Ex 12:37-42; Ps 136:1,23,24,10-15; Mt 12:14-21
“With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, for his mercy endures forever.”
The Great Vigil of Easter prepares us to celebrate the New Exodus from darkness to light. During the Easter Vigil we spend the longest time in the Church’s liturgy remembering and rejoicing in the mighty hand and outstretched arm of Our Lord. The Lord Our God has remembered us in our abjection and freed us from our foes. Because God remembers us we cannot forget his mercy and mighty power to save. Already in the texts of Exodus we are given a hint of God’s universal plan of salvation. When the great company of Israel set out from slavery they were accompanied by a great crowd of mixed ancestry. Everyone who associated themselves with the oppressed children of Israel in that First Exodus were to share in the liberation of God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm. Those who opposed the Servant of God, Jesus Christ, took counsel to begin planning his death. Those who associated themselves with the Lord Jesus were many and he cured them all. We, too, are among the many who follow Jesus Christ and his mighty hand and outstretched arm lifts us up and heals us in this Liturgy. In his name we hope and our hope is fulfilled in the unleavened loaves he provides for us.
After some four hundred and thirty years in Egypt the hope of Israel is fulfilled, and they are set free. The only requirement imposed upon the liberated people is that they keep vigil for the LORD throughout their generations. Celebrating the Passover of the Lord is not an optional feast for the children of Israel; they must partake of the lamb and eat the unleavened loaves. This requirement alone will enable them to keep their identity. Unless they remember the rush out of slavery, they will forget who they are. Unless they slow down and savor the taste of freedom they will fall into new slavery. Taking time for vigil is a necessity for remembering who they are and who God is for them. In the Passover vigil feast the children of Israel ask, “how is this night different from all other nights, and why do we eat unleavened bread and sing praises?” Remembering is re-enacting that first Passover night. They do what their ancestors did so that in their very flesh they remember and give thanks. This is the ritual basis for our Eucharist. We join those first followers of Christ at his last supper, and in our flesh we remember what his dying and rising has done for us. Unless we eat this New Paschal Lamb and drink His Blood we cannot sustain our faith throughout the rush from darkness into light.
Our Gospel today reminds us that the mighty hand and the outstretched arm of the Crucified Lord is the source of our identity. His opponents have begun to plot what they think will be his demise, however their plan will only provide God with the opportunity to fulfill His Plan to proclaim justice to the Gentiles. We are those foreign ones among whom the chosen servant of the Lord has come to make a new and liberated people. The Lord Jesus does not contend or cry out; his voice is not heard in the violence of the mob. No bruised reed will be broken; no smoldering wick will be quenched. The hope of those enslaved for generations is among us to set us free. He honors our broken hearts and crushed spirits. His tender mercies comfort and heal. Christ reaches out with a hand pierced and an arm outstretched on the cross. By his wounds, we are all healed. All of us bruised and smoldering from the battle with our opponents come here to the table of the Lamb of God whose gentle touch makes us strong. Now, we can offer the same liberation we have received. Now, we become the very Body and Blood of Christ. In this Eucharist we become his mighty hand and outstretched arm.