Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia!Christ is Risen from the dead, Alleluia! Tonight all of us rejoice most wonderfully as we finally arrive on this most holy, wonderful and solemn Easter Vigil, also known as the Mother of All Holy Vigils, the greatest time and moment in the whole entire liturgical year. That is because on this night we rejoice most greatly at the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world. Throughout this Easter Triduum period, the culmination of the Holy Week, we have been focusing on the Lord and all of His actions, His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, and then the peak of everything, which is tonight’s celebration, is the Resurrection that Jesus Christ our Lord went through, as He rose gloriously from the land of the dead, rising in glory from hell, breaking free the chains of the dead, and all who have sinned against God, releasing their bondage to sin and death, freeing them just as how He has once liberated His people Israel from the tyranny and enslavement by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

Today, in our Scripture readings, especially those from the Old Testament detailed for us the history of God’s work and salvation for us, from the very beginning right up to the coming of His salvation in Jesus Christ, Our Risen Lord. We are reminded of God’s ever-present love for each and every one of us, and how fortunate all of us to have been beloved such by God, and how He gave us all the ultimate gift of Love, manifested perfectly in His own Son, Who has been incarnate in the flesh, to dwell amongst us and to be with us, so that God’s love may become tangible, real and approachable, and that we all may know, how it is in Him alone that we shall have the hope and assurance of eternal life, true joy and glory with Him. We have once been lost from Him, separated and sundered from God’s grace and love, but God wanted us all to be reconciled to Him, reunited with Him completely and no longer be lost from Him, and that is what Christ’s triumphant glory and Resurrection has achieved for us.

Let us all begin from the first reading today taken from the Book of Genesis. In that reading, we heard about the story of the Creation of the world, how God made all things and all the whole Universe to come to existence, at the very beginning of time. It highlighted to us and reminded us that God has always been ever present and eternal, with Jesus Christ Himself, Our Lord and Saviour, as the Son, the Eternal Word of God, having existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a perfect Union of Love, of God in His Most Holy Trinity, with no lack or need for anything. And yet, God wanted to share His love with us, and He made all creation to be, by His own will and through the Word He uttered, to make all things to be as what He imagined them to be, everything as we have heard it from the passage of the Book of Genesis, culminating in the creation of Man, made and formed in God’s own image. Everything was made all good and perfect, without any defect yet.

God made us all in His own image, and gave dominion unto us to rule over all the other created things and beings, and to be His stewards and caretakers over all of creation. That is what God has always intended for us, to enjoy the fullness of His love and grace, and to exist with Him in perfect love, harmony and joy, in the place that He has prepared for us, this whole world and all of its wonders. We were never meant to suffer or to endure hardships, struggles and the harshness of this world, but in our own folly and inability to resist the many temptations of sin, we have chosen to disobey God and to listen to the falsehoods and lies of Satan, allowing his wicked words to tempt us and to turn us away from the path of God’s righteousness. That was how we ended up in the path of sin, cast out from Eden and separated from God’s love. But God’s love for us was so great that, He did not want to see us destroyed by our sins.

Sin has no place before God, Who is all good and perfect. Sin is defilement and wickedness that is abhorrent to God, and those who sin are thus separated from God, because no one can stand before God with sin and survives. And hence, God wants to free us from that bondage and dominion by sin, and in order to do so, He has given us help and guidance, calling on us to turn away from our wicked way of life and calling on us to follow Him. And through what we have heard in our second reading today, we are reminded of what God Himself had done for us in order to achieve that goal, of saving us and liberating each one of us from the tyranny of sin. In what we heard of Abraham and his attempted sacrifice of his son, Isaac, we actually heard the premonition and prefigurement of what the Lord Himself would do for us all, out of the love and commitment He has towards us.

Abraham was a man that the Lord made a Covenant with, calling him from the land of his ancestors in Ur of the Chaldeans. God called Abraham to follow wherever He would tell him to go to, and Abraham obeyed the Lord, leaving his ancestral lands behind and following the Lord wholeheartedly. God made a Covenant with Abraham, promising him that he would have a son to succeed him, and that he would become the father of many nations. That son eventually was born in the person of Isaac, the promised child born of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. That long promised and awaited son must have brought such great joy to Abraham, who have not had any son or child at all. Yet, as we heard, God called on Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, the same Isaac whom Abraham had been awaiting for, and must have loved so much. Yet, Abraham obeyed God and did as the Lord had told him to do, bringing Isaac to Mount Moriah to be sacrificed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, there is deeper theological and symbolic representations in what we have heard of that story of the sacrifice of Isaac at Mount Moriah, and how it is connected to what we have been commemorating in this Easter Triduum and Holy Week period. That is because Mount Moriah is located exactly at where Jerusalem would be standing in the future, from Abraham’s point of time, and Mount Moriah itself was identified by Biblical and other historical scholars as the site of Calvary, the very place where the Crucifixion of Our Lord happened on Good Friday. Thus, just as Abraham gave Isaac, his most beloved son willingly to be sacrificed and offered to God, God Himself had done the same with us, in willingly giving us His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be the offering and sacrifice, slaughtered on the Altar of the Cross, at Calvary, where Mount Moriah was at, the same place as Isaac’s supposed sacrifice.

But the difference was that, Isaac was not actually sacrificed, as God was just testing Abraham and his faith and commitment to His Covenant. Having seen the pure and genuine nature of Abraham’s faith, how he committed himself so thoroughly to the Covenant and to God, that he was willing to part even with his most prized possession, his own most beloved and long awaited promised son, thus, God sent a ram in place of Isaac to be sacrificed instead. This in itself was also symbolic, as God sent us His own Son to be offered as a sacrifice, to take our place and to bear the burden of our many sins, that even though it should have been us who faced the consequences of our sins and wickedness, but God extended His great love and mercy towards us, giving us the way out of the darkness and into the light of His salvation. He bore all the heavy burdens of our sins, all of which were His wounds and pain, so that by His suffering and death, His ultimate loving sacrifice, He might save us all.

In our third reading from the Book of Exodus, we then heard of how the Lord delivered His people Israel from the slavery in Egypt and how He delivered them from the hands of their enemies, the Egyptians and their chariots and armies. The Lord made the very sea itself to part before them, allowing them to walk on the dry seabed, guided and protected by His guidance, and He threw all of the chariots and armies of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh into the sea, crushing them under the rushing waves and water. As the Israelites passed through that great journey through the sea, they passed from their past slavery to a new life of freedom and liberation from whatever that had bonded and dominated them. God brought them by His own hands to freedom, and ransomed them, so that they might no longer be under the yoke of the Egyptians, entering into a new life and existence with God.

Therefore, in the same way, God has also led us all through the waters of baptism, as He brought us into a new life that is free from sin and from our enslavement by those sins. Just like the Israelites who were under the bondage and dominion of the Egyptians, all of us have also come under the bondage and dominion of sin, that is until the Lord came to us and delivered us from our enslavement to sin, by His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross, and ultimately by His Resurrection from the dead. That is what we have been commemorating through this whole Holy Week and particularly the Easter Triduum, as tonight we focus our attention on the Triumphant Christ, Risen from the dead and Victorious over sin and death. Not even death can hold Him and hell has no power against Him, and through His Resurrection, the Lord showed us all that through Him, there is hope of this new and eternal life, a new existence through Him and with Him.

Tonight is when many people all around the world are received into the Church, through the Sacrament of Baptism, as they are made anew and becoming partakers and members of God’s kingdom on earth, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Thus, just as the Israelites ended their lives in slavery and left behind their past existence through the waters of the Red Sea, thus, our fellow brothers and sisters, our newly baptised Christian brethren, all have been led to a new life and existence in God, abandoning their past sinful existence and way of life. They are no longer subject to the dominion of sin, and like us all, have become part of the same Body of Christ, the Church of God. The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, and these brothers and sisters have followed in our examples and leads, to seek and follow the Lord in each of their own ways.

The rest of the Scripture readings reaffirm further God’s love for His people, for all of us, and they all spoke of God’s providence and the coming of His salvation and grace. All of these, which God had promised from the very beginning of time, had finally come to its fruition and completion with the glorious Resurrection of the Lord. The Lord’s Resurrection proved that there is life and existence beyond death, and that He has conquered death itself, by breaking the hold that sin has over us. As our Eternal High Priest, He has offered on our behalf, the most worthy offering and sacrifice, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, shed and broken on the Altar of the Cross. The payment and ransom for our sins and unworthiness have been received, and God had reestablished with us the connection that was once lost because of exactly those same sins and wickedness that we had committed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this night, as we rejoice greatly at the wonderful things that the Lord had done for us, and for all the love that He has shown us, and as we glorify Him for His most wondrous Resurrection, let us all remind ourselves that Easter is not just celebrated tonight or tomorrow on Easter Sunday only. In fact, we often forget that the Easter season lasts for a whole period of fifty days up to Pentecost Sunday. However, in fact, our Easter spirit and energies should be continuing even beyond that. All of us as Christians have been called by God to be His disciples and followers, to proclaim His truth and Good News to all the people, all around the world. That is our calling and our ministry as Christians, in whatever way the Lord had entrusted us with various gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities through which we can affect and influence many people throughout our various communities and places.

That is why, as we recall our Scripture readings today and what we have just discussed earlier, let us all spend the time tonight and then beyond to renew our commitment to the Lord, to dedicate ourselves and our time and effort, with a greater fervour and zeal, to serve the Lord more wholeheartedly and to follow Him with more vigour and effort. The Lord has not hold back from us even His own most beloved Son, Who willingly suffered and died for us, enduring the worst humiliations and beatings for us, so that by His death we may also die to our past sinful lives, and by His Resurrection, we may share in the new life and existence that He is leading us into. That is why, as we enter into this new glorious season of Easter, let us all remind each other of what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be a people called and sanctified by God, made to be His own sons and daughters.

Let us all therefore strive to live a life that is more worthy of the Lord, resisting the many temptations, pressures and coercions around us to conform to the world and its wicked ways. Let us instead be the shining beacons of God’s Light so that as we remember of the promises we made at our own baptism, we may truly live our lives as faithful and devout Christians, and that our every actions, words and deeds may inspire one another in faith, and touch the lives of countless others, who may come to know and experience the Lord, His love and truth, by their interactions with us. Let us all no longer be idle and no longer be ignorant of our Christian calling, remembering that all of us have been called to be holy, to be filled with the love and zeal for the Lord. Let us be good role models and inspirations to one another so that our Easter joy may truly inspire more joy and light in everyone.

May the Lord, our Risen Christ, risen gloriously from the dead continue to inspire and strengthen us. May He bless us and strengthen us so that we may always be committed and ready to live our lives wholeheartedly, dedicated to Him and to proclaim His Resurrection, His truth and love to all those whom we encounter daily in life. May all of us continue to live with faith and with the joy of the Risen Christ in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all and may His light shine upon us, illuminating our path forward in life. Wishing all of us a most blessed Easter season, and may the Risen Christ be with us and our loved ones always. Alleluia! Amen!

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 28 : 1-10

At that time, after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake : an Angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came to the stone, rolled it from the entrance of the tomb, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his garment white as snow. The guards trembled in fear and became like dead man when they saw the Angel.

The Angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen as He said. Come, see the place where they laid Him; then go at once and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. This is my message for you.

They left the tomb at once in fear, yet with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to His disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way and said, “Rejoice!” The woman approached Him, embraced His feet and worshipped Him. But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell My brothers to set out for Galilee; there they will see Me.”

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Psalm after Epistle)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 117 : 1-2, 16ab and 17, 22-23

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

The right hand of the Lord is lifted high, the right hand of the Lord strikes mightily! I shall not die, but live to proclaim what the Lord has done.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it.

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Epistle)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 6 : 3-11

Do you not know that in baptism which unites us to Christ we are all baptised and plunged into His death? By this baptism in His death, we were buried with Christ and, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the Glory of the Father, so we begin walking in a new life. If we have been joined to Him by dying a death like His so we shall be by a resurrection like His.

We know that our old self was crucified with Christ, so as to destroy what of us was sin, so that we may no longer serve sin – if we are dead, we are no longer in debt to sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, once risen from the dead, will not die again and death has no more dominion over Him. For by dying, He is dead to sin once and for all, and now the life that He lives is life with God.

So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Psalm after Seventh Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 41 : 3, 5bcde and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Now as I pour out my soul, I remember all this – how I used to lead the faithful in procession to the house of God, amid shouts of joy and thanksgiving, among the feasting throng.

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre and harp, o God, my God.

Alternative Psalm (If there is Baptism)

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Alternative Psalm (If there is Baptism)

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it.

O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Seventh Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 36 : 16-17a, 18-28

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, when Israel occupied her own land she defiled it by her way of life and her actions. I poured out My fury on them because of the blood they shed in the land and because they defiled it with their filthy idols. Then I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them in other lands. I judged them according to their conduct and their actions.”

“But when they were brought to other nations, My holy Name was profaned because others said of them : ‘The people of YHVH had to be exiled from His land!’ Then I was concerned for My holy Name, profaned by Israel among the nations where she had been dispersed.”

“Now you shall say to the people of Israel : It is not for your sake that I am about to act, but because of My holy Name that you have profaned in the places where you have gone. I will make known the holiness of My great Name, profaned among the nations because of you, and they will know that I am YHVH when I show them My holiness among you.”

“For I will gather you from all the nations and bring you back to your own land. Then I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean – cleansed from the defilement of all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”

“I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put My Spirit within you and move you to follow My decrees and keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you shall be My people and I will be your God.”

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Psalm after Sixth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Sixth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Baruch 3 : 9-15, 32 – Baruch 4 : 4

Listen, Israel, to the commands of life, give ear so as to learn prudence. Why, Israel! Why are you in the land of your foes? Why are you growing old in a foreign country, contaminated by pagans, counted among those who go to the pit? You have abandoned the source of Wisdom. If you had walked in the way of God, peace would be your dwelling place forever.

Learn where is Wisdom, where is Strength and Understanding, that you may know, at the same time, where are length of days and life, light of the eyes and Peace. Who will find Wisdom’s dwelling? Who will enter her storage rooms? But He Who knows everything recognises her. He has found her in His own intellect. He Who created the earth, for all time, and has filled it with four-footed beings.

He Who sends the light, and it goes, Who recalls it, and trembling it obeys. The stars shine, full of joy, to keep their night watches. He calls them and they answer, “Here we are.” They shine with joy for their Creator. It is He Who is our God, no other can be compared with Him. He has found the way of understanding and has given her to Jacob His servant and to Israel His well-beloved. Then Wisdom was seen on earth and lived among humans.

She herself is the book of the commands of God, the law which endures forever. All who hold fast to her will have life but those who abandon her will die. Come back, Jacob, and embrace her, walk towards brightness under her light. Do not give up what is your glory or sell your privileges to any strange nation. We are fortunate, o Israel, for we know what pleases the Lord!

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Psalm after Fifth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Sunday, 9 April 2023 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Fifth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 55 : 1-11

Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not food and labour for what does not satisfy? Listen to me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare.

Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, that your soul may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, I will fulfil in you My promises to David. See, I have given him for a witness to the nations, a leader and commander of the people. Likewise you will summon a nation unknown to you, and nations that do not know you will come hurrying to you for the sake of YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has promoted you.

Seek YHVH while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to YHVH for He will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways, says YHVH.

For as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : It will not return to Me idle, but It shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.