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Eastertide

The book Born from the Gaze of God: The Tibhirine Journal of a Martyr Monk contains the diaries of Brother Christophe, one our Trappist brothers martyred in Algeria in March of 1996. In one journal entry Christophe shares that, as he sought hope in the midst of violence, hatred and threats, he found inspiration in a poem entitled “The Will:” How can we say that it is really too late for desire to be fulfilled, when the gift remains so enduring; when something, someone continues to speak from the depths of our silence and helplessness, when an inexpressible passion continues to burn within us, when beneath a desert tangled with thorns, there is a well that nothing can exhaust? An inexhaustible well; this is a perfect image for the hope that we celebrate on this holy night of Vigil.

Certainly there are times in our lives when we seem to lose hope, when we begin to think that it is too late. “Nothing can redeem this situation. I am never going to be able to change; to relate differently. It is hopeless. All my chances have been used up.” Perhaps every one of us could name a real darkness of some sort that we have faced this past year. Some of us may be sitting in the midst of darkness right now. And here we are here again at another Paschal Vigil, because we need to remember that the story is true, this story that we just heard proclaimed in all the readings- from the creation story in Genesis to the re-creation story of the Resurrection of Jesus. It is not merely true as the commemoration of an event that happened over two thousand years ago. Our presence here tonight with and for one another points to the reality that it is still true in our lives. It may take years, a lifetime in fact, for the reality of the Resurrection to free us from the tomb and pull us out completely from the darkness, but it will happen. That is the promise. God did not leave Jesus in the tomb; God will never leave anyone in the darkness of the tomb. This is our hope. This is Easter hope, the assurance that the well will never run dry. That it really is inexhaustible.

Easter makes a claim. Some academics in the not too distant past suggested that what the Bible calls resurrection designated nothing that took place in the objectively real world, but rather spoke of an event within the subjectivity of those who remembered Jesus and loved him. No! With the Resurrection of Jesus we are not told that Jesus survived death; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a lovely imaginative creation that offers inspiration; we are not told only that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something for Jesus of Nazareth, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried. What Mary Magdalene and the other disciples witnessed on Easter morning was that moment when, through the action of God, we began to see through to the ultimate all-loving, all merciful goodness behind and within all reality. That same loving, merciful goodness that created the universe, and continues to sustain it, on a particular Sunday morning in AD 33 broke through the fabric of things and opened up an unimaginable, unexpected, unprecedented new reality for Jesus and for all of us with him. For Christians the basic fact is that this compelling vision is real because God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. It was and remains something done by God for and to us.

Our Tibhirine brother martyrs knew that living the truth of the Resurrection is very risky business. There is a scene in the movie “Of Gods and Men,” in which the community is gathered in Chapter. Each one is asked whether he will stay or leave the monastery. Each one chooses to stay. Each one decided at that moment that they wanted to live within the Paschal Mystery. They wanted to continue to risk living the truth; drinking from the inexhaustible well. One of the brothers is reported to have said, “Remember that love is eternal hope.” We need one another to continue to believe that it is true. Jesus Christ is truly risen! The well truly is inexhaustible.

– Taken from Abbot Damian’s Homily for the Paschal Vigil, 2016.