Cycle B Easter Vigil

 First Reading: [Gen. 1:1-2:2]; Second Reading: [Gen. 22:1-18]; Third Reading: [Ex. 14:15-31, 15:20-1]; Fourth Reading: [Is. 54:5-14;]; Fifth Reading: [Is. 55:1-11]; Sixth Reading: [Bar. 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4]; Seventh Reading: [Ez. 36:16:17a, 18-28]; Epistle: [Rom. 6:3-11]; Gospel: [Mk. 16:1-8]

Harry Houdini was a famous magician who specialized in spectacular escapes. He died in October of 1926. He was never bothered about locks and fetters. It was said of Harry that he had the flexibility of an eel. He had the lives of a cat. They did all kinds of things to try to imprison him. They would seal him in coffins. He would escape. They riveted him into a boiler. He escaped. They put him up in canvas bags and sewed the bags. He escaped. They locked him in a milk can. He escaped. They sealed him in a beer barrel. He escaped. They put him in maximum-security prison. And old Harry somehow got out. But then in October 1926 death laid his hands on Harry Houdini and put him in a grave and he is yet to escape. As a matter of fact, he told his wife, if there is any way out, I will find it. If there is any way out, I’ll make contact with you and we’ll do it on the anniversary of my death. For 10 years she kept a light burning over his portrait. At the end of 10 years, she turned out the light. Death had Harry and he couldn’t escape.

Death laid his hands on Jesus as well. It put Jesus in a tomb. And there was a stone in the mouth of that tomb and the seal of the Roman government was placed upon that tomb. But on the third day, Jesus Christ stirred Himself. He rose from the sleep of

death. And Jesus Christ passed through the walls of that rock-hewn tomb.

A few years ago, some missionaries in Bangladesh were showing the Jesus Film to several hundred villagers. The villagers did not know the story of Jesus. They sat there enthralled with the life of Jesus, but as the torture and crucifixion of Jesus ensued, there were tears, gasps and people yelling in response to the treatment Jesus was suffering. There was chaos among the crowd as Jesus was being tortured. Suddenly, a young man jumped up and screamed, “Do not be afraid. He gets up again! I saw it before!”

And Jesus Christ is alive. He is not behind us in a tomb. He is before us on a throne. That’s our Easter message: “He has risen"

Gospels tells us they got a surprise when they reached the tomb! The stone was rolled away. Again, they heard a perplexing question: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here. He has risen”

A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her house to discuss some of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. As the pastor prepared to leave, the woman suddenly remembered something else. “There’s one more thing, “She said excitedly. “What’s that?” said the pastor. “This is important,” the woman said. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared; someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming—like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.” “So, when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and they ask, “What’s with the fork?” I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork. The best is yet to come!

The story of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a story that changed the world. It is the most important event that has ever occurred and the most important story ever told.

Jesus’ birth was normal but it was unique. He was born of a woman. His mother went through the normal process of pregnancy and delivery. But His birth was totally unique. He was born of a virgin. He was totally untainted by the sin nature that each of us inherit at birth.

His death was a Roman execution. Jesus wasn’t the first person to be crucified by Rome and He wasn’t the last. In fact, He was crucified between two criminals that day. But His death was totally unique. For in His death, He paid the price for our sins

His resurrection was totally unique. Everyone else that was raised from the dead died again! Their resurrection back to life was only temporary. Not Jesus, His resurrection is final and complete. He rose again and is alive forevermore.

One of the great lines from the movie City Slickers is where Jack Palance says to Billy Crystal: “Do you know what the secret of life is?” He holds up one finger. “This.” Billy Crystal says, “Your finger?” Palance says, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean bleep.” He rides off, and Billy shouts, “But what is the one thing?” Palance says, “That’s what you have to find out.”

Everybody is looking for the newest, biggest, greatest next big thing. They think life is all about accumulating more and more wealth. Or they think life is all about experiencing the greatest thrills. Many people spend their entire lives scrambling up the ladder of success, only to get to the top and realize it is leaning against the wrong wall.

Solomon, the wisest man besides Jesus, wrote in Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12). Mary knew what the one thing was: Jesus. In Luke 10, Jesus is at the home of another Mary and her sister Martha. He said to a frantic, angry Martha, “You are worried and anxious about many things, but Mary has found the one thing that won’t be taken from her” (Luke 10:42). Mary had been seated at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. A relationship with the Risen Jesus is the one thing that will give our life meaning.

Jesus is risen.  This is not a fairy tale, a myth or legend. This is reality. And the same Jesus that rose from the dead lives today.

Let us proclaim his resurrection.