Easter Vigil Year C
First Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:2
Second Reading: Genesis 22:1-2,9,10-13,15-18
Third Reading: Exodus 14:15-15:1
Fourth Reading: Isaiah 54:5-14
Fifth Reading: Isaiah 55:1-11
Sixth Reading: Baruch 3:9-15,32-4:4
Seventh Reading: Ezekiel 36:16-28
Epistle: Romans 6:3-11
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
Theme of the week: God created us in love and for love. Ever faithful, He showers us with His abundant grace; and sent Jesus to us; so that through his death and resurrection, we may receive eternal life.
The First Reading recalls the story of creation. Such is God’s love for us, that over six days, he prepared an ideal home for our first parents. In the first three days, God created night & day (day 1, verse 1:3-5), sea & sky (day 2, verse 1:6-8) and introduced vegetation onto earth (day 3, verse 1:11-13). Then in the next three days, he established the sun and the moon to rule over day and night (day 4, verse 1:14-19); created fishes & birds to roam the sea and sky (day 5, verse 1:20-23); and created beasts and humans to feed on the vegetation (day 6, verse 1:24-29). On the seventh day, God rested (verse 2:2). “God blessed the seventh day” and declared it holy (Genesis 2:3). The passage tells us that human beings were created in the image of God (verse 1:27). As one blessed with the gifts of creation and created in the image of God, we are invited to come into communion with God in this holy day. Let us reflect: have I kept a day in the week for developing closeness to God, serving our faith community and those I love?
The Second Reading tells the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. So great was Abraham’s faith in God that he was prepared to sacrifice his only son to God. Through this story, we are reminded to always steadfastly follow God’s Will, even if at times it poses great challenges to us. The passage teaches us that regardless of our initial doubt, following God’s Will will always lead us to fulfilment. In the story, the angel stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son to God, only for God to eventually sacrifice his Son for humankind. How amazing! God is never outdone in generosity, even when compared to someone as faithful as Abraham. Let us reflect: God sacrificed his Son for me, how ready am I to sacrifice for Him and for our faith?
The Third Reading is an obligatory reading for the Easter Vigil Mass. It tells the story of how God delivered the Israelites to a new life through the waters of the Red Sea. Pursued by their earthly masters, the Israelites left their lives of slavery behind when they entered into the water of the Red Sea. Through the waters, God wiped out their earthly bondage as they emerged on the other side as one free people of God. When read at the Easter Vigil Mass, it is a befitting prelude to the Liturgy of Baptism, where members of the Elect leave their lives of slavery to sins behind, enter the water of the baptismal font and emerge as free people of God on the other side. At the Easter Vigil, we too are invited to recall our own baptism, when God freed us from the yoke of sin. Let us us reflect: have I lived my life consistent of God’s gift of redemption?
The Fourth Reading teaches that we the Church is the bride of God. As we sin, the passage likens us to a forsaken wife. Ever compassionate, God calls us back and declares: “my steadfast love shall not depart from you” (verse 10). What grace! Let us reflect: for the times I failed to live up to our Christian calling, let me come to the Lord with a contrite heart, as I receive his healing touch.
The Fifth Reading calls us to abandon sin and come to the Lord. Salvation is a paradox by the world’s standards – though it is priceless, it is freely available to all who forsake evil and repent their sins. The passage urges us to abandon sins and seek the Lord. The call of “come to the waters” (verse 1) and the reference to rich food that satisfies (verse 2) point at the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Eucharist as the gateways to salvation. The reference to an “everlasting covenant” (verse 3) points to the New Covenant that Jesus established. Through Christ’s suffering and death, God would “forgive [our] iniquity, and remember [our] sin no more” (Jer 31:34). The Sacrament of Reconciliation lies in the heart of Christ’s New Covenant. Let us reflect: In my walk of faith, have I treated the Sacraments as just ceremonial routines? How often do I reach out for God’s touch of grace through the Sacraments?
The Sixth Reading portrays a parallel imagery to the forsaken wife of the Fourth Reading, appealing to those who “are in the land of your enemies” (verse 3:10). The passage calls upon these who have wandered from the love of God to return, and be guided by His wisdom. Upon their return, God offered them a simple instruction to follow: “all who hold [the Commandments] fast will live, and those who forsake [the Commandments] will die” (verse 4:1). It is only by following God’s Commandments that we be granted true peace and eternal lives. Let us reflect: As counter-cultural they have been in our times, have I followed God’s Commandments faithfully, preferring them to the world’s folly?
The Seventh Reading recalls the Israelites’ profaning of God’s name during their exile to Babylon. Today, we are faced with the same challenges, where God’s name and God’s images are being profaned by an increasingly secular society – in direct violation of the First and Second Commandments. In particular, God’s image, whether it is in the shape of an unborn child, a genocide victim or a sufferer of substance abuse, is being profaned by humankind every day. Ever faithful, the passage promises us that God will shower his blessings upon us and deliver us from evil (verse 24-28). God’s gift of grace is free, in abundance and unconditional. When read at the Easter Vigil, verse 25-27 is particularly relevant to the Liturgy of Baptism that is to follow – where God will administer water over the Elect (verse 25); cleanse them of all sins (verse 25); and send the Holy Spirit to reside within them (verse 27). Through the Liturgy of Baptism, as the priest sprinkles holy water upon us, we are reminded of our own baptism and affirm our commitment to God and His ways. Let us reflect: have I profaned God through my words and action? Let me turn back from my erroneous ways and turn to God’s gift of grace.
The Epistle explains the significance of Christ’s death: “death no longer has dominion over him” (verse 9). In baptism, we enter into the tomb with Christ, so that we may enjoy everlasting lives. In dying and resurrecting, Christ paved the way for us – a path that ultimately leads to our own glorious resurrection. The passage points us to the true meaning of Easter. Let us reflect: my sins have been washed clean by the blood of Christ, let me turn away from sins and boldly step forth to claim my inheritance – my eternal happiness in the arms of Christ.
The Gospel brings to a climax all preceding readings. Christ has been resurrected, and in so doing Christ fulfils his promise of everlasting life. In the tradition of lifting the lowly, it is the women, the lowly ones in ancient society, who first discovered Jesus resurrection and brought the good news to the Apostles.
Christ is risen! The tomb is empty!
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55)