in the Epistle today (Rom 6:3-11), participate in the life of Jesus, and experiencing his compassion, are called and empowered to imitate his compassion in our life. The resurrected Lord is never tired of being compassionate.

Let us pray that the celebration of Easter makes us grow in trust, perseverance and compassion.

P. Budi Kleden, SVD
Superior General