Fr Kieran’s homily at the Easter Vigil Mass

Jock Dalrymple was a Scottish priest and spiritual writer. In one of his books he refers to a type of believer who sees religious practice as a fire insurance against eternity. It is safer to keep God happy by keeping his will and avoiding the fires of Hell. But it would be a pity if we treated God as an insurance agent demanding regular payments of pious devotion and sacramental attendance.

Indeed, the God revealed in Jesus is rather an assurance agent of God, assuring us that we are cared for with an infinite, tender compassion.

Our Lord is always assuring people of God’s love, especially the tax collectors and sinners. Some lepers approach and ask, If you want to, you can heal us. And Jesus assures them saying, Of course I want to, Be healed. When his friend Lazarus dies, he arrives late for the funeral but he quickly assures Martha and Mary that their brother will rise again and not just on the last day, but now! Even on the Cross, Jesus cannot help himself as he reaches out to the Good Thief, assuring him that To-day you will be with me in paradise.

And of course the Cross of Our Lord is the great assurance that even if no one else loves us we are loved by God. We are worth dying for.

Now if the Cross is the great act of God’s assurance, the Resurrection is the greatest act of Reassurance. It is in fact, an act of Royal Reassurance on the part of Christ our King risen from the dead.

At the heart of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the rumour spread through the Norman lines that King William was dead. So William took his horse and galloped through the ranks shouting “I am alive! I am alive!” And the appearance of the King gave them confidence for victory.

So King Jesus has never stopped his galloping through the ranks of his soldiers, especially the saints and martyrs in the history of the Church down to the present age, giving confidence for victory. And he wants us in the Church militant to continue building for the Kingdom of God boldly and courageously knowing that all will be well in the light of God’s assurance and reassurance.

Of course the Resurrection is also importantly the assurance that there is life after death, a life that is eternal. But this good news for the individual is not the main message of the New Testament. The key issue is that by raising Jesus from the dead and making him Lord, the reign of God is coming into its final phase. God is taking charge of the world. Easter light continues with the coming of the Spirit powerfully at Pentecost and the return of Jesus to God’s right hand, whereas Tom Wright, the scripture scholar suggests he is like a CEO, directing things from heaven through us his managers on earth.

The message of Easter is not that we can relax and wait for the Lord to evacuate us to heaven, but that we must roll up our sleeves and get to work preaching the Gospel to the ends of the earth, drawing on the supernatural power of Christ’s cross and resurrection.

St Paul spends a long chapter in his first letter to the Corinthians elucidating the meaning of Resurrection and concludes in fine style with those stirring words:

Death is swallowed up in victory, O death where is thy victory, where is thy sting?

Thanks be to God , who gives us victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved sisters and brothers, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord , knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.

Alleluia, Praise God.

Kieran Cronin OFM