Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night 2017
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Easter is all about the life that Jesus Christ came to give us. In the natural world life ends with death. But in the Kingdom of God, the new world that God recreates from the ashes of the old, life does not end with death. Instead, the tomb is empty and death becomes the beginning of a new life. This monumental shift is as real as the earthquake that Mary Magdalen and “the other Mary” experience at the tomb on that first Easter Sunday (Matthew 28:1-2).
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). These words of our Lord reverberate in our ears as the angel tells the women, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Matthew 28:5). This proclamation is not just surprising. It is revolutionary. There is something unheard of here, entirely new and transformational in its power. It is an event as earthshattering as an earthquake.
Jesus promised this. He foretold that this victory over death would take place. HIs death on Calvary was not really a defeat or even a temporary setback. The crucifixion was a sacrifice, and in the vocabulary of God a sacrifice is an act of worship. As a sacrifice, the crucifixion followed the rules of offering. The difference here lies in what is offered. The Letter to the Hebrews instructs us that “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Through the blood of Christ we are reconciled to God. Jesus “entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). The abundant life our Lord promised is a share in God’s life that He makes possible for us through the powerful sanctifying grace that leads to redemption. It is in this that we rejoice at Easter, because the Resurrection is a confirmation of everything our Lord promised. There is great reason to hope. The tomb opens to reveal life, not death. Therefore, we must live as people who have hope.
Long ago a great Pope of the 5th Century, St. Leo the Great, wrote these words and they are just as appropriate now as they were then: “Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.”
The Christian is a person of Resurrection hope, and someone with Resurrection hope does not live debased and wallowing in sin, self-indulgence, hypocrisy, and fear. No, the Christian with Resurrection hope is like Mary Magdalen or Peter or John, startled at first by the magnitude of the moment but gradually overcome with joy at the possibilities. Imagine the marvel and wonder that the disciples felt when they heard Mary Magdalen announce to them, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). How could they return to their former way of life? How could they remain in fear? Theirs was the hope that only their Lord could give, the Lord who had passed from death to life.
May our lives reflect the reality of what happened on that first Easter Sunday. Let us remember our dignity and “not forget that [we] have been rescued from the power of darkness, and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.”
Bishop Glen John Provost