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Easter Vigil, Year A

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

Alright, so this is Matthew's account of the empty tomb and the resurrection.  There are lots of things we could say about this Gospel.  For example, we could point out the fact that the first motive of credibility for believing in the resurrection is the discovery of the empty tomb.  This shows that early Christians believe not just that Jesus' soul was alive with God, but that something had happened to his body.  We could also point out that this was clearly a supernatural occurrence, because there is a great earthquake and these angels appear from heaven and the guards tremble and become like dead men.  In other words, they are overcome at this supernatural manifestation of the power of the angels.  We could also maybe discuss the fact that when the angel gives the message to the women, that it is the women who bring the first news of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, to the disciples.  It's interesting that it's the women first that receive that message and bring it to the Apostles.  All those are interesting points, but today  what I want to focus on most is just one little detail from the resurrection account of Matthew, and it is that first line:

After the Sabbath toward the dawn of the first day of the week.

So why is that important?  Well because Matthew — remember — is in some ways the most Jewish of all four Gospels, certainly the most Jewish of the three synoptic Gospels.  And when he gives you this cue as to when the resurrection took place, he isn’t just recording the fact that “hey, it was Sunday morning when Jesus was raised from the dead,” he's deliberately highlighting the connection between the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday and the fact that it takes place after the Sabbath on the first day of the week.  Why does that matter?  Well for us it matters because if you take that little bit of information and go back to the Old Testament reading for the Easter vigil in Year A, you are going to see something significant.  You're going to notice that every single year on the Easter vigil, the first reading we read from the Old Testament is the momentous, amazing, really profound account of the creation of the universe.  It is Genesis 1.  We always read the first chapter of the first book of the Bible at every Easter vigil.  And so in this case the question is why?  Why do we start there?  Why start with the six days of creation in Genesis 1?  What I want to suggest to you in this video is that it is very deliberate on the Church’s part.  There is a connection between the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday and then the account of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis 1.  So in order to see that connection, we are going to look for just a moment —we are not going to read the whole account of the six days, although if you've ever heard it read well at an Easter vigil at night (especially if it is still kind of dark in the sanctuary) it is profound.  The words of this chapter are moving when they're done well.  We are just going to look at a couple of elements for our purposes here.  I want to read the beginning and the end of the account of the six days.  So let’s start here.  The first reading for today says this — this is Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day [some translations have the first day].

Then of course, as you know, it goes on to narrate over and over again that same refrain, “there was evening, there was morning, a second day; there was evening, there was morning, a third day; there was evening, there was morning, a fourth day;” all the way down to the sixth day on which God says in verse 26:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

So it climaxes with the creation of man and woman on the sixth day of creation, and then the account comes to an end in chapter 2, verse one, which says this:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.

That's the first reading for Easter vigil.  Why do we start there, and what connection does it have with the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew for this week?  It's very simple actually, but it is very profound at the same time.  Two points.  First, notice that the six days of creation in Genesis 1 are the biblical foundation for the Jewish practice of keeping the Sabbath.  Sometimes Christians mistakenly think that the Sabbath is Sunday, because they call it Sabbath rest and talk about Sunday as the Sabbath.  But the Sabbath is not Sunday, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.  The Sabbath is what we call Saturday.  So what the Jews are describing here — what any ancient Jew would've understood as being described here — is God's account of the creation of the world and God resting on Saturday, resting on the Sabbath, resting on the seventh day of the week.

Now the reason that matters though, from an ancient Jewish perspective, is because if God rests from creation on the seventh day of the week and then you back it up to the beginning, what does that imply?  Well then what day of the week does God create the world on?  What is the first day?  The first day is Sunday.  So they would've seen Sunday as the day on which the world was made, as the day of creation.  So when Matthew is giving you his account of the resurrection of Jesus, and he says “after the Sabbath on the first day of the week,” that's not just an account of what day Jesus was raised, it is also an allusion to the six days of Genesis in Genesis 1.  The Church then at the Easter vigil is connecting the six days of creation in Genesis 1 with the day of Jesus's resurrection.  And what does this reveal to us?  This reveals to us — and what Matthew is definitely showing to his audience — that Jesus is raised from the dead.  Jesus ushers in the beginning of the new creation on the same day God makes the old creation.  In other words, Sunday is fitting as a day of resurrection because God is, in essence, through the death and resurrection of Christ, making all things new.  He's making a new universe.  He's making a new world, and He’s beginning it with the very body of Jesus of Nazareth, with the very body of his crucified and risen son.  So that is the first point.  When the Church begins with the six days of creation, She's anticipating the new creation now taking place in Christ.

But there's more going on here for the Easter vigil, because if you look at those opening verses of Genesis, you are going to see something else that is interesting.  In the Easter vigil, what is taking place?  Well, catechumens are receiving the sacrament of Baptism and all Christians gathered at the Mass are renewing the vows of their Baptism.  And what is so interesting about that is in those very first verses, what is being described here, it says that when God created the heavens and the earth, “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”  So the second aspect of Genesis 1 that is important for this day is the fact that on the first day of creation, what stands out is the presence of the Spirit and the presence of water.  Now I know some translations will say “the breath of God” or “the wind of God was moving about over the face of the waters.”  The reason they say that is because the Hebrew word here for spirit, ruach, actually means breath, wind and spirit.  It means all three of those.  So God, in that sense, in Genesis 1 makes the world through the power of water and the Spirit on the first day.  Well then now in the resurrection — as Paul will say in his writings — Christ is raised through the power of the spirit.  He's drawn out of the waters of the Baptism of his crucifixion — he describes his crucifixion as a Baptism, as immersion and death — and he begins a new creation.  And that's the same thing that is happening with the Sacrament of Baptism.

So what happens when a person receives the Sacrament of Baptism through the power of water and the spirit is that God is making you, making that individual, making that person into a new creation.  And the same thing is true, another aspect of it, if you look at Genesis 1:3, is on that first day, on that Sunday, on that day the world is made in Genesis 1, it also says “God said, ‘let there be light.’”  Now why does that matter?  Well if you recall from a few weeks back, we were looking at the story of the man born blind.  When Jesus heals the man born blind, we saw that the Fathers interpreted that as a prefiguration of the Sacrament of Baptism, where Jesus gives sight to the baptized.  Not physical sight, but spiritual sight so that they can see that he is the light of the world.  Well when did the light of the world come in to the world?  It came into the world on the first day in Genesis 1.  So when God says “let there be light,” that's a prefiguration of the true light that is coming into the world to enlighten everyone.  And that light is Christ.  So once again, when a person is baptized at the Easter vigil, they are receiving the light of Christ.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So let’s just start in Romans 6:3, and we’ll read through it and then we’ll come back and unpack it and try to relate it to Baptism. Paul says this:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Beautiful, powerful passage here...so much to say about it. Let’s just walk through it step by step. The first point is about Baptism. I love that St. Paul begins here by saying:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

And I can imagine some of the readers saying, “Well, no, I actually didn’t realize that.” Or at least, I know for a fact that today many people might be unaware that Baptism was principally about being immersed—that’s what baptizō means—being plunged into the death of Christ.

Why do I say that a lot of people might be surprised by that language? Well, in our own day and time, the Sacrament of Baptism gets described in all kinds of ways. So, I’ve been to many baptisms. Sometimes Baptism is described as a sacrament that removes original sin. That, of course, is the case. In that case, it’ll be like a sacrament of forgiveness, sacrament of cleansing.

In other cases, Baptism is described as the sacrament that incorporates us into the Body of Christ, and that, of course, is true as well. There the sacrament becomes one of communion, of joining us to Jesus and as members of His Mystical Body. Other times, I’ve heard the Sacrament of Baptism described as one in which the Holy Spirit comes down to dwell in the soul of the Baptized person. In that case, it’s a sacrament of indwelling, and that is true as well. That the gift of the Holy Spirit—the indwelling power of the Trinity, in fact—coming to dwell in the soul of the baptized is one of the graces, one of the beautiful mysteries of the sacrament.

Very rarely, however, have I been to a Baptism where the Baptism was described as crucifixion, as a co-crucifixion with Christ, where the emphasis was put on the fact that your baby (often the infant Baptism) or this person is being baptized into the death of Jesus. But that’s how Paul sees Baptism. He’s highlighting the mystery of Baptism as what we might call the sacrament of crucifixion and resurrection.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death...

So pause there. When Paul’s thinking of Baptism, he’s obviously thinking of the imagery of what the Greek word connotes, which is immersion into water. But here Paul says that in Baptism, we’re actually being buried with Christ. So it’s not just the mystery of the cross, it’s also the mystery of His tomb. That in a sense, just as Christ’s body was buried in the tomb, so too we are buried in the waters of Baptism. We are immersed into the death of Jesus:

...so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

So Paul thinks of Baptism, first and foremost, as a sacrament of crucifixion and resurrection, where we are (in a sense) being co-crucified with Christ and then co-resurrected with Christ. That’s redundant to say co/with, but you get my point. I think one of the reasons this is often lost in contemporary Catholic catechesis on Baptism is in part just because of the way the rite works. Because in most contemporary contexts, we don’t actually bury a person into the water. We don’t practice immersion. It’s not the customary form of Baptism in the Roman rite, in the Latin rite. Normally, we’ll either have sprinkling in the form of infant Baptism or with pouring like with an adult Baptism, where the water will be poured over their head.

But when Paul is describing Baptism, he’s thinking here, for example, about the Baptism of St. John the Baptist, where people would immerse themselves in the water of the Jordan and then come up out of the water—so that the symbolism of death and resurrection is much more apparent.

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Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


***Subscribe or Login for Full Access.***

GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

Alright, so this is Matthew's account of the empty tomb and the resurrection.  There are lots of things we could say about this Gospel.  For example, we could point out the fact that the first motive of credibility for believing in the resurrection is the discovery of the empty tomb.  This shows that early Christians believe not just that Jesus' soul was alive with God, but that something had happened to his body.  We could also point out that this was clearly a supernatural occurrence, because there is a great earthquake and these angels appear from heaven and the guards tremble and become like dead men.  In other words, they are overcome at this supernatural manifestation of the power of the angels.  We could also maybe discuss the fact that when the angel gives the message to the women, that it is the women who bring the first news of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, to the disciples.  It's interesting that it's the women first that receive that message and bring it to the Apostles.  All those are interesting points, but today  what I want to focus on most is just one little detail from the resurrection account of Matthew, and it is that first line:

After the Sabbath toward the dawn of the first day of the week.

So why is that important?  Well because Matthew — remember — is in some ways the most Jewish of all four Gospels, certainly the most Jewish of the three synoptic Gospels.  And when he gives you this cue as to when the resurrection took place, he isn’t just recording the fact that “hey, it was Sunday morning when Jesus was raised from the dead,” he's deliberately highlighting the connection between the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday and the fact that it takes place after the Sabbath on the first day of the week.  Why does that matter?  Well for us it matters because if you take that little bit of information and go back to the Old Testament reading for the Easter vigil in Year A, you are going to see something significant.  You're going to notice that every single year on the Easter vigil, the first reading we read from the Old Testament is the momentous, amazing, really profound account of the creation of the universe.  It is Genesis 1.  We always read the first chapter of the first book of the Bible at every Easter vigil.  And so in this case the question is why?  Why do we start there?  Why start with the six days of creation in Genesis 1?  What I want to suggest to you in this video is that it is very deliberate on the Church’s part.  There is a connection between the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday and then the account of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis 1.  So in order to see that connection, we are going to look for just a moment —we are not going to read the whole account of the six days, although if you've ever heard it read well at an Easter vigil at night (especially if it is still kind of dark in the sanctuary) it is profound.  The words of this chapter are moving when they're done well.  We are just going to look at a couple of elements for our purposes here.  I want to read the beginning and the end of the account of the six days.  So let’s start here.  The first reading for today says this — this is Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day [some translations have the first day].

Then of course, as you know, it goes on to narrate over and over again that same refrain, “there was evening, there was morning, a second day; there was evening, there was morning, a third day; there was evening, there was morning, a fourth day;” all the way down to the sixth day on which God says in verse 26:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

So it climaxes with the creation of man and woman on the sixth day of creation, and then the account comes to an end in chapter 2, verse one, which says this:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.

That's the first reading for Easter vigil.  Why do we start there, and what connection does it have with the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew for this week?  It's very simple actually, but it is very profound at the same time.  Two points.  First, notice that the six days of creation in Genesis 1 are the biblical foundation for the Jewish practice of keeping the Sabbath.  Sometimes Christians mistakenly think that the Sabbath is Sunday, because they call it Sabbath rest and talk about Sunday as the Sabbath.  But the Sabbath is not Sunday, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.  The Sabbath is what we call Saturday.  So what the Jews are describing here — what any ancient Jew would've understood as being described here — is God's account of the creation of the world and God resting on Saturday, resting on the Sabbath, resting on the seventh day of the week.

Now the reason that matters though, from an ancient Jewish perspective, is because if God rests from creation on the seventh day of the week and then you back it up to the beginning, what does that imply?  Well then what day of the week does God create the world on?  What is the first day?  The first day is Sunday.  So they would've seen Sunday as the day on which the world was made, as the day of creation.  So when Matthew is giving you his account of the resurrection of Jesus, and he says “after the Sabbath on the first day of the week,” that's not just an account of what day Jesus was raised, it is also an allusion to the six days of Genesis in Genesis 1.  The Church then at the Easter vigil is connecting the six days of creation in Genesis 1 with the day of Jesus's resurrection.  And what does this reveal to us?  This reveals to us — and what Matthew is definitely showing to his audience — that Jesus is raised from the dead.  Jesus ushers in the beginning of the new creation on the same day God makes the old creation.  In other words, Sunday is fitting as a day of resurrection because God is, in essence, through the death and resurrection of Christ, making all things new.  He's making a new universe.  He's making a new world, and He’s beginning it with the very body of Jesus of Nazareth, with the very body of his crucified and risen son.  So that is the first point.  When the Church begins with the six days of creation, She's anticipating the new creation now taking place in Christ.

But there's more going on here for the Easter vigil, because if you look at those opening verses of Genesis, you are going to see something else that is interesting.  In the Easter vigil, what is taking place?  Well, catechumens are receiving the sacrament of Baptism and all Christians gathered at the Mass are renewing the vows of their Baptism.  And what is so interesting about that is in those very first verses, what is being described here, it says that when God created the heavens and the earth, “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”  So the second aspect of Genesis 1 that is important for this day is the fact that on the first day of creation, what stands out is the presence of the Spirit and the presence of water.  Now I know some translations will say “the breath of God” or “the wind of God was moving about over the face of the waters.”  The reason they say that is because the Hebrew word here for spirit, ruach, actually means breath, wind and spirit.  It means all three of those.  So God, in that sense, in Genesis 1 makes the world through the power of water and the Spirit on the first day.  Well then now in the resurrection — as Paul will say in his writings — Christ is raised through the power of the spirit.  He's drawn out of the waters of the Baptism of his crucifixion — he describes his crucifixion as a Baptism, as immersion and death — and he begins a new creation.  And that's the same thing that is happening with the Sacrament of Baptism.

So what happens when a person receives the Sacrament of Baptism through the power of water and the spirit is that God is making you, making that individual, making that person into a new creation.  And the same thing is true, another aspect of it, if you look at Genesis 1:3, is on that first day, on that Sunday, on that day the world is made in Genesis 1, it also says “God said, ‘let there be light.’”  Now why does that matter?  Well if you recall from a few weeks back, we were looking at the story of the man born blind.  When Jesus heals the man born blind, we saw that the Fathers interpreted that as a prefiguration of the Sacrament of Baptism, where Jesus gives sight to the baptized.  Not physical sight, but spiritual sight so that they can see that he is the light of the world.  Well when did the light of the world come in to the world?  It came into the world on the first day in Genesis 1.  So when God says “let there be light,” that's a prefiguration of the true light that is coming into the world to enlighten everyone.  And that light is Christ.  So once again, when a person is baptized at the Easter vigil, they are receiving the light of Christ.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So let’s just start in Romans 6:3, and we’ll read through it and then we’ll come back and unpack it and try to relate it to Baptism. Paul says this:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Beautiful, powerful passage here...so much to say about it. Let’s just walk through it step by step. The first point is about Baptism. I love that St. Paul begins here by saying:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

And I can imagine some of the readers saying, “Well, no, I actually didn’t realize that.” Or at least, I know for a fact that today many people might be unaware that Baptism was principally about being immersed—that’s what baptizō means—being plunged into the death of Christ.

Why do I say that a lot of people might be surprised by that language? Well, in our own day and time, the Sacrament of Baptism gets described in all kinds of ways. So, I’ve been to many baptisms. Sometimes Baptism is described as a sacrament that removes original sin. That, of course, is the case. In that case, it’ll be like a sacrament of forgiveness, sacrament of cleansing.

In other cases, Baptism is described as the sacrament that incorporates us into the Body of Christ, and that, of course, is true as well. There the sacrament becomes one of communion, of joining us to Jesus and as members of His Mystical Body. Other times, I’ve heard the Sacrament of Baptism described as one in which the Holy Spirit comes down to dwell in the soul of the Baptized person. In that case, it’s a sacrament of indwelling, and that is true as well. That the gift of the Holy Spirit—the indwelling power of the Trinity, in fact—coming to dwell in the soul of the baptized is one of the graces, one of the beautiful mysteries of the sacrament.

Very rarely, however, have I been to a Baptism where the Baptism was described as crucifixion, as a co-crucifixion with Christ, where the emphasis was put on the fact that your baby (often the infant Baptism) or this person is being baptized into the death of Jesus. But that’s how Paul sees Baptism. He’s highlighting the mystery of Baptism as what we might call the sacrament of crucifixion and resurrection.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death...

So pause there. When Paul’s thinking of Baptism, he’s obviously thinking of the imagery of what the Greek word connotes, which is immersion into water. But here Paul says that in Baptism, we’re actually being buried with Christ. So it’s not just the mystery of the cross, it’s also the mystery of His tomb. That in a sense, just as Christ’s body was buried in the tomb, so too we are buried in the waters of Baptism. We are immersed into the death of Jesus:

...so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

So Paul thinks of Baptism, first and foremost, as a sacrament of crucifixion and resurrection, where we are (in a sense) being co-crucified with Christ and then co-resurrected with Christ. That’s redundant to say co/with, but you get my point. I think one of the reasons this is often lost in contemporary Catholic catechesis on Baptism is in part just because of the way the rite works. Because in most contemporary contexts, we don’t actually bury a person into the water. We don’t practice immersion. It’s not the customary form of Baptism in the Roman rite, in the Latin rite. Normally, we’ll either have sprinkling in the form of infant Baptism or with pouring like with an adult Baptism, where the water will be poured over their head.

But when Paul is describing Baptism, he’s thinking here, for example, about the Baptism of St. John the Baptist, where people would immerse themselves in the water of the Jordan and then come up out of the water—so that the symbolism of death and resurrection is much more apparent.

For full access subscribe here >

 



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