Homily for the Great Vigil of Easter Vigil – 2010
Readings: GEN 1:1-2:2; GEN 22:1-18; EX 14:15-15:1; IS 54:5-14; IS 55:1-11; BAR 3:9-15, 32c4:4;EZ 36:16-17a, 18-28; Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2, 16, 17, 22-23; Luke 24:1-12.
Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, O.S.B.
St. Gregory’s Abbey – Shawnee, Oklahoma
My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead – Alleluia! Let us rejoice and be glad in him – Alleluia!
I am not very good at drawing references from contemporary cultural. I do not watch much television and, and although good movies are an occasional treat, I have not yet been to a theater yet this year. (That means that I have probably missed out on any chance to experience Avatar in 3-D on a big screen.) Despite this, once in a while something will catch my attention. That’s the case with a new so-called “alternative series” currently being advertised by NBC.
According to NBC’s online information on the new show, Who Do You Think You Are? will lead “some of today’s most-beloved and iconic celebrities… on a journey of self-discovery as they unearth their family trees that reveal surprising, inspiring and even tragic stories that often are linked to crucial events in American history. … Each episode will take viewers on an emotional, personal – and often mysterious – quest following one of America’s best-known celebrities into his or her past, sharing the celebrity’s surprise as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue that lie at the heart of their family history. At the same time, the series celebrates the twists and turns of a developing great nation and the people who made their way here in search of freedom and opportunity. As each one discovers their unknown relatives – most of whom overcame hard times – the show will take the audience back into world history to expose how the lives of everyone’s collective ancestors have shaped today’s world.” One of the show’s first subjects and its executive producer will be Lisa Kudrow, a celebrity icon from the sitcom Friends. She states: “The show personalizes history and turns it into a gripping narrative… The most striking thing about the show is the realization of how connected we all are.”
Now is not the time to promote a television show – no matter how entertaining or gripping it might be, and I doubt that watching the show will be high on my list of priorities. And yet, this newest offering on a major network points to something important: we human beings love stories. We are drawn to tales both epic and episodic about love and betrayal, about heroism and tragedy, about oppression and liberation, about intrigue and redemption. In comedic stories, we can laugh at our absurdity. In tragedies, we can weep over our sorrows. And in myths, fantasies and fables, we can escape from the ordinary and hope for something more in our lives.
I do not know how successful NBC’s newest attempt at story-telling will be, or how one qualifies to be one of the “most-beloved and iconic celebrities” worthy of the show. Nonetheless, Lisa Kudrow makes an important observation about story telling: good stories help us to realize just how connected we all are. I would also assert that without having or knowing our story, we do not really know who we are or who we might become. When our stories are lost, so are we.
Tonight, in this solemn vigil, we make the time to tell once again part of what has been referred to as “the greatest story ever told.” Tonight we recall once again some of the major chapters in an epic story of love and betrayal, of cowardice and heroism, of oppression and liberation, of intrigue and redemption. Tonight, we enter once again into the story of salvation itself. In doing so, we discover anew our own history, our own identity, in the surprising, inspiring and even tragic stories linked to crucial events in the history of the chosen People of God and of humanity itself. Tonight, we celebrate the fact that we have an identity that is not only rooted in the past, but is also destined for a glorious future as well. Tonight, we are called to realize that our story, our identity, our past and our future destiny is bound to the triumphant story of Jesus Christ – the author of life itself.
Jesus, God’s Word-Made-Flesh, has taken upon himself the tragic history of humanity, trapped in the oppression and cowardice of sin, and has liberated it through the power of his heroic love. And as St. Paul reminds us, we who are baptized are now bound to the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus himself. Our story is that of Jesus, and our story is now united to his.
This night we celebrate the climactic moment of the long story salvation, and we understand we are connected to God and to one another through the message of this night. In a few moments we will have an opportunity to renew our baptismal promises so that we, by God’s grace, might affirm our desire to embrace, to celebrate, and to express our story, our identity, in the Risen Christ. We will also rejoice in a particular way this night when Caleb Christie, already our brother in Christ, will be received fully into the Communion of the Church, and sealed in the gift of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, we can appreciate more fully our shared story, our shared identity, in Jesus Christ, whose Body and Blood we share, and in whose Spirit we live.
Rejoicing in this night, we know who we are. We are God’s beloved children in Jesus Christ our Lord. We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song! Amen. Amen. Alleluia!