Today is Holy Saturday. On this night, the Church in the whole world celebrates the vigil of Easter. This is the night when Christians in the whole world gather to await the resurrection of their Lord and Master who died on the Cross on Good Friday. This is the night that Christ broke the chains of death and opened the gates of the kingdom to all mankind. The Old Testament Sabbath is Saturday, but we don’t observe the OT Sabbath as the day of rest and worship. We observe Sunday, because it is the day of the resurrection, the day that our sorrow turned into Joy, the day that the Sun of Justice rose, the day that the entire Church joins to sing “Alleluia”.
Today, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The celebration of Easter, the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, is the celebration of our Redemption, the celebration of the HOUR for which Jesus became man. At Christmas, we proclaimed our faith in the Child of Bethlehem AS TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN. Today, we are announcing that the same Jesus “Emmanuel, GOD-WITH-US”, who was dead and buried on Good Friday has come back to life. HE IS TRULY DEAD and HE IS TRULY BACK TO LIFE. Jesus was dead and was in the grave already. He had given back his spirit to his Father. He truly died. Tonight, we preach that he is alive. It is the same Jesus who is now alive again. He is now glorified and he has defeated death. Death has no power over him anymore. The resurrected Jesus cannot die any more. Thus, we say in the mystery of faith: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again!”
The resurrection is different from resuscitation where a person who is alleged to be dead, gains back his life and breaths again. It is different from the appearance of ghosts. (I hear that in some places, people cut traditional medicines into their bodies so that they may come out when they die. In this sense, a woman dies in Mamfe and is said to have been seen selling food in Equatorial Guinea.
Nothing, as far as we human beings are concerned, can surpass the mystery by which we are redeemed. And that is what Easter is all about. The full meaning of the resurrection comes to us through the proclamation of our “mystery of faith” (The third Mystery of Faith): “Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your cross and Resurrection, you have set us free”.
Saint Mark’s Gospel announces this great mystery in the following words: You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him. But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:6-7)
Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, has risen! Go and tell Peter and the other disciples! Jesus, who that Easter morning sent Mary Magdalene and the other holy women to bring the glad news to Peter and his companions, now he lets this message to reach us: He is risen! Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, is risen! Jesus has broken through the barrier of death, the sin of the human race has been conquered, the way is open to life with God in heaven, and a new way to live has been presented to us—to live in Christ as members of his Body on earth.
The question is: “have you ever asked yourself whether or not you believe what is written, and if so, what the implications of that belief are?” Have you gone beyond a mere profession of belief and allowed that belief to change your orientation of life? The resurrection of Christ has set us free for a purpose. Take a look at the First Reading of this Mass: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin”. (Rom 6:4-7)
In this respect, Saint Paul leaves us in no doubt as to what is expected of those who believe: “Make una lef the bad fashion whe una been get’m first time, and whe e been push una for follow dasso foolish thing. Una heart e must change. Una must get new heart whe e de fiber God, and whe e de show eself for true life and for good and holy fashion”
“You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24). In practical terms, we must model our lives to that of the risen Jesus, against the background of a world that is full of sin.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, an essential element of the Easter celebration is the public Renewal of Baptismal Vows. This night we shall make that Renewal. In that Renewal, we shall first renounce Satan, the father of lies, and then profess our Christian Faith. In Baptism there is a changeover of master, a changeover of sides: from sin to justice, from disobedience to obedience, from Adam to Christ. We place ourselves and our entire lives, unconditionally, under the Lordship of Jesus.
As goes round sprinkling the Christian People with holy water, we shall recall those words which were sung today in the Exultet: “This is the day when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin, and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness”. “So get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be” What may have happened in the past, pleasant or not, is in the past. We cannot change it now, but we can learn from it. We need not worry about it; just leave it where it is and look to the future with joy and hope. Death has been conquered forever.
Happy Easter to everyone!