Holy Saturday, 4/3/2021, Resurrection of the Lord at the Vigil
Just as the Father Said That It Would Be
Genesis 1:1-2:1, Genesis 22:1-18, Exodus 14:15-15:1, Isaiah 54:5-14, Isaiah 55:1-11, Baruch 3:9-15, Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28, Romans 6:3-11, Mark 16:1-7
Christ is the second person of the Trinity, the Alpha and Omega and the I AM—God Almighty. That is why, on Easter, we reflect on creation, the promise that God made after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin and the fulfillment of that promise with the Resurrection of Christ.
In Genesis 1—2:2 we are told the story of creation. We are reminded of the six days that it took for God to complete His work and that God rested on the seventh day.
When we read Scripture, we must keep our minds open as well as our hearts. If we limit our thinking to the literal translations of the words, we will often-times miss God’s message. We must remember that the dictionary was written by man, but God’s definition of specific words may not match what is in the dictionary. This is important to understand when reading anything in Scripture beginning with Genesis.
There is great debate over the actual length, or the time needed to complete a day in Genesis. The fact is that we really do not know and right at the beginning of time and the beginning of Scripture, we are presented with a mystery. God’s measure of time is not the same as our measure of time. God has His own definitions of words and God does not see things as we do.
When we consider this mystery, there are two important messages from God for us to remember and consider. First, God is the Almighty who created all things and the second is that God is capable of all things. Paragraph 600 on page 155 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that all moments in time to God are present. Therefore, one day may have been infinitely faster than the bat of an eye for us. God also may have worked at an infinitely slower pace, taking many moments in His time, not because He could not work any faster but because He did not want to work any faster.
God is the Almighty and can do whatever He so chooses, whenever He so chooses, for whatever reason He so chooses and can take however long He so chooses in doing it. God chose to create all things including us. Just say, “Thank You” and leave it alone.
God gave us faith which makes it possible for us to believe. When reading Scripture, we must use our faith in order to believe which in turn will allow us to receive God’s message without getting hung up on the words.
In Genesis 22, we are presented with the story of Abraham who was asked by God to sacrifice his son. At the moment that Abraham was about to make the sacrifice, God’s angel stopped him. God promised Abraham that because he did not withhold his son from God, that Abraham would be blessed abundantly.
Here we should pause and remember God’s promise in Genesis 3:15. In order for Christ to be a descendant of Abraham, God needed Abraham to be willing to give his only son just as God would give His Only Son. This is why God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as countless as the stars and defeat their enemies and God said, “…in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing…” We know that it is in Christ that all nations of the earth find blessing and Christ is a descendant of Abraham and it is in the person of Christ that God keeps this promise with Abraham.
What God asked Abraham to do was a test and God used that test to let all of us know that there is no limit to what He will do for us and that He wants us to be willing to do anything for Him. In order, to do that, we must love God more than anything on earth so that we can use the faith that He gave us to believe in Him and trust everything that He tells us. Only then can we be obedient to His commands and live our lives according to His Will. Then God will reward us, just as He rewarded Abraham in immeasurable ways.
We learn in today's reading from Exodus that God always protects and saves His people. Moses followed the command from God to lift up his staff and hand so that the waters would separate making a dry path for the Israelites to follow into safety. Then God told Moses to lift up his staff and hand again so that the waters would go back to normal thereby trapping Pharaoh’s army. After the Israelites were safe and Pharaoh’s army had been defeated, the Israelites sang a song of praise and glory to God.
Do we have to wait for something good to happen in our lives in order to give God His glory? We learn many things from God as He saves the Israelites. At the beginning of this reading, God said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?” In this question, God is saying that we should put our faith in Him. He is telling us not to worry because He will take care of us. Think about it. Would God have kept His promise with Abraham if He had allowed the Israelites to perish at the Red Sea? Of course not. God does not break promises and God will take care of us if we just put our faith in Him.
There is a connection between the Red Sea and the second coming of Christ. In Revelation 20:2-3, the dragon, who is Satan, is thrown into the abyss for one thousand years so that he could no longer lead the nations astray. The connection being: the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. We see the final conquest over Satan and the eternal destruction of evil, in Revelation 20:10, when the Devil is thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur together with all those who follow him where they are tormented forever and ever.
The Catholic Church recognizes Christ as the groom and the Church, which is made up of both males and females, as the bride. The reason for this can be found at the beginning of today’s fourth reading from the book of Isaiah which says, “The One who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the Lord of hosts; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth.”
The Church believes that the twelve Apostles were all men because Christ, who is the groom, is also the great high priest. The Apostles were the first priests and bishops of the Church, ordained by Christ Himself to continue His priesthood as ministers to the Church. When a man receives the sacrament of Holy Orders to be ordained as a priest, he becomes a descendant of the Apostles and marries the Church. Although there is nothing in Scripture which specifically disallows a woman from being a priest, this is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church does not ordain women.
Today's fourth reading continues the belief that we are the bride by saying, “The Lord calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit…” Isaiah goes on to tell us that God loves us and that He will always take us back in spite, of our sins. Isaiah also prophesizes the coming of Christ and some of what Christ will do when he says, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children, in justice shall you be established, far from the fear of oppression, where destruction cannot come near you.” This place where destruction cannot come near us is the Kingdom of Heaven which Christ proclaimed and promised in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes.
In today’s fifth reading which comes from Isaiah 55:1-11, God calls out to us to come to Him. In so many words, God tells us not to get caught up in worldly pleasures. God tells us that He will provide everything we need. Through Isaiah God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will”
Remember what I said earlier about God not seeing things as we do? Here, through Isaiah, God gives us that message again. This prophecy from Isaiah is not the only place in Scripture where God tells us that our ways are not His ways and St. Paul tells us many times in his writings that we should not get caught up in worldly pleasures.
I have a saying, “If it ain’t God’s way, it ain’t gonna work.” Okay, bad grammar I know but that is exactly the message contained within this Scripture. If you try to do something which is contrary to God’s way, it does not matter how hard you try or how well intentioned you are, it simply will not work. It may seem like it is because you are experiencing worldly pleasures but that is nothing more than an illusion. In the end, it will all come crashing in and fail. Think about it. Even if you are lucky or fortunate enough to amass great wealth, in the end, that wealth is worthless because as the saying goes, “You can’t take it with you” and more importantly, all of the wealth in the world will do nothing to get you into heaven.
In the book of Baruch, today's sixth reading, God gives us that message again and He also says, “The One who knows all things knows her; he has probed her by his knowledge…and has given her to Jacob, his servant, to Israel, his beloved son…all who cling to her will live, but those will die who forsake her…”
This is a prophecy of Mary who was given to Joseph who comes from the house of Jacob and Mary is the mother of the Father’s Son. Baruch prophesizes Mary as our mother in heaven and tells us not to forsake her, but to cling to her. That is exactly what Christ was telling the world when from the cross He said to John, “Behold your mother.”
Christ is prophesized once again in today’s seventh reading from Ezekiel. The Father says that He has scattered the people because they have profaned His name but that He will gather them from all of the foreign lands and bring them back to their own land. It is Christ who came to rescue us and bring us back to the Father. It is the Kingdom of Heaven that Christ promises to His believers which is their own land.
Ezekiel, in this reading, also prophesized the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. His scripture says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities…I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you…” The Spirit comes to us in Baptism and is strengthened within us in Confirmation.
Today’s Epistle comes from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. He tells us that through Baptism, we are buried with Christ into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in the newness of life. Paul tells us that Christ died to sin once and for all and that, in baptism, we must think of ourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
This is all true, but we must not take our baptism for granted. We do have that wonderful gift of a free will which gives us the ability to choose and make decisions. If we choose to be sinners without repenting for our sins, we will be judged accordingly.
The Resurrection, which is the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, is also referred to by some people as the fifteenth Station of the Cross. Today Mark's Gospel is proclaimed but, in this commentary, I refer to Matthew, Matthew 28: 1-10, and Luke, Luke 24:1-12 as well.
In Matthew's Gospel, there was a great earthquake and the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone. The guards were so shaken with fear that they became like dead men.
One of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is Fear of the Lord. But the reaction of the guards when the angel appeared is not the way that this gift is supposed to work. God does not want us to be afraid of Him. What He does want is for us to respect Him, worship Him and be in total awe and wonder at His Almighty power. That is why this gift is also referred to as Awe and Wonder of the Lord.
What would our reaction have been? Is our faith strong enough to be in awe and wonder? Or is our faith weak causing us to be shaken with fear and become like dead men like the guards? In other words, would we be scared to death?
According to Luke, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James, had come to the tomb. Two men dressed in dazzling garments said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead...He...has been raised. Remember what he said to you...that the Son of Man must...be crucified and rise on the third day." Then they left the tomb and went to tell the Apostles who thought that it was nonsense. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb and was amazed at what had happened.
Luke gives us a different account from Matthew and Mark who do not mention anything about the Apostles taking the news as nonsense. But think about the unbelieving reaction of the Apostles. Was their faith broken by the death of Jesus thinking that He would never die? Or maybe they were in such grief that they were also in disbelief. Either way, they obviously did not really listen to Jesus when He told them what would happen and their thoughts were wrapped up in human thinking as opposed to Godly thinking as they should have been. Remember, Jesus made it very clear to them who He was.
It is not wrong to think of Jesus in a human way because He was one hundred percent human. But Jesus was, and still is, also one hundred percent divine. The divinity of Jesus is why we should not make the mistake of the Apostles and why we should not think of the resurrection as nonsense.
It is the same thing as us going to church, being fed by the Word and giving praise and worship but; the minute we leave church, the world takes over us and as soon as something goes wrong; our praise and worship is for not. Our faith is broken and we look for worldly solutions instead of trusting God to be there with us and take care of us. Truth be told, we all make that mistake.
According to Luke, Peter got up and ran to the tomb. After his experience of denying Jesus, he was probably the one Apostle who did not consider the news to be nonsense. But even he had to see for himself and when he did, he was amazed.
Matthew and Mark tell us that the angel at the tomb told the women not to be afraid and Matthew tells us that the women went away quickly, fearful yet overjoyed, to announce the news to the disciples. Jesus met them on the way and greeted them as they embraced His feet and did Him homage. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
In addition to proclaiming the Risen Christ, the most important message in the Gospels of the Resurrection is: Do not be afraid! When we are not afraid of God, our faith in Him will grow! By telling the women not to be afraid, Jesus was telling us Himself very directly not to be afraid of Him. He was telling us not to misconstrue the word “fear” in the gift from the Holy Spirit of Fear of the Lord. We should never be afraid of what God will do to us. We should be in awe and wonder of what God does for us. We should never want to offend God in the first place because of our love for Him and faith in Him.
Do not ignore the word “brothers” in the instruction that Christ gave to the women. Christ said, “…Go and tell my brothers…” Only in the deadly sin of pride can we even begin to think of ourselves as being on God’s level. That was Lucifer’s mistake and I for one have no intentions of making that mistake.
But what is so interesting here is that Jesus showed us the power of humility and forgiveness by giving His life for our sins and coming back to call us brothers. How many of us are willing to take the blame for what someone else has done? And then call them a brother after the fact? I don’t think so! But Christ did exactly that for all of us! No wonder we say, “Our God is an awesome God.”
As we celebrate the Glorious Resurrection of Christ, we should do so full of joy and with complete wonder and awe. We should also anticipate His second coming and if we live our lives according to His Will, we can await the second coming without being afraid. Instead, we can look forward to it.
It is all just as God the Father said that it would be when in Genesis 3:15 He said to the devil, "He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." With his temptation and persistent attempts to get Christ to change His mind about taking the sins of the world to the cross, the devil struck at the Son's heels. However, when Christ followed the Will of the Father and made Himself the Sacrificial Lamb for our salvation, the Son struck at the head of the devil, crushed it and defeated the devil with His Resurrection and victory over death. This is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. Happy Easter!
Readings for Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Vigil Mass