- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

April 1, 2018

Abbot Gerard D’Souza, OCSO

Vigil Mass

On this Easter night as the Church joyfully celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, I cannot forget our world. I cannot forget the pain of what is happening around us. The scary thing about our world is that the abnormal is becoming the new normal. Kids are shooting up their teachers and other kids in their schools. We then fight about gun control. I can understand this. But why is no one asking the big question? Why are kids, not adults, but kids – kids who should be our future – why are kids mowing down other kids with automatic weapons?

I think behind it lies a deeper issue. Who are we? The darkness of our age breathes its seductive poison into our minds – you are nothing. You are a mistake. Stop dreaming. Wake up. What are we? Are we eating and polluting machines? Someone pointed me to a blog on the PETA website. It was titled ‘A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy’ Now when I was young we learned this nursery rhyme – what are little girls made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ and what are little boys made of ‘snips and snails and puppy dog tails.’ It was tongue in cheek. But this blog was serious – there is an equivalence in the consciousness of a boy and a rat. If a boy is a dog, is a pig, is a rat – is there a reason for living. This is the sin of our age. In our desire to be without God, we end up exterminating ourselves. This is the stone that seals up our tomb. The children pick this up and act out of this despair.

In our personal lives too, there is the stone that will not budge. Each of us brings to the table our guilt and shame, our consciousness of having failed through pride, through cowardice. Each of us has the baggage of the past. The stone looms large on our horizon.

The women coming very early to the tomb were saying to one another ‘Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? They speak for all of us. Like the women we too fret incessantly –  who will roll the stone away for us? If anything our experience is of what St Paul calls – the old self, the sinful body, the sinful history.

The women came fully expecting the same old, same old. The stone that could not be budged. They came fully expecting nothing. But then, in the dark that was slowly becoming light, they look up and a shock runs through them – the reeling of the mind when the impossible happens. The large, impossible stone had been rolled back.

When the Gospel speaks of the stone being rolled back- we should not think of an isolated instance. The Gospel uses an instance for a universal -the stone rolled back from the empty tomb is the sign of a fundamental change. The structure of the universe is changed. It is no longer headed for destruction but for transformation. But even more wonderful is the possibility for the human heart – we are no longer slaves to the overwhelming power of sin and death. We have been set free by the death and resurrection of the Lord. We are sons and daughters of God – free and loved and capable of loving in turn. We do not have to follow the law of the jungle written in the DNA of our old self. We have a new self that has its own laws and energies of life and love. St Paul reminds us of this ‘We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin’ The stone has been rolled away. But how do you live? How do you imagine things? Through the lens of the old self as if Christ had not risen? Unfortunately we do.

How do we roll the stone away? We don’t. We cannot. But Christ can do the impossible. A priest friend of the abbey sent us his Easter letter and in it there was a beautiful quote from a spiritual author. This author said that most of us cannot believe that all we need is confidence in Jesus. We think it is too good to be true. There has to be a catch to something so simple. There can be no free lunch. But this is our pride. The author then provided a beautiful short prayer that places everything in the Lord’s hands. Now our failures are of two kinds. The sins of commission, the harm we have done, and more important the many, many, many sins of omission – the good we have failed to do. So with childlike confidence we raise all this in the simple prayer to Jesus – Lord repair the harm I have done. And supply for what I have left undone. This Easter may we too make this prayer our own. The prayer of confidence in Jesus that will roll our personal stone away.  Lord repair the harm I have done. And supply for what I have left undone.