KEEPING VIGIL TONIGHT
(A biblical refection on HOLY SATURDAY – April 4, 2015)
One of the various readings at the Easter Vigil: Romans 6:3-11
The Scripture Text
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11 RSV)
Keeping vigil is never easy. A mother who has to “just stand and wait” until there is news about a sick child knows the agony of waiting. We feel so powerless and useless. The tension of keeping vigil is certainly heightened in a society which encourages us to be active and to take charge. We want to get in and do something. Waiting and keeping vigil drives all of us a little batty.
Here we are once again keeping vigil. However, we must not confuse waiting with passivity or powerlessness. To know how to keep vigil is of utmost importance. Yes, we feel the tension. Yes, we want to be up and doing. However, this is more our ego and our desire to be in control than a proper keeping of vigil. We must ready ourselves by stilling our hearts and minds. We must grow quiet inside. Only when we have disciplined ourselves to be inwardly still and quiet can we be ready for vigil. For part of our pain over vigil-keeping is our fear of missing out on what is about to take place. We don’t want to have the parade pass us by. We have to make sure we are in their number.
Proper vigil keeping, however, means that we ready ourselves to let the Lord speak His word and work His miracles of grace in us. Jesus often faced temptations and pressures to make everything alright all at once. Cure all the sick and drive out every demon – yesterday! Jesus was pressured to tell who He was and give absolute proof of His divinity – immediately. Even as the hour of His death approached, many of His disciples wanted Jesus to go the way of the quick fix – take up the sword, work a miracle, send a legion of angels, refuse to drink the cup prepared by the Father. Jesus rejected these options because they would send the wrong message: that for every problem, challenge and cross there is an easy, quick answer. “In the fullness of time” is no idle biblical phrase. There is deep wisdom offered in it to all who learn to keep vigil.
Tonight we keep vigil in such a way that our hearts are eager for the resurrection of the Lord. We wait with expectant hope for the stone to be rolled back. The women in our Gospel reading want to know “who will roll back the stone” so they can enter and minister to the body of Jesus. However, the stone is already removed and Jesus is not to be found among the dead. Jesus is to be found among the living. He is risen. And with His rising so is our hope of glory and resurrection.
St. Paul writing to the Romans reminds us of our baptismal link with the crucified and risen Christ. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). The words of Paul are joined with the message of the angel to the women – go and tell that Jesus is now alive. Through our words and actions we daily proclaim the Lord as crucified and risen. We live a new life in the here and now. We live the good news of the resurrected Jesus in our homes, schools, places of business and parish communities. This is the best way to keep vigil. We live in such a way that we are constantly ready for the Lord.
The night of keeping vigil is of ultimate importance for our heart and history. The effects of violence and the forces of darkness are all too evident. It is so easy to despair and simply live without hope. We can look for our security in things and in the symbols of power. Instead, we look to the symbol of God’s power and wisdom – the CROSS. We look to the One who was lifted up on the cross. Our heart skips a beat as we hear the words spoken by the angel to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James: “He has risen, He is not here” (see Mark 16:6).
Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, may the crucified and resurrected Christ roll away the stone that covers my heart. May the risen Lord be lifted up in me. May I go forth and proclaim: “He is risen!” Amen.
Note: Please also read biblical reflections on the same reading (Rom 6:3-11) entitled “IF WE HAVE DIED WITH CHRIST, WE BELIEVE THAT WE SHALL ALSO LIVE WITH HIM” (April 23, 2011), and “LET US KEEP VIGIL AT HIS TOMB TONIGHT” (April 7, 2012), both are available in this blog.
Jakarta, April 2, 2015
A Christian Pilgrim