Easter Vigil/Sunday 2006
When my father died on July 3 1998, a day before my parents 59th anniversary, I remember my mother saying to me at the vigil, “I am happy that your dad didn’t die in the winter time. I can’t imagine burying him in the cold, winter ground. At least in summer the earth would be warmer for him. My father’s death in summer and not winter was one small victory over Death that my mother had. She had spent five years in vigil, waiting for death to take her beloved, all the while caring, anointing his body with her love, even if his mind and memory was no longer with her. His body was still. And so at least she had this one small victory over death. If death had to rob her of her beloved Richard, at least it was in summer time, at least she had this one small victory.
The women who came to the tomb with spices to anoint the body were looking for one small victory over the death that robbed them of their beloved friend, Jesus. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of james and Salome were coming to the tomb for one last touch, one last contact with the body of Jesus, the one whose hands had held theirs, whose arms had embraced them, whose eyes had beheld them with love, whose words had comforted them and given them hope for the future. If death had robbed them of his life, they would assure this one small victory. They would not allow his body to undergo corruption without anointing him with spices, preserving and making ready for his return to the earth.
The other night, Fr. John spoke of Jesus’ being the perfect host at the last supper. He would do what wasn’t done for him in the house of Simon the Pharisee when he was an invited guest. He would wash his disciples feet and anoint them with his love and friendship. If you remember the story of Simon, it was a woman, a known sinner who came and washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. It was the unexpected, the shocking, action of this woman in her intimacy with the body of Jesus that would scandalize Simon. It was the unexpected, the shocking action of jesus in washing his feet, that would scandalize another Simon, Simon Peter. Scandalize, scandalos, stumbling block. Who will roll away the stone for us?
Tonight our host is not Jesus, but Death itself. It is death itself that invites us here tonight. Death invites us to come face to face with our mortality, to see and know it’s inevitable claim on each of us, whether it be tonight, tomorrow or years from now. Death invites us here to give us a preview of what’s to come. Death does not wash our feet and anoint us with precious love. Death says, you can not hide from me. You are Mine.
But wait. Don’t be afraid. My 90 year old mother who makes a habit of robbing death of it’s sting, will tell you that life is made of small victories over death, anointings with love and washing with water that cleanses and gives life. She will tell you to look death in the face and say “ O death” “La muerte” Donde esta la muerte? Donde esta su victoris. Where is your sting, where is your victory? And she would tell each of us to look for those small victories over death in our own lives. The people we keep on loving no matter what. The moments of reconciliation and healing we know. The songs we sing and the dances we dance, all in the face of death.
Death may have invited us here tonight but it is Life and Love that is taking over. It is our God who puts Death in its place, where death belongs, which is to say “in the grave”, in the tomb. And this is no “small victory”, this is God’s triumph over what we fear most and what we hide from. For It is God in Jesus Christ that says, “you do not need to fear. You are mine”
Anand, Sara, Kiu, Bryan, Rebecca, it is what Jesus says to each of you tonight. Come and wash in the waters of new life. Let me give you the victory over death that I have known. Do not be afraid. You are mine.