Sunday, 4 April 2021 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Today on this holiest of all nights and at the pinnacle of the Lord’s salvation of all mankind, on this Easter Vigil, we mark the moment almost two millennia ago when the Lord brought His salvation to all of us mankind, on a night that was truly extraordinary, a night above all other nights, the Mother of all Holy Vigils just as we have heard in our Easter Proclamations or the Exsultet earlier on. On this night, as we all keep this Vigil faithfully as one Church, we remember the night when God, through Christ, His Son, Our Saviour, delivered us from the tyranny of sin and from the power of death.

That is why, today, all of us are reminded through the many readings and lessons from the Sacred Scriptures, right back from the very beginning of time, detailing all that the Lord had done for us, starting with the time of the Creation of the world in the Book of Genesis, and then followed by the account of the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah, and most importantly, the story of the Exodus from Egypt, how the Israelites were rescued from the land of Egypt, and how God overthrew their oppressors, and then through to the prophets who promised of God’s salvation for His people.

All of these events throughout history showed us how the Lord loved us so greatly and so wonderfully, that to rescue us all, a people whom He had created and loved, He had guided us throughout all of history, promising to us the liberation from the power of sin and death that had enslaved us since the beginning of Creation, with the fall of man into sin, by the disobedience against God and His will. Yet, God did not abandon us or reject us, and while we have to endure the consequences for those sins, He did not annihilate mankind although He could perfectly have done so.

Instead, He proclaimed right from the very beginning that He would save His people, that He would send His deliverance to them, right before Satan, as well as Adam and Eve in the Gardens of Eden, when He proclaimed that the Woman would come and crush the head of Satan, as the premonition for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, born through the Virgin, Mary, and how He would save all of mankind through His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross, all that we have been celebrating and focusing on in the past one week, and culminating tonight at the celebration of the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord.

Tonight we mark the culmination of the entire Easter Triduum, the period of time spanning three days from the time of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday right up to the Resurrection at the end of the Sabbath. That is rightly celebrated together as such because we should see the entire Easter Triduum, the Last Supper, Our Lord’s Passion, suffering and crucifixion, His death and Resurrection as one single great event, the greatest event in the entire history of all mankind, the moment of our salvation and liberation, just as how the Israelites were saved from the hands of the Egyptians.

Earlier on in the celebration of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, I have been focusing on how the events of the Last Supper and all that happened on Good Friday were one great event of the new Passover of Our Lord, the new Passover and the New Covenant that He was establishing with us all mankind, which He initiated on the Last Supper, offering His own Precious Body and Blood through the bread and wine He blessed, broken and shared among His disciples, as the symbolic giving of Himself to all of us, and then, on Good Friday, He completed everything as He laid there on the Cross, bloodied, bruised and dying.

This was the sacrifice alluded in the reading from the Book of Genesis on the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved and promised son Isaac to Him, on Mount Moriah. When God saw Abraham’s faith and dedication, not holding back even from giving his own son, He told Abraham that He had seen his faith, and spared Isaac, instead placing a ram in Isaac’s place. And how is this related to what we are celebrating? That is because Christ has suffered and died in our place, putting upon Himself all the burdens and blame that were ours, so that we do not perish but live.

God did not spare His own beloved, only begotten Son, giving Him to us as the Source of Life and the Hope of eternal life. He sent us Christ, His Son, that He may become the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, by Whose Blood all of us have been redeemed, just as the Israelites were saved from death in the original Passover, being ‘passed over’ by death because of the blood of the unblemished lamb that was marked upon the doors and lintels of their houses. Thus, by the shedding of the Body of Christ, our Paschal Lamb and His Precious Blood, we have been marked as God’s beloved ones.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then in one of the most important of the readings tonight, that of the crossing of the Red Sea, all of us are brought to attention on what we have been going through this Holy Week and through these events, together with God. As the Israelites were pursued by the Egyptians to the edge of the Red Sea, God opened the Sea before them and they all crossed on the dry seabed to the other side, towards their freedom and the Promised Land, marking the definitive moment when they gained their complete freedom from the rule of the Egyptians, as God crushed the Egyptians right behind them.

Hence, tonight, on this holiest and Mother of all Holy Vigils, we celebrate the moment when the Lord brought us all, who have shared in His humanity and therefore His death on the Cross, into the new life and existence, through His glorious Resurrection that we therefore will also share, and which we have entered through the Sacrament of Baptism when all of us, as Christians, were welcomed into the Church be it as infants or as adults. And we remember therefore this most sacred and wonderful night when the Lord led us through the valleys of darkness and death, and into life everlasting.

For through the waters of baptism, we have passed through death and into new life, just as water is capable both of destruction as well as giving life. For the Lord has, by the authority and the efforts of His Church, gathered all of us from among the nations and brought us into His embrace, that we may not be separated any longer, instead being reconciled and reunited fully with God, cleansed from the taints of our original sin, the sin of disobedience against God, and the corruption which had separated us from the love and grace of God.

Through the waters of baptism, God restored the grace and life to us and our existence, purified and cleansed, ready to start again with God and walking with Him. We have been made whole once again through baptism, and we have received pardon and absolution for those sins we committed or for those things that we failed to do. A new life has been given to us, which is possible thanks to Christ Himself, Who has gone through suffering and death, and finally the Resurrection to overcome death for all of us.

Thus, by His Resurrection, Christ showed us that sin and death do not have the final say over us. For He has conquered death itself by rising gloriously from the dead. Through His Resurrection, the Lord broke free the chains that kept mankind trapped through sin, and led them to a new future, one where sin no longer have any power and dominion over any of us. He proved to all of us that while all of us mortals will experience death and the end of our earthly life one day, but that is not the end of the road for us.

Through baptism, all of us have been gathered into the one Body of Christ, the Church, and have been given the assurance of eternal life, in the world to come, where we shall share in the glory of the Lord, the blissful life and existence of fullness of grace. However, all these will be ours in due time. And if we are wondering why is it that although we have been baptised, that we still need to regularly confess our sins and resist the temptations to sin, it is because through baptism, we have received the assurance of eternal life through Christ and sin no longer has power or dominion over us, but it is also our free will to choose to be enslaved by sin again and to reject God and His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, tonight as we gather together to celebrate this most holy of all nights, the time of the Lord’s triumph and victory over evil and sin, over the darkness and death, let us all renew our baptismal promises with great vigour and zeal, with renewed desire to love God and to be closer to Him, to be more obedient and committed to Him. Let us make that commitment with genuine intention and the courage to live our lives henceforth as dedicated Christians at all times.

Our baptism is just the beginning of a great and new journey, just as the Israelites began their journey through the desert after crossing the Red Sea and after making the Covenant with God at Mount Sinai. They fell many times and they were tempted many times, disobeying God and fell into the darkness again and again. But God patiently continued to love them and tried to bring them back from the wrong path. The same therefore applies to us as well, brothers and sisters. Our Christian life is one of struggle and also filled with challenges, often daily, in which we often may have to choose between following and obeying God, or following the norms of the world and the society, among others.

As we enter into this season of Easter, let us all pass through this night as a renewed person, in each and every one of us. For those who are baptised this night, it is a momentous event, when they accept God fully as their Lord and Saviour, and enter into this new life, the Christian life blessed by God. And for all of us otherwise, we are renewing our baptismal promises tonight as mentioned, in this Easter Vigil Mass, and it should also be a momentous event in our lives, as we are reminded yet again, year after year, to keep ourselves holy and devoted to God, and not to fall again into the temptations of sin.

Let us all pray for one another that we may persevere ever more in the struggle against evil, and that we may always be faithful and find the courage in us to stand up for the truth and for our faith. Let us all pray for all those around the world, our fellow brethren who are unable to celebrate the Easter joy properly due to various reasons, either because of persecution, civil unrest and disturbances, war and conflict, among many other reasons. We pray that God will continue to watch over them, and if there are things that we can do to help, let us contribute in whatever way we can.

Most importantly, let us all live our lives henceforth as a liberated people, free from sin, if our past have been often troubled and filled with the darkness. Let us reject Satan, his many temptations, and sin in all of its forms, and let us be exemplary in our way of living from now on, that we may become truly an Easter people, a people who truly belong to the Lord, and everyone will know that we are Christians because of our actions, words and deeds in life, that is centred on Christ, Our Risen Lord and Saviour, upholding His truth and living virtuously according to His Law and teachings.

Let us be inspiration for one another, and help support each other especially if we see our brothers or sisters who are struggling, either in the worldly matters or even more importantly, in their spiritual matters and their faith. There have already been enough troubles in the past few months and years, and we should be the bearers of the Light of Christ in this world, bearing forth that Light by which Christ, Our Lord and Saviour triumphed over the darkness of evil and sin. By our lives and our faith, let us bring Christ’s light and truth to the nations, that more and more may come to believe in Him and become His disciples and followers.

May God bless us all, and may He guide us in our journey, particularly through this blessed season of Easter, so that all of us may grow ever stronger in our faith and dedication, and that we may be ever better examples to our fellow men and women, and together as one Church, let us all bear witness to Our Lord’s Resurrection, and do what we can to glorify His Name, through our daily lives and actions. May all of us have a most blessed and wonderful Easter, and may God, Our Risen Lord and Saviour be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Alleluia! The Lord is risen, and we are glad. All creation rejoices because our Lord has triumphed. Satan He had conquered, sin He had cast down, and death He had destroyed forever by the power of His glory and majesty. In His rising from the dead we find hope of our salvation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the greatest feast of our faith, the culmination of our long wait for this moment, which we began with Ash Wednesday forty days ago, and now finally we come to this moment when we celebrate our Lord’s triumph. For today is the culmination of all God’s hard work, both in heaven and on earth. It was at this moment that God declared to all men, the fullness of His intention, and the goodness that He has planned for them.

Easter is a very important moment for all of us, for without Easter, and without our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, our faith would mean nothing, and we will have no hope in our own lives. We can have hope for the future because our Lord had risen and conquered death, proving to all of us that death and sin do not have the final say over all of us. It was once dreadful, yes, but through what Jesus had gone through for us, He had set us free.

Without Easter, without the resurrection of our Lord, there is no meaning to Good Friday, for then Jesus would just be a mere Man condemned to death, and die a humiliating death on the cross, the end of a rather successful career and work as a popular preacher and prophet. And there would be little meaning to our celebration of the Palm Sunday too, for then Jesus would just be someone who aspired to be the King over the Jews and failed, betrayed by His own people.

And our observance of Lent, Christmas and other important feasts would be for nothing, and our faith would be empty, since we are believing in a person who would seem to be no different than any other person. But Jesus is different, and we know that and we believe that He is not just like any other men, but He is God, who has made Himself to assume the flesh of man, so that He becomes fully God and fully Man at the same time, in the person of Jesus Christ.

And by His own power, Jesus had descended down into hell, after His death, which happened on Good Friday, and when He went down into hell, not because by any sins but because of what He wanted to do for all of us, He brought the souls of the faithful who have been lying in wait for timeless ages, and brought them into the salvation and new life which God had promised them all.

This is the essence of Easter, that is the final victory which had been inflicted on Satan, on sin and death. This is the moment of victory and triumph, of celebration, the new and true Passover, made through the new Covenant which God had sealed by His own Blood shed on the cross. Like the first Passover, a people in suffering under the slavery of the Egyptians had been freed from their torment by their God, who did not forget His love for them, and who had opened even the Red Sea for them to cross to safety from their oppressors.

The Scripture readings today are a series of reminders for all of us, of God’s continuing work and presence in our midst from the very moment when He created this world and all of us, that He never abandoned us mankind even after we have fallen into sin. We were created perfect and all good, as our first reading from the Book of Genesis had mentioned, and we were not meant to suffer death and tribulations in this world, if not because of our disobedience that led us to sin.

God easily could have crushed us and destroyed us if He wanted to. He was certainly perfectly capable of such feat. And yet, He went to all the trouble of coming down personally Himself to sort out the issue, and the rest of the story, we know all about it. It was the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He assumed our humanity so that as the new Adam, the new Man, He might show the way for us to break free from our chains of sin and become righteous and true disciples and children of our God.

Yes, that is exactly what the significance of Easter is also to us. We have to remember that every Easter, we renew our baptismal promises, and our brethren who have decided to accept our Lord and God as their Lord and Saviour are traditionally baptised on this day, at either the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday, as this is the moment that signifies new birth, new life and liberation from all the vices and evils of old, of our old lives and of our old habits.

Do we realise how important our baptism is to us? Through baptism we have been made free from all the sins and defects of our past, and we are reborn anew in the Lord. Jesus mentioned to the faithful Pharisee, Nicodemus, how a man must be reborn again if he or she wants to attain the fullness of God’s grace and salvation. And while the Great Flood of Noah’s time destroyed all those who were impure in the world and the righteous ones were saved, so therefore through the waters of baptism, we have died to our old selves of sin, to our old selfishness and wickedness, and reborn into a new life of grace.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this greatest feast of our faith, and as we begin our season of great celebration this Easter, can we ask ourselves as we look deep within our hearts, whether we have already done what God had asked us to do as His disciples and as His children? God had made us His adopted children through baptism, when we are made the members of His Church, and by sharing in the glory of Christ, we became His brethren, the members of His Body.

And therefore, naturally, as His children, we should behave all children are. Children should emulate their fathers and follow what their parents had taught them. If we truly belong to the Lord, then we would not continue whatever wickedness and evils which we had once committed in our lives. Indeed, if we do so, we do not just mock the goodness of God, but we also bring doom upon ourselves.

Our faith cannot be passive or stagnant, and neither can we believe that because we have been baptised and as members of God’s Church, then we are automatically saved. Our faith requires us to continue living day after day in fulfillment of what our faith had taught us. That means, our actions, our words and our every deeds must show that we truly are Christians, people who have been chosen by God and who believes in Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Otherwise, our actions and deeds will only betray our faith, that to show that we are not worthy of God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice greatly in this great joy of Easter, let us all renew our commitment, as we renew our baptismal promises, and let us mean them with every single words we utter from our mouth. Let us reject Satan, all the devices of evil and all forms of sin with finality, knowing that if we sin any more, we are betraying Jesus yet again and disrespect the love which He had shown us. Let us all grow stronger in our faith and in our dedication to the Lord, and help one another to seek the Lord and become closer to Him.

May Almighty God be with all of us, forgive us all our sins, awaken in us all the love and passion which we ought to have for Him, and by remembering our own baptism, let us all share the joy of Easter with one another. The Lord has risen, and He has conquered death! The glory of our Lord is upon us! Allelluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!