Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1,2,16,17,22,23; Mt 28:1-10: What is wonderful in our eyes? The Psalm used as a response to our reading from the Epistle to the Romans enables our response. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” The Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia is unstoppable! We can’t give enough thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. This mercy is fully revealed to our eyes of faith. This mercy is completely hidden in the details of history. Indeed, the whole house of Israel, the First Israel and the New Israel, is shaking with delight and fainting in sheer wonder as we gaze upon the stone that the builders have rejected. It has become the very cornerstone that keeps the whole house of Israel standing and strong from age to age, unto the ages of ages. The right hand of the LORD has struck with power; indeed the right hand of the LORD is exalted far beyond the power of the Temple or the power of Rome. The so-called powerful ones reached out hands of violence to execute this dangerous Jesus, the so-called King of the Jews. All the powers on earth and all the fury of hell was powerless to put an end to the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the whole world. Even after they had crucified him and pierced his side with a lance, even after they took him down and buried his body in a tomb, secure behind a huge stone. Still he was lifted up beyond death, never to die again, while history has lost track of the soldiers and even the great leaders, the Lord Jesus still cries out, “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the LORD.” Those powers that be attempted to build a whole world without the cornerstone that the LORD God Almighty had provided. Now the powerless and slain Lamb of God stands in the midst of his angels and saints. He has been lifted up on the cross, lifted higher in the resurrection, and enthroned in the ascension at the right hand of the Father. This Lord Jesus is the only cornerstone on which we can build the New Temple. It is the only cornerstone on which we can build our lives of faithful love and mercy. On the rock solid witness of Psalm 118 and all our ancestors in the faith we have come to build a beautiful city, the City of God. Rather, we have come to watch with eyes of faith as the Holy Spirit builds upon the cornerstone rejected and now restored.
What a self-concept! What a self-awareness! What a startling way of seeing one’s self! As Saint Paul writes, “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” Mere clay becomes living flesh. Deadly oceans become paths to freedom. Hearts of stone are replaced with fleshy hearts. Stones are rolled away. Tombs are empty. Angels appear. Truly unexpected events are taking place in our readings from the vigil. Dare we expect that we are dead to sin, and alive no longer for ourselves, but for him who has first loved us and continues to love us? Saint Paul wants us to notice how completely we have been united with Christ. By our baptism we have been baptized into the death of Christ and raised in his resurrection. Indeed, the Father has raised to glory all those who have become one with his son, His Only Begotten Son. We are no longer slaves to sin and death. We are no longer slaves to fear and regret. We are no longer slaves to our passions and desires. Indeed our deepest desire itself has been transformed and we no long for God more than for our next breath, our next heart beat. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us.
The guards were shaken with fear and became like dead men. The Risen Christ has left the tomb empty and the guards were totally unaware. All they witnessed was a great earthquake and an Angel who opened the empty tomb. This lightning swift appearance and his dazzling vesture was all they needed to see. They left in fear. When the angel addressed the women, who were also afraid he said, “Do not be afraid!” Do not be afraid of me, or the message I have, or the empty tomb, or the mission I have for you. Do not be like the soldiers, the powerful guards. They had every reason to be afraid because this empty tomb and my very presence is a death knell to their whole world. No longer will the power of evil dominate and frighten all who are lowly and weak. From this day and forever the LORD is risen and will rescue all who are oppressed by fear and death. Take this longed for good news to his disciples and tell them to meet him in Galilee. These women, the first believers and the first witnesses of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus ran full of awe and wonder. They went quickly full of fear and overjoyed at the same time to announce the news to his disciples. On the way the Lord Jesus met them himself and he too greeted them with, “Do not be afraid!” What fear still surrounds us this Easter Vigil? What are we afraid to share with those in darkness? The Lord Jesus is here, among us, with the same message! “Do not be afraid!” Let no darkness or fear cause you to turn back or hesitate to go and gather with all who have followed me. Come to Galilee, where I met and continue to meet the unwashed, the uncouth, and the unfaithful. Come to the world, where I worked and continue to work signs and wonders. Do not hesitate to find me living and giving life to those who are afraid of darkness and death. Do not hesitate to obey my call to you, “witness the true joy of the cross that brings salvation to the whole world.”