The following is the transcript of the homily given by Archbishop Allen Vigneron on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. Hundreds were on hand for the Easter liturgy, concelebrated by Cathedral Rector Father J.J. Mech and vicar Father Gregory Deters.
Christ is risen from the dead. He has appeared to Simon. And so we rejoice.
For myself , for Father Mech, the rector, for his vicar, Father Deters, for all of us here at the Cathedral, I wish a very blessed Easter to each of us gathered here to celebrate this great feast, in particular to those who are, I might say, the ordinary parishioners of the Cathedral, since the Cathedral belongs to the whole diocese, but there are some of us here 24/7 and I want not to lose sight of my good friends here at the Cathedral. A blessed Easter to you all.
To make my point this morning — and I assure you I have a point, I’m not flying blind, circling, looking for the airport — but to make my point I want to have you think about something that’s true of the liturgy in general. The liturgy has a kind of an attitude about time. The attitude is that at every feast day, every season, we are placed in a certain point of time — a kind of a station in time. The liturgy is always about celebrating the death and Resurrection of Christ, but we celebrate it from certain stations. Spiritually, we might say mystically, on Christmas we’re stationed in Bethlehem. On Ascension feast day we’re stationed on the Mount of Olives. On Pentecost, the cenacle, the upper room, and so forth. And this is not some memory game. It’s not even just poetry. But through the power of the liturgy, the events that we remember on Christmas or Ascension or Pentecost, or any of the other feasts of the year, are sacramentally, mystically, mysteriously made present to us. And so we receive a very particular grace on any day of the liturgy. And this is certainly true in the sacred Triduum. At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, sacramentally, mystically, the whole Church was in the upper room to receive the special graces offered by Christ at that time, at that night. On Good Friday, the Church was stationed standing with our Lady on Calvary to receive very particular gifts won for us by Christ at that time, which became our time on Good Friday — because in the liturgy the past and the present and the future are all as one.
Last night — and I noticed some of you hearty souls have returned along with me — last night, the station of the Church was simply to be in the night. Because nobody saw Jesus rise from the dead. It was only the night itself that knew his rising. And that was our place. But we’re in a different place this morning. We’re in the full light of day. It’s with Mary of Magdela and Joanna and Mary the mother of James that the Church stands. This is our station today, at the empty tomb. To hear the angels — Luke calls them two men in bright garments, but surely they were angels — to hear them say, “He is not here. He is risen, even as He said.” And then they gave the ladies a little catechetical lesson… it is what he told you would happen. And they remembered, and they believed. That’s what we do now. We hear that Jesus is not in that grave anymore. He has been raised from the dead. And so our grace, in part, is to fully embrace what we heard Peter preach in the first reading on the first Pentecost morning. That’s his sermon notes. That He was hung upon a tree, nailed to the cross, but raised on the third day. And above all our grace today at this station is to give praise and thanks that God the Father was faithful to Jesus, that Jesus wasn’t a fool for abandoning himself into the Father’s hands. The Father did not let his beloved see corruption, but raised him up in triumph, showing who was right and who was wrong, and who the real king is. That it’s Jesus, his son.
As I meditated on the Gospel that we heard, it occurred to me that I should invite you to take hold of another grace offered to us at our station here in the full light of Easter day. The grace of hearing the triumph of Jesus as the solution to all of our longings. Isn’t this what we all hope for and long for? We want to flourish. We want to be alive. This is what we love so much about spring. Why we look for the Robin to return and those brave crocuses to show up. We want life, not death. We want bright, not dark. I think this is why there’s a palpable spirit of optimism in our city and in our Metro community today — because there are, I would call them, crocuses. Signs of new life. And admittedly there are too many people who are not part of that revival. But that doesn’t mean we can’t rejoice in it and hope that we can share it with everyone. We know that blight is wrong. The sin and suffering that are caused by human evil. These are wrong. We know that death is not how God meant it all to end. We were made for life. We fell that, in the deepest fiber of our being. And it’s only the most jaded and cynical who somehow can celebrate death.
Now there are many false solutions. Some not evilly false, just short — they fall short to the problem of death and blight. Frozen in blighted hopes. Some people invoke a kind of stoic endurance. “It’s just the way the world is. Get used to it. Enjoy the day while you’ve got it.” There are some people who face the prospect of death and suffering and frustrated hope by aggrandizing power, wealth, pleasure. But Easter, this good news that Jesus is risen, that his Father didn’t leave him to rot in the grave, is God’s solution to the problem we made, and we continue to make by our sin. This is the gift of God offered to us out of love. The living God gives us life in Jesus Christ. It’s Jesus saying, “I will die so you will live. I will live forever so that you do not have to die forever.” This is the grace I invite all of us to take hold of here at this station, standing with the women at the empty tomb.
But part of this grace is to be sure that we let ourselves hear the question the angel asked those women. This is my question. It’s your question. We can’t hide from it. We have to hear it: “Why are you looking for the Living One among the dead?” I do that sometimes. I look for life in the wrong places. I can look for life by trying to protect myself from the disappointments and the sufferings that are just an ordinary part of being a leader, a pastor. I don’t answer the question right sometimes. And I am sure that I’m not that much different than all of you. Why do you look for life where there is just dead stuff? Maybe some people look for life by hanging on to hurt, grievance. Some people look for life on the Internet. You don’t need to catalogue it all. There’s no point in dwelling on the ersatz solutions, the counterfeits that we can so often accept when we really know where life is, indeed who is living. Jesus Christ is the new definition of “to live.” And that’s the grace that I think through me He offers to you today as you have come to the Cathedral for your station, for your space to stand. To have a chance, once more, to say, “I give up all of the false answers that creep into my life, that I let creep into my life. And I believe that Jesus is living. I believe that the only way to be alive is what St. Paul said to the Colossians, ‘To hide my life with Christ, to deposit it with Jesus.’ And I believe that every other search for life, for flourishing, will only end in heartbreak and failure.”
And so we know that when Christ comes back again Paul says we, too, will appear with him in glory, shining with life as He shines with life. It doesn’t matter what day you were baptized on. What date you made your first Holy Communion. There’s a way that, in the mind of the Church, today is everybody’s baptism anniversary and everybody’s First Communion anniversary. That’s how we answer the question, “Why are we looking for the living among the dead?” I’m not going to do that anymore, and I’m going to profess that by renewing my baptism and Holy Communion. We will begin to do that in a few moments as I invite you to renew your baptism promises. But that renewal, that reaffirmation of your faith that Jesus is alive and everything else is just the dead stuff, will reach its consummation at its Easter Communion. Because it is in the Holy Eucharist that we continue to be built up into the Body of Christ, and Christ life continues to grow in us. As He said, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will live forever.” That only works because Jesus is risen. And even more when we answer the question afresh, when we renew our membership in the body of Christ, we receive strength for the great mission that is given to the Church in this time, the mission of unleashing the Gospel. See, we’re called to imitate the holy women in this, to go back to everybody else and say, “Wake up! He’s risen! Don’t look for Him among the dead stuff, in the cemeteries, in the dead ends. He’s alive! And He wants us to live with him — so come to know him!” In our taking up this task of sharing the Good News, unleashing this Gospel good news, our reception of baptism and confirmation and the Holy Eucharist comes to its completion. And this day, as we appreciate how everybody wants life, everybody wants good news, everybody wants spring, let us ask God especially that we will have the courage, we will have the smarts, we will know how to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. And by sharing it, hold it and possess it all the more.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.