April 20, 2019
I grew up in an era of “greatest hits” albums. All my favorite music groups as a teenager—Elton John, The Eagles, America, Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, to name a few—put out a “greatest hits” album that was simply a must-have record. I loved them because I could listen to one favorite song after another.
What we have heard tonight shows us that the Easter Vigil gives us a “greatest hits” or “greatest lines” of Scripture. Sit back and listen to your favorites! Actually, the hits started coming last Sunday when we heard from Isaiah (as read by Michael Schmich):
The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Indeed, the Bible itself is a well-trained tongue, that when actually listened to, cannot help but rouse us. Here’s a sampling of hits we’ve heard tonight:
In the beginning . . . Let there be light. . . God saw how good it was!
. . . with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Isaiah 55 – classic lines from which many liturgical hymns have been written
Ezekiel 36 – I will give you a new heart, taking away your stony hearts and giving you moist hearts.
But the greatest hit, the greatest line we hear tonight comes from Luke’s gospel: Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here.
With that line, we celebrate the culmination of the Paschal mystery—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. What does that mean, the Paschal mystery?
It means that we choose to believe that death has been conquered, darkness need not overwhelm, and that our lives have ultimate meaning for the sake of God’s grand design.
It means there is always the possibility of redemption, that we forgive one another, that we bring out the very best in one another.
It means the lowly can be raised up, and the disenfranchised have reason to hope.
It means that the darkest hour of our lives can reveal the light of Christ, as signified by our Paschal Candle.
It means we are not alone on this journey, that we lean on one another, support each other, pray for each other, and allow our eyes to be opened in the breaking of the bread.
It means not only being willing to change, but willing to be transformed by love.
It means we won’t find the living among the dead. He is not there. Rather, he is here, among the living. In words attributed to Saint Oscar Romero, he is resurrected in each one of us, and so we are called to carry out his mission of redemption.
Last December, on the first Sunday of Advent, I stood here and introduced to you the Gospel of Luke by saying, “This year we will see the uniqueness of this gospel with its emphasis on prayer, care for the poor, and concern for the role of women.”
In our story tonight, Luke places the most important aspect of our faith narrative—the resurrection—squarely on the shoulders of women, whom he names (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James). These women have the first voice to proclaim the Good News of the resurrection. All the others thought it nonsense . . . except Peter, who had just enough good sense to run to the tomb, where he too was truly amazed and transformed!
I believe we all need to heed that line and dwell on that question: why do you seek the living among the dead? In what ways do I see darkness instead of light? In what ways do I think my ways are just as good as God’s ways? In what ways do I carry a heart of stone instead of a moist heart? In what ways do I seek the living among the dead?
I urge you take that “greatest hit” home with you and let it rumble around in your head and heart. Let it become like a favorite melody that plays over and over, and, won’t leave you alone.
And before long, each of us, like Isaiah, will be given well-trained tongues that can speak words to the weary that will rouse them! Happy Easter!