Homily for the Easter Vigil, Year B.
“Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” The women came to the tomb to be with Jesus. They wanted to be close to him. But a heavy stone separated them from the one they loved. When we lay a loved one to rest, there can seem to be a finality to it. The body is placed in a casket, or the ashes placed in an urn. The casket is then buried, or the urn interred. Stone, grass, and the cold, hard earth separate us from the one we love. We want to be close to them, but they now seem beyond our reach. The apparent finality of this may prompt us to ask, as the women asked in our gospel, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” “Who will break through the barrier that separates us from the one we love?”
And the answer to our question today is the same as it was that first Easter morning: Jesus. Jesus will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb. Jesus will break through the barrier that separates us from the one we love. The hope of Easter is that death is not the end. The hope of Easter is that the tombs of our loved ones who have died with Christ will one day look like the tomb which the women found in our gospel: empty, but full of the light and joy of the resurrection. Stone, grass, and the cold, hard earth, are no match for the resurrected Christ. They are not final, but temporary barriers. One day Jesus will break through them as surely as He broke through the barrier of His own tomb. “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” “Who will break through the barrier that separates us from the one we love?” Jesus will.
But the barriers that keep us from being fully reunited with our loved ones are not the only barriers which Jesus wants to break through. We don’t have to wait until the great day of resurrection, when all the dead will be raised, to experience the new life that Jesus wants to bring to us. There are barriers that Jesus wants to break through right now. There are stones which He wants to roll away tonight, here at this Mass. And these are the barriers, the stones, which lie at the entrance to our hearts. “O Most High and Glorious God, illumine the shadows of my heart…” St. Francis of Assisi used to pray these words in front of the San Damiano Cross. And as we stand before the cross and empty tomb this Easter night, we pray the same words: “O Most High and Glorious God, illumine the shadows of our hearts…” Our High and Glorious God, our Resurrected Savior, wants to illumine the shadows of our hearts this Easter night. He wants to roll away the stones of bitterness, grief, and despair and let in the light of His love. Where there has been death in our hearts, He wants to bring new life. Will we let Him? “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb, the tomb of our heart?” Jesus will, if we let Him.
If you have experienced a death of a loved one, if you have experienced death in your own heart, I invite you on this Easter night to renew your faith and hope in the resurrection. Jesus can and will break through the barriers that keep us and our loved ones from the fullness of life which He has to offer. In just a few moments each of us will be asked, “Do you believe…in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?” May we give a resounding, “I do,” to this opportunity to renew our faith and hope in the great promise which we celebrate tonight. Amen.