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Easter Vigil Homily
of Father Budi Kleden

Collegio del Verbo Divino, Rome
April 11, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

"After the Sabbath," so begins tonight's gospel (Mt 28:1-10). Sabbath was the day after Jesus' death. Mary of Magdala and the other Mary, who loved Jesus so much, were in a sad situation for a great loss because of the tragic death of their Lord and Master. And after that Sabbath, the only thing the disciples could do to show their love for him was to visit his tomb where his body was. But, as the Gospel tells us, the women discovered that his body was no longer in the tomb. In that instant they lost everything, because the tomb, which was the only memory of their Lord, remained empty. Not even the tomb was safe. For the disciples, the earthquake they felt was not simply an external sensation. It was more an existential experience; they experienced the collapse of a world they had built during their time with Jesus. Their dreams and plans were lost, the hope of a new era of relationship between humans, disappeared. If now even the tomb was empty, where could they return to renew their commitment and find their strength to live? A world has fallen.

The dominant feeling after that Sabbath is one of vulnerability and fragility of the world, which we also feel in this time of pandemic. We face the fragility of the health, economic and political systems of all the countries of the world. So many rules and habits, which until recently gave us a sense of security and freedom, have now been changed without much protest. The walls of security and protection are useless. Trust in everything that human beings have built to ensure a comfortable and safe life has collapsed. Faith has also faltered. Many Christians were shocked to see the churches empty, like the tomb of Jesus after that Sabbath. Many faithful are going through a difficult time with their faith when they see that the people most loved by them, who shared their lives with them, their wife, groom, parents, children, suffer alone, die in isolation, and are buried without a religious rite. This experience makes us ask: what is essential in life, in faith?

I would like to share with you two thoughts. The first is: Easter opens a new reality. The first reading tells us about the creation of the world. At the end of each day the biblical author writes: "God saw what he had done, and behold, it was a very good thing.” (Gn 1:1.26-31) But the order of creation was destroyed by sin. The arrogance of human beings brought oppression and discrimination of nations, the destruction of the natural order. The experience of the Israelites in Egypt is the symbol of this reality. The Lord's intervention is needed to create a new society of men and a new relationship with nature The Lord freed his people, a defenseless, unarmed people, submerging in the sea all those who trusted their strength and their security walls (Ex 14:15-15.1). In this new world all the thirsty and sick, the marginalized and poor have a place assured by the Lord himself, as the prophet Isaiah tells us in the third reading (Is 55:1-11).

Through the present pandemic the Lord leads us to a new life. However, there is only one road that leads to the new reality: we must first cross the sea of difficulties; we must learn with all frankness and draw conclusions from the experience of this time of pandemic. We must become new men and women, as Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Romans (Rom 6:3-11). We must be people who are willing to have a transformed relationship with others and with nature. The Crucified One has risen, he has not simply returned to his former life. Easter is the resurrection, not reanimation or revitalization of the Lord. A new life, a new mentality and a new state of mind. The Crucified and Risen Lord opens this new reality to us. Let us open ourselves to be transformed by Him.

The second thought is the importance of having courage. Mary of Magdala and the other Mary have found the tomb empty. The tomb is empty, the Crucified is risen; the Lord is on the way because He is a missionary God. Already on that day after Saturday the two women received the commandment to go and announce: "Go and tell his disciples," says the angel; "Go and announce to my brothers," orders Jesus.

Walking with the Lord does not always mean having brilliant successes. Often time we experience difficulties that make us feel small and weak, like the Israelites coming out of Egypt. To cross the sea, you have to have courage. To go and announce that the Crucified One has risen requires courage. That is why the angel, and then the risen Lord, told the women: do not be afraid, do not fear. The message of Easter in this time of pandemic is to have courage, to take the risk of entering a new, unknown situation. Let us not be conditioned by fear, because fear is not a good counselor.

In this time of pandemic, the world needs brave people who continue to be the good news for others with their dedication and attention, people who find different ways to show their love and solidarity with others, especially with those most in need. We need courage to face the discrimination that so many sick people experience these days in different places. Courage is also shown in following the rules for the protection of ourselves and others.

Dear brothers and sisters,
Let us pray that the light of Easter will make us not only joyful but also courageous people, ready to transform our lives and the world.