PASCHAL VIGIL (C) – 2010
Genesis 1:1-2:2; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 14:15-15:1;
Ezekiel 36:16-28; Romans 6:3-11; Luke 24:1-12
The Lord is risen! Indeed he is risen! And has appeared to Simon!
What a night we are celebrating! All our senses are brought into play. Our sight with the Paschal Candle and all our candles, the beauty of the lilies and our clean vestments and clothes. Our smell with the fragrance of the flowers and the perfume of the incense. Our touch as we will soon have the water of baptism sprinkle us again. Our taste as we eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus. And our hearing as we listen to the strong words of the Scriptures, from the very creation to our re-creation in Jesus‘ resurrection, and as we sing and respond in song and joyous Alleluias. The homily can only develop a snippet of such wonder – so take it for what it is, one person’s reflection on one aspect of the mystery with which we are surrounded.
This year we have been attempting to look at and interpret the meaning of the Paschal Mystery through the lens of the Greek word, paradidomi, to hand over or to hand on. Let us see how our word can give us further insight into what our Scripture readings have to say to us.
On Palm Sunday we saw how we, through Judas and Pilate especially, handed Jesus over to those who would kill him. On Holy Thursday we saw Jesus’ answer to our infidelity in his handing over himself to us in the Eucharist and in his life. And yesterday we saw how he had finished the work the Father gave him and how he handed over his life, his work and his very spirit back to the Father. Tonight I believe we are given the grace to complete this circle and see how all the aspects of the mystery at which we have looked interpenetrate one another to bring about the new creation.
What is the message of the angel to the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus? Not finding the body of Jesus they encountered two angels in dazzling white. “Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Jesus had three times predicted his passion, death and resurrection over the course of his public life in just these words. He would be “handed over” to mockery and death.
We have always asked three questions of this handing over. Who is doing it, what is handed over, and to whom is it handed over. Today the last two are clear. Jesus is handed over and it is to those who will kill him. But who is doing this “handing over?” On Palm Sunday there was no doubt: it was Judas, the chief priests, Pilate, that is to say, us. But today’s passage is different. Modern Scripture scholars, following in this instance a long, long line of Christian tradition that goes right back to St Paul, point out that this construction of our Greek word, paradidomi, is what they call the “divine passive.” In other words, it is God the Father who hands Jesus over. Wonder of wonders, our circle is complete. Remember those powerful words of Paul which we sang at Lauds yesterday morning: “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up – handed him over – to suffer for our sake.” It is a direct echo of that most mysterious second reading Jim Lauve proclaimed, the sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham. The words of the angel were: “Because you acted as you did in not sparing from me your own beloved Son,” then you will receive such and such. Abraham did not spare his own son, just as the Father did not spare his, but handed him over as a holocaust. It is the same Greek word in both accounts.
And what is the result of this handing over? The New Creation proclaimed to us by Suzanne Doscher through the words of Ezekiel. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you…. I will give you – hand over to you – a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you – handing over to you – natural hearts.”
The mystery of this one Greek word has so much richness to it! Yes, through our sins we have handed Jesus over to suffering and death. Yes, Jesus in return has handed himself completely over to us in bread and wine. Yes, Jesus hands himself over with no reservation to the work the Father has given him and returns his spirit to God. But today, in the light streaming from the Paschal Candle, we see the over-arching plan of the transcendent yet imminent God. All has been arranged beforehand. God hands over his son for our sake, that he might recreate us once again in his image, offering us the new and full life that is the risen life of Jesus, where death and sorrow and suffering have no more hold on him or on us. Where his sacrifice is a once and for all occurrence, where his outstretched arms and his five wounds are forever a sign of God’s covenant love.
Before such a mystery what can we do but ring out our joy, sing alleluia in everlasting gratitude and proclaim:
Christ is risen. Indeed he is risen!