Easter Vigil 2007
St. Ann’s, Port of Spain
At the risk of provoking a puzzled look or two, I’m going to state that our whole life as Christians is one big, long Easter Vigil. Not only is the Easter Vigil the mother of all vigils, the night of nights, it is a metaphor for the way we live out our Baptism in the course of the years granted to us on this earth. Alleluia.
What is the Easter Vigil in a few words? What is our life as baptized Christians in a few words? It’s about remembering or recalling how God saved His people throughout history and about how in the fullness of time He sent his own Son to be our Redeemer. It’s about our hope and prayer that God (through this Easter celebration / through our living out of the grace of our baptism day by day, year for year) may bring to perfection the saving work He has begun in us by water and the Holy Spirit. “He is risen and He has appeared to Simon!” Our hope for this life and for the next is in His victory over sin and death. Nothing else really matters. Alleluia!
After lighting our Easter candle, we spent time this evening with the Scriptures, now we’ll renew the promises of our Baptism, and then we will celebrate in the Holy Eucharist the central mystery of our faith. This is our vigil and this is our life. It reaches its high point not only at Easter, but every single Sunday, which as we know is “Resurrection Day”.
The early Christians suffered martyrdom rather than go without their Sunday Mass. Why has the first announcement of the Gospel generally been accompanied by persecution of Christian believers and their martyrdom? Because Satan doesn’t give in that easily; he’s not willing to turn over his control of people’s lives that easily. We are washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb. The Lamb was slain in mortal combat but lives forever victorious over sin and death, over Satan’s power. The strife is o’er the battle done… as the Easter hymn goes. Alleluia! We walk in the footsteps of Christ, we go to Him, and we identify with Him who suffered, died and was buried outside the walls, outside the vineyard. He rose victorious from the dead and vanquished the power of evil. Again: Alleluia.
I don’t know about you, but I have the worst time getting over or getting away from being curious about “how the other half lives”. By that I don’t mean the “rich and famous”, movie stars or politicians: most of their tragedies or insufficiencies are too evident and their choice of a certain life holds no attraction whatever for me. No, I tend to waste time wondering how certain good people in the world have failed to become Christians. It’s nothing more than a distraction, I know. Invariably however, I find out that such people are not truly happy. They don’t necessarily remain where they are because they think their life is the best or because they are satisfied. They content themselves rather with their life because they can’t imagine a better option. In some cases they live in fear of what might happen, if they let down their guard for a moment. It goes without saying that I could also describe a lot of baptized people as living that the same way, like pagans. Maybe (to refer to the famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi) that’s why some thoughtful people aren’t even attracted to us. For others the message of the Gospel is just too good to be true.
The Easter Vigil is a reminder, a pep talk for each and every one of us the baptized, encouraging us to stir up the flame of faith within us. We are called to set the world around us on fire with what seems to be the little light and warmth flickering from our candle of faith lit at Baptism.
It is no small task, but be of good courage. If you proclaim Jesus, True God and True Man, the Savior of the World who hung upon the wood of the Cross, our Light, the true light which comes into the world, if you proclaim Jesus, not by so much talk, but by the choices of your life, by your holy life, by your living out as best you can your vocation whatever it might be: husband and father, grandfather, mother and spouse, grandmother, widow or widower, single person, student, son or daughter, religious woman of the active or contemplative life, priest, papal nuncio. If you do so not only will you live happy, but you’ll join the fight to make up what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of the world. You will be His Body.
I spent three years of my career in Jerusalem and I must say that one of the things which impressed me there were the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem from Ethiopia for Holy Week each year. I never talked to one of them that I can remember, but you’d see them about their devotions always dressed in white robes, baptismal garments. The white garment is a symbol of our having put on Christ in baptism. With the garment at our Baptism come the words of the priest exhorting us, exhorting parents and godparents to keep that life in Christ unstained.
A most blessed Easter to one and all!