Debra Trees and members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests led the Easter Vigil Liturgy. Deb Trees provided the homily starter below. The community read the Story of Salvation History (below) adapted by Jay Murnane (1945-2004) who continues to inspire this community with inclusive liturgies written 20-30 year ago.
Homily Starter by Debra Trees
Every Easter season, we see the perennial renewal of life around us; at least if we are in a wonderful place on Earth like the great Northeast. Trees that are bare begin to bud anew. Bulbs from last year begin to peak green through the dark soil. Birds bop around, making nests, tweeting their hearts out. Eggs and lilies and baskets are some of our symbols for Easter, and just remind us again of new life.
But the surprise of Easter, are the words “He is risen!” Never, in our wildest dreams as human beings, would we ever think that this was a possibility. In one instant of recognition, when Mary heard her name as only Jesus could say it, we are given the witness of all time, “Rabboni.”
Here, in your beautiful life, a gift from our Creator, each of you is invited by this witness to hear your own name spoken, with pure knowing and intimate love.
How will you respond?
Through this Lent and Easter season, What did you hear? What will you do anew? What will it cost you?
The first Reading is the Story of Salvation History
(adapted from the books of the Hebrew Scriptures by Jay Murnane)
In the beginning, there was only chaos and a void. God breathed life into it and said, "Let there be light." And there was light: sun and moon and stars in the heavens. There emerged vast bodies of water filled with live creatures. Then, birds flying across the breadth of the skies, and on the earth, reptiles and animals of every kind, color and shape. And all had a purpose. God saw what had come to be, and God found it very good.
God then said: "Let us make human beings in the divine image; women and men together to take care of all of this, and one another! When this was done, God viewed the whole of creation, and loved it, for it was very, very good.
But human beings did not take care of creation and each other. Human beings corrupted the good-ness of what God had made. Rain fell, a torrential, purifying rain, covering the earth and washing away all the corruption to which people had given birth. Only Noah, his family, and living creatures from every species on earth floated above the flood in an ark made of wood.
After forty days, the rain subsided, so that the water was no longer a flood, and the ark came to rest on high, dry ground. The people and the animals looked up into the sky and saw something beautiful. God said: "That is my rainbow, the sign of my presence with you and my love for you. It will forever be the sign of my relationship with you, and your responsibility to take care of creation, and each other."
From these survivors of the flood, creation was begun all over again. Many, many years went by and there were many gatherings of people all over the face of the earth. One of these was the people, Israel, and among all of God's precious people, the Jews were very precious. During a time of famine, the Jews were invited by the Egyptians, their neighbors, to share their land and their food. But some centuries after this hospitality, a cruel leader in Egypt forgot the old relationship and made the Jews into slaves.
They lived this way for a long time, until Moses came among them and risked his safety and security to convince the Jews that God loved them and wanted them to be free. So, they left Egypt, filled with the Spirit of God, led by Moses and Miriam through the desert in search of a new home where they could be free again.
During this difficult journey, they were often disillusioned and resentful, and they complained bitterly. Moses asked God for help, and God offered the ten commandments, so that the people might know the simplest possible way to love God and their fellow human beings. And from these survivors of oppression, Israel began all over again.
But the people forgot the simple way of God and were not always faithful, and at times they were as oppressive to each other and to strangers as the Egyptians had been to them. They paid lip service to God, but their hearts were very far from God, and therefore, from justice and compassion. People of wisdom came from among them to remind them of the rainbow of their journey to freedom, and of their promise to God about caring for creation and each other. These were the prophets, and like Moses, they risked everything to convince the people to come home to freedom and responsibility, compassion and justice, faithfulness and integrity.
The prophet Isaiah said: "God is displeased with your prayers and your liturgies because the hands you lift in prayer are covered with blood. God wants prayer from the heart. God wants justice for the oppressed. God wants food for the hungry. God wants true peace!"
The prophet Amos said: "Some of you have grabbed power and made your own people no better than slaves. You have stripped people of their dignity as God's children, buying and selling them as if they were groceries or sandals. Greed is your god and selfishness, your liturgy!"
The prophet Micah said: "My people, you struggle blindly to know what God wants, and you act as if you remember nothing from your history, as if you know nothing. From the beginning of time, there has been one message from God. What God wants is this, ONLY this: That we live justly, that we love tenderly, that we walk with integrity in God's presence!
These are the inspired words of our prophets.