Homily for the Easter Vigil

Brothers and Sisters, we’ve come to the high point of the Paschal Triduum.

On Maundy Thursday, we were made aware of the gift of the Eucharist. On Good Friday, of the gift of the reconciling Cross. And tonight, of the gift of the Resurrection, of Christ the Light who knows no setting.

It was Jesus, Son of God, who directly gave us his Body and Blood. It is God the Father who raised his Son on the Cross for our salvation. And it is the power the Holy Spirit that transformed the body sleeping in the tomb, filled it with deathless life, brought Jesus living back to us, now the “Son of God in power”. This happened, says St Paul, “according to the Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4), that is through the action of the Holy Spirit. So, in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery the whole Trinity is involved, inseparably, and we praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Glory be to the Three-in-One!

And glory be to Them too that tonight souls can be baptised, and be received into the full communion of the Church, and be confirmed, and receive the Holy Eucharist, some for the first time. What is happening here tonight is happening all over the world. “My Father is working still, says Jesus, and I am working” (Jn 5:17).

What a beautiful night it is! First, Light out of darkness. Then, Readings which begin with creation brought out of nothing and end with the new creation springing out of death. And now we enter the enchanted forest of the sacraments: baptism, confirmation and the holy Eucharist. Sin is forgiven, grace conferred, grace upon grace. And in it all we sense the high priesthood of Jesus at work. We feel his presence. We know he is risen. Heaven and earth seem to touch

What is happening? What is the Holy Spirit giving us through the risen Lord? A simple answer: a brother. A brother is given us. Perhaps we’ve never had a brother and wished we had. Perhaps we’ve lost a brother. Perhaps we’ve just never got on with our brothers and have gone our separate ways. Perhaps, well, he’s my brother – no big deal.  Perhaps we’ve had a great relationship with a brother and feel blessed by it. Perhaps we’ve experienced the blessing of spiritual brotherhood. “A brother that is helped by a brother is like a strong city”, says Proverbs (18:19, in some versions). Brothers help us through life. But just as Jesus is the human being, the Shepherd, so is he the brother. He became this through Mary, at the Incarnation, when he became one of us, part of the human family. He seems to have had a sensitivity to brotherhood, choosing at least two pairs of brothers as his close followers. He proved himself our brother by suffering our sufferings. He was “made like his brothers and sisters in every respect”, says the Letter to the Hebrews (2:17), referring to his Passion and Death. And when he rose from the dead, he appeared to Mary Magdalene and said to her, “Go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to my Father and your Father” (Jn 20:17). Prior to his Resurrection, Jesus had called his disciples “children”, “friends”, but now he also calls them  brothers. And therefore, us too. We are his brothers and sisters, and he is a brother to us. Gillian and Mary, God has always been close to you in your lives, but now through baptism he comes closer still. Now, Christ becomes your brother. You have a brother, this brother. And what is true for you is true for all of us. We have this brother, this one who, unlike Cain, keeps us, who is our strong city, a companion, a support, a friend, a helper in trouble, a source of good counsel. One of the most dramatic moments in the Old Testament occurs when Joseph, son of Jacob, reveals himself to his brothers (Genesis 49). We remember the story. Earlier in his life, these brothers had literally sold him down the river (the Nile), they hated him so much. Joseph, however, survived and rose to be a great man in Egypt. His brothers, if they thought of him at all, must have reckoned him dead or disappeared. But when famine struck them at home and they had to go down to Egypt, desperate for food, they were referred to him, not knowing who he was. They only knew he was powerful and held their fate in his hands. Joseph knew them, though. He could have taken revenge. But he did not. Instead, in tears he astonishes them. He reveals his identity: “I am Joseph your brother” (Gen 45:4) – sent here ahead of you by God, he adds, to preserve your life, a brother saving the lives of his most unbrotherly brothers. It all foreshadows Christ. When Jesus rises from the dead and calls the disciples who had failed him “brothers”, he is forgiving them. He is sharing his Father with them, making them family. “I am Jesus your brother”, he equivalently says – your brother sent ahead through suffering and death to preserve your life and to give you food in time of famine. “Your brother”. Some brother! A brother, like Joseph, who preserves us, who feeds our famine with his flesh, who brings together. A brother “who is not ashamed to call [us] [his] brothers and sisters” (Heb 2:11). A brother who will never say as Cain did of Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. A brother who will keep us for everlasting life, and when he comes in glory “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:21).

Brothers and sisters, the Holy Father keeps saying, “humanity has taken the way of Cain”. He is thinking especially of the situation in Ukraine, where one Christian country is ravaging another, where brother is killing brother. We are celebrating the Paschal mystery and at the heart of it, in the midst of the divine fire, stands the risen Jesus our brother. We have a brother, a brother for ever, a brother who will never fail. May Gillian and Mary feel this to the full. And may we, Christ-like, be true brothers and sisters to each other.


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
A registered Scottish Charity Number SC005122