“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”
The opening lines of the Bible, which are the first reading of the Easter Vigil, take us back into that original DARKNESS, the darkness of nothingness before the world was created. Many people are under the impression that the story of Genesis has been disproved as a myth by the discoveries of science, but the truth is exactly the opposite. Science has proven, much to our surprise, that the world is not a smooth-running perpetual machine, but instead that all the matter and energy in the universe burst into existence in an instant, a moment nicknamed the “Big Bang”, for which there was no physical cause. Even more amazing, this initial chaos was formed into an orderly universe, and one planet began to orbit at a distance from a little star that was perfect to support life. This planet, miraculously, was full of water and carbon, but the water did not cover the whole earth: a very large landmass was exposed which allowed life to flourish both in the sea and on land. Science knows that life emerged on this planet, not just as a few species of bacteria and mould, but as millions of forms of life of increasing complexity and sophistication, living together in a balanced and organized harmony so complex that no human mind can understands it.
This is why the Easter vigil begins with the creation account, so that we can return, once again, to contemplate the wonder of creation. Creation itself demands that we answer this question: is this a world a product of random chance? Is all life an accident of amino acids combining? If life is merely a random freak of nature in some corner of the universe, then life has no ultimate meaning.
The Bible it looks beyond the physical world, it sees further than science can look, and it declares what we already intuitively recognize – this whole world was put in order by a brilliant and rational mind. More than that, the whole created universe is a GIFT to us, a gift of God’s generous love for us. This fact demands a response! How could we possibly respond to God’s great love? The account of Genesis tells us how to respond: the Sabbath, the seventh day, is the day for our response. The six days of creation should draw us naturally to a seventh day, the day of worship, the day of encounter with God, so that we might respond with love to the God who has loved us.
The universe is meant to bring us into contact with God, yet many people live in the universe without ever coming into contact with God. Why do we miss our invitation to worship? Is it because this could all be a product of random chance? Is it because the idea of God is “controversial” so we might as well sleep in? No, there is a much deeper reason. The idea that God exists is controversial because, if He really exists, this is HIS universe, not mine. If God made the world with a plan in mind, I would need to respect that plan and humbly obey it, and not take advantage of the world for my own power and pleasure. The silence of God leaves space for me to declare myself owner and lord of this “unclaimed” planet.
The creation story, then, is followed immediately by the story of the first sin, because we have missed our invitation to worship, and more than that, we have taken advantage of our freedom to violate creation: to do whatever we want to our own bodies, to the people around us, and to the environment, with total disregard for God’s carefuly crafted harmony. This is the sin, the rejection of God’s order in favor of our own haphazard arrangement.
Yet, in the face of our sin, God did not burn His creation to dust and start over. Instead, He revealed His love and mercy in a way that was even more amazing than creation. God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, entered into our world, suffered and allowed himself to be killed. The night of Good Friday, Jesus returned into the DARKNESS, and out of that darkness He brought new light, the beginning of a NEW CREATION, a creation beyond the boundary of death and therefore beyond the reach of sin. This is the reason the first Christians no longer worshipped on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath or Saturday. Instead, they came to worship on the first day of the week: Sunday, the day of Resurrection, the day Christ showed himself to his disciples, the day of the Eucharist.
This is why we worship God at the Easter vigil and on every Sunday, not only to thank Him for the light that God created in the void of nothing, but especially to thank Him for the new light of Divine Mercy that shows us the way in the abyss of sin.
The message of the Resurrection is very simple: God is making a new creation, where sin will be no more, and those who take up their crosses and die to sin with Christ will rise with Him to new life.