Easter Vigil : Mt 28:1-10

" The Risen Christ will surely Transform us! "

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on Saturday 23 April 2011

Earlier, at the “Exultet,” the Easter proclamation, it exploded in the silent darkness with these words, “Rejoice, heavenly powers . . . Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation . . . Christ has conquered! Glory fills you and darkness vanishes for ever! Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

My brothers and sisters, Christ our Risen Lord has opened the gates of heaven and we are all given the gift of eternal happiness. Are we all filled with joy in our hearts? And for those who are going to be Baptised tonight, your life is to be changed forever! Tonight, you will become sons and daughters of God the Father, heirs to His Kingdom of eternal happiness, with the rest of us believers.

In the Gospel, when Jesus rose from His death, He made it a point to appear first to the two Marys at the tomb and then to His Disciples in Galilee. If we were to plan a strategy for Jesus, of how best and effective we could make His Resurrection known, some of us may be tempted to advise Jesus with, “Lord, after appearing to your disciples, I think you should appear to the chief priests, the Sadducees, Pharisees, to Pilate, and the Roman soldiers . . . Show them Your wounds and prove to them that You have risen . . . it’s good to shock them and in their guilt they may be converted and believe in You.” We know Jesus did not do that. Otherwise, the Gospels would have probably Why is this so?

Remember Parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke 16:27-31? The rich man who was in hell begged God, “Father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “If someone comes from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham replied, “If they do not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

And so, even if Jesus were to show His risen glory to the chief priests, Sadducees, Pharisees and the like, they would only simply remain hardened in their hearts, blinded in their views, and unshakened in their beliefs. They would then give excuses after excuses to rationalise their hold on the power, position and wealth that they had so that they can continue to live the lifestyle that they have been living without any disruption. And this is what Jesus meant when He said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

The Truth of the Resurrection of Jesus will have different effects on each of us here today. Sadly, some of us, like the chief priests, Sadducees and Pharisees would choose to remain indifferent, unresponsive and tepid towards the abundant graces that God wants to give us tonight and during this Easter season, because like these Jews, we value our lifestyles too much and choose not to disrupt it, for to accept the challenges that the Spirit of the Risen Christ, would also mean that we have to accept the challenges of Christ to be more like Him; and that’s difficult and can be disruptive to our habitual ways of living that are not as wholesome and life giving as the Risen Christ would want of us.

But, hopefully most of not all of us, would be deeply touched by the abundant graces of Easter, that we become resolved once and for all that from tonight, that from this very moment, even as I speak to you, “in persona Christi,” in the person of Christ, that you want to be transformed and be Christ’s light to all peoples with whom we live, work, relate to and are suffering so much in today’s world.

I have been the Parish Priest over the past two years, and I am very happy to say that I have come to know of more and more parishioners who are so Christ-like in their ways. While none of us are perfect, I am first to admit that of myself, but the goodness and selflessness, and generosity that I am beginning to see more and more is a very encouraging and edifying experience for me.

Moreover, what speaks volumes too of our Parish community is that this year’s Penitential service was packed with people and some had to wait outside. The three days of contemplation on the suffering of Jesus on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday were averaging 500 plus persons on the first day and going beyond 700 persons on the last day. To those of us who have miss reading the Parish bulletin about six weeks ago, I shared that two years ago we were distributing about 4,000 Holy Communion at every weekend Masses. However, today, Cuthbert our Parish Sacristan tells me that we are averaging 7,000 Holy Communion each weekend; an increase of 3,000 Holy Communions in just two years! And to have raised $3.3m in just ten weeks, without any fund raising project is another unprecedented experience in our Parish community. I believe, Parishioners will only contribute if the money spent is worthwhile and more importantly if they experience the value of a greater sense of belonging to our Parish community.

My sisters and brothers, I would be the biggest fool and would be living a life of illusion, if I were to think that all these are happening because of Fr Heng. Yes, I have to provide the needed leadership, but it is the Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ is transforming our parish community through all of you who are responding more consciously, more wholeheartedly and more selflessly. It is the Spirit of the Risen Christ who is moving us to live a faith that is more fully alive! It is the Spirit of the Risen Christ who is moving more parishioners to serve actively and taking on responsibilities as PPC exco members, SMCT members, as Catechists, members of more than 30 ministries as choir members, greeters, Traffic Assistants and the like, and non-ministry volunteers in serving our Sunday canteen, cooking daily for migrant workers; and also a great Parish staff team, working collaboratively and collectively as a community.

This week in our Parish bulletin, I have published our Archbishop’s letter to everyone of us in full; in his profound, beautifully crafted and inspired words, he tells us that when the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples, they were “transformed from a band of despairing men into a brigade of daring missionaries. Everywhere they preached the Good News of Christ’s resurrection! The power of Easter began to work in people’s lives: despair gave way to hope; darkness gave way to light; hatred gave way to love, and sorrow gave way to joy. Christianity was born!”

Following from these words of wisdom of His Grace, I would like to add for our community, when we celebrate Easter today, that each of our resolve should be to move from our personal insights of the Risen Christ into communal and mutual inspirations; from personal transformation of the Risen Christ into evangelization of others, from our selfless service of the Risen Christ into becoming the light of Christ to others in our daily living.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are going to Baptise 37 elects and receive 6 Christians into full communion with our Catholic Church. If we live the graces of Easter, truly, sincerely and seriously . . . next year we should be Baptising 200 elects and receiving 100 Christians into full communion with our Catholic Church. Can this happen? My answer is, “I believe it could even be more!” But, a lot depends on each of us; the ball in our court so to speak and it depends on how seriously we take the Truth of the Resurrection to heart. We Catholics do not evangelise enough and tend to be very timid in the speaking and sharing of our faith with others. If we truly value the gift of our faith that offers eternal life, we should want others too to receive the gift from God. The growth of our parish community and all that is already happening is a great testimony that all things are possible if we dare to trust God and then work hard and seriously to build His Kingdom and to do it for His Greater Glory, as St Ignatius of Loyola would say to us.

When I say this, let us not over look the essence of what is being said. It is not about greater numbers for Baptism, but it is more importantly about building God’s Kingdom here on earth. If the twelve apostles were not fired by the power of the Holy Spirit and were willing to labour selflessly even to the point of laying down their lives as Jesus did, would we have more than 2 billion Christians in the world? Remember, most of them they were fishermen, and could have given excuses after excuses for not being suitable to witness the Good News of Salvation to others! We simply have to trust God, but more importantly do our part to “set the world ablaze on God’s Love.”

In conclusion, let us remind ourselves that in all that I have said, is eventually about urging each of us to put the great blessings of the faith of our Risen Lord into action; you are not listening to a political rally speech; we are all here because we want to be more fired by the Truth of the Gospel of the Risen Christ that has already set our parish community ablaze . . .

Now, and on this Feast of Easter, we have to personally and as a Parish community be even more resolved, but always with the humility of Christ, to bring that flame of God’s Love that offers eternal happiness to the rest of the world who do not yet know God; we begin with our family, then with our friends, relatives, colleagues and those whom God would put in the path of our lives. . .

Never get tired of speaking and sharing the Good News of Salvation to others and more importantly, to show it through our deeds; even though our witnessing will not be perfect; none of the apostles and disciples were perfect, . . . yet, the Spirit of the Risen Christ could work through them . . . and we are all called to do the same.

I would now like us to ponder for a few moments and now try to feel the Spirit of the Risen Christ prompting your heart and whispering into your ears, saying to you and me, “Yes, you can do it . . . eternal happiness will be yours . . . share this and live this Good News with others daily.”

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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