by Fr. Tommy Lane
Newgrange in Ireland is one of the best known prehistoric tombs in the world. It is about 40 miles northwest of Dublin and was built about 3000 B.C. It is about 500 years older than the Great Pyramid at Giza. What is special about Newgrange is that every year on the Winter Solstice on December 21st as the sun rises its light shines through the 60 foot (18m) long passageway which leads into the central burial chamber. The tomb was built in such a way that at sunrise on the shortest day of the year the sun illuminates the central burial chamber for about seventeen minutes. Why was Newgrange built in this way? While no one knows for sure there has been speculation that the builders believed the sunlight would take the souls of the dead to the next life. We could say they were looking for Jesus and belief in the resurrection, and this was the closest they got to it. How blessed we are to know Jesus, the one whom they sought but did not yet know.
What a joy it is for us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus’ tonight beginning with a service of light. The true light that enlightens the world is not the sun but Jesus. His resurrection has scattered the darkness and brought us the true light. Many times in the Gospel of John Jesus reminds us that he is the light of the world (John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). Those who accept the Shroud of Turin as the burial cloth of Jesus believe that its image was quite literally formed by the light of Jesus. Skeptics have proposed many theories for how the image of the crucified man got imprinted on the Shroud of Turin. But the image is not made by pigment or paint and is only on the surface of the cloth fibers, it doesn’t penetrate into the cloth fibers. Those who accept the Shroud of Turin as the burial cloth of Jesus suggest that the explanation for the formation of the image on the cloth is that something like radiation put the image on the cloth at the moment of Jesus’ resurrection. The light of Jesus at the moment of his resurrection has left us his image.
In Guadalupe last year (2007) Jesus showed himself to be the light of the world. A press release from the Association of Catholic Nurses, Doctors and Health Professionals in France April 30 2007, reports that after Mass an unexplained light came from the image of the Virgin Mary at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City immediately after the municipal council of Mexico City legalized abortion on April 24, 2007. An intense light emanated from Our Lady’s abdomen, forming a brilliant halo in the shape of an embryo. A scientist, Luis Girault, studied the negative which had been sent to France by the Mexican Centro de Bioethica Rioplatense, and declared that the picture had not been modified or altered and that the light does not come from any reflection, but literally comes from the inside of the image of the Virgin. The light is very white, pure and intense, different from regular lights produced by flash cameras. It is encircled with a halo and appears to float inside the abdomen of the Virgin and has the form and measurements of an embryo. Furthermore, looking at the light more closely shows that it has some areas of shade like the characteristics of an embryo in the womb. Jesus is indeed the light of the world. (Follow up press release by the Association of Catholic Nurses, Doctors and Health Professionals in France June 1st 2007)
The Old Testament readings tonight give us a quick summary of the history of our salvation until Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is the light shining at the center of history illuminating it all and showing all of history in a new light. Everything needs to be reinterpreted in the light of the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing is ever again the same. Those who built the burial tomb at Newgrange were looking for Jesus and his resurrection unknown to themselves. What a privilege for us that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus and celebrate it here tonight. Our reason for joy is greater still because we believe that we will share in the resurrection of Jesus thanks to our baptism. That is why we renew our baptismal promises again tonight.
In our New Testament reading tonight (Rom 6:3-11) Paul said that when we were baptized we joined Jesus in death by going into the tomb with him and rising to new life with him. He explains that when we were baptized we left behind our old way of life and since baptism we enjoy the new life of Jesus. Therefore Paul urges us, “you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11)
The women went to the tomb early on the Sunday morning but Jesus was not there. The angel(s) told them that Jesus is risen. The women, apostles and disciples would later meet the risen Jesus. For us, sharing in the resurrection of Jesus and meeting the risen Jesus is not just something we hope for in the future, it is also for us now. Jesus offers life now. The new life in the resurrection is for now. Don’t miss out on the offer of Jesus’ life to you now. Don’t waste life. Live life with Jesus. Live the life of Jesus now.
Those who built the burial tomb at Newgrange were looking for Jesus and his resurrection unknown to themselves. What a privilege for us that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus and celebrate it here today and thanks be to God for our baptism that through it we share in the resurrection of Jesus.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2008
More Homilies for the Easter Vigil
Related Homilies: Passover Expectation of the Messiah, the Eucharist and Easter Vigil 2010
belief in the resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)