Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018

Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018

Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish 

The very brief account of the Resurrection of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel for this Easter Vigil tells us three important things about what we celebrate this most Holy Night and the way that God works to bring about our salvation.  1) First.  What God gives us is the fulfillment of our desire which is something that we cannot achieve by our own strength.  This is represented by the woman who go to the tomb, desiring to anoint the body of Jesus, yet knowing full well that they are not strong enough to roll back the stone to the entrance of the tomb themselves.  But when they arrive, they find the very large stone rolled back.   2) Second.  We will see the risen Jesus in the flesh.  The young man they find in the tomb tells the women to tell the disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”  3) Third.  God keeps his promises.  He fulfills them in amazing ways.  We will discover this if we seek him and listen to what he tells us.

What happens in Galilee?  It is in Galilee where the disciples receive their commission from the Risen Lord.  He tells them, “Go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  “Behold… I am with you always…”  What are the disciples to “behold”?  In context, it seems that we are to behold the ones who are to be baptized, the ones who are taught the Gospel.  What Jesus is saying is that through baptism, he remains with us in the flesh of the person who is baptized.  When you behold the baptized, you see Christ in the flesh.  This is what we teach regarding baptism.  The baptized become members of the body of Christ and dwelling places of the Holy Spirit – God dwells in them.  The symbols of the baptismal liturgy communicate the fact that we become through baptism an “other Christ”.  The white garment that each newly baptized puts on symbolizes that they have become a new creation and have been clothed in Christ.  The candle that each newly baptized receives which is lit from the Paschal Candle symbolizes that they have been enlightened by Christ, the light of the world, and have become “children of light”.  Light reveals.  The baptized are to reveal the face of Christ in the world.

The extended readings from the Old Testament, giving us an arc of Salvation History, remind us that God is always with his chosen people, that our merciful God doesn’t abandon us even when we are unfaithful, and that he saves us and keeps his promises in ways beyond our understanding.  The readings pre-figure and point to our salvation in Christ with clear allusions to baptism.  In Christ, through baptism, we are saved and God remains with us in a new and definitive way.

In the creation account in Genesis, God creates the heavens and earth by sending a mighty wind or his spirit over the waters.  Man is created in God’s image.  In baptism, the Holy Spirit is called down over the water of the baptismal font, and the baptized person is recreated in the image of Christ the “new Adam.”  The sacrifice of Abraham, with his son Isaac an image of Christ, recounts our father in faith who remains faithful to God’s command even when he doesn’t understand how it is possible that God will keep his promise.  In the account from Exodus, God saves his people from slavery and wipes out the enemy holding them captive by having them pass through the waters of the Red Sea.  Their passage was made possible by the prayer of Moses, a figure of Christ, and the strong wind that sweeps over the water.  The prophecy of Isaiah invites the unfaithful people, those who have broken the covenant, to “come to the water!”  Through this water, they will receive what their own efforts have failed to satisfy.  “Listen, that you may have life.  I will renew with you the everlasting covenant” the prophet promises.  “Seek the Lord.. call him…”  He calls them to conversion, “turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous in forgiving.”  It’s OK if you don’t understand how it is possible, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”  Through the waters of baptism, we are brought into the New Covenant as all of our sins are forgiven.

The Epistle from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans is an instruction to the baptized reminding them of the effects of the baptism that they have received.  We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection “so that we too might live in newness of life.”  We are no longer slaves to sin.  If we have died with Christ in baptism, we shall also live with him.  Are we aware of these effects in us?  Do we think of ourselves in this way, “living for God in Christ Jesus”?

In his commission of the disciples, Jesus also commands them to teach all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  So what is taught has to be observable – the Christian life, the moral life, is not just a set of teachings or doctrines, but it is something that is seen – in the flesh.  We are taught the faith by following witnesses, by seeing the different way that others live, who live out their baptism – who live in union with Christ and let their relationship with Christ define and determine how they live and the decisions they make.

Aquí tengo una palabra especial para los padres y padrinos de estos nuevos bautizados.  El acto de bautismo los hace estos jóvenes miembros del cuerpo de Cristo, pero ellos necesitan guías y ejemplos para aprender la fe, crecer en la fe, y experimentar lo que significa pertenecer a Cristo.  Necesitan ver que la fe vive en ustedes.  Necesitan encontrar una persona o una comunidad de fe que tiene conciencia de su bautismo – que está llevando una vida nueva.  Cuando una persona encuentra el amor de Dios en la carne, entiende su bautismo propio y se despierta su bautismo.  Este es el papel principal de los padres y padrinos.  Es por esta misma razón que todos los bautizados renuevan sus votos bautismales cada año en la celebración de la Pascua.  Necesitamos recordar lo que Dios ha hecho en nosotros.

It is for this reason that all of us – all the baptized renew their baptismal promises every year at Easter.  We need to be reminded of what God has done in us – in our flesh – so that we can be witnesses and guides to the newly baptized.  In a few minutes we will behold Jesus come in the flesh in Michael, Miriam, Jayla, Jennifer, Marilyn, and Xavi.  Michael, Miriam, Jayla, Jennifer, Marilyn, and Xavi, be confident that no matter what happens to you in life, that Jesus is with you.  He will continue to work out your salvation in ways you cannot imagine, as long as you continue to seek him and listen to what he tells you.  God keeps his promises to you.  He is merciful and doesn’t stop calling us to himself.  Seek him and listen to him and follow the witnesses that the Lord has put into your life that have brought you to this day.  He will fulfill the desire of your heart, and in doing so, you too become witnesses of the resurrection, the way others can behold Christ with us today.  ¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish 

The next to the last “word” that Jesus says from the Cross is “I thirst.”  What is it that Jesus thirsts for from the cross?  He thirsts for our love – that we have a  heart that seeks him.  The words “I thirst” that Jesus speaks from the Cross recall his encounter with the Samaritan woman – the woman at the well who Jesus asked for a drink.  He engages in conversation with that woman so she can understand the deep thirst in her heart – a thirst for love and mercy – a thirst for living water.  Jesus died on the cross to make available that “living water” to all of humanity.  God’s response to our sin is an outpouring of mercy.  Loving us “to the end” – depicted by the blood and water that flows from his side – they are the symbols of Baptism and Eucharist that wash away sin and nourishes us with his life.  In the revelation of Divine Mercy, Jesus taught St. Faustina this prayer, “O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in you!”  The mercy of Jesus that pours forth has almost an immediate transformative effect.  Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, now asks Pilate for the body of Jesus to perform the Jewish burial rites.  Once afraid to associate himself with Jesus, Joseph now approaches the one who condemned Jesus.  He is able to face “the powers that be” and do something that would be “politically incorrect” according to the dominant mentality of the religious ruling class.  Mercy is what is attractive about Jesus, because mercy is more powerful than death.  Joseph is willing to give of himself, to his own potential loss, because of this encounter with mercy.  Virtue and righteousness, doing the works of mercy, like burying the dead, flow from the encounter with mercy.  Nicodemus, who only before came to Jesus under cover of darkness, now, with Joseph of Arimathea, cooperates in the very public act of burial.  “The will to respond and to change, which can give rise to a different life, comes thanks to this merciful embrace.”  It is this change that is proof of the resurrection – that he changes me – that he gives me a new life.  I know he exists because he changes me.  Salvation occurs when the thirst of God meets the thirst of man.  There is life for those stuck in the shadows of shame and sin.  Being aware of my sin puts me in touch with my thirst, my deep need for mercy.  What Jesus does on the Cross – his response to our sin and suffering, says to each of us: “I was like you, I was unjustly condemned and killed, and I accepted it so that you understand that I was a participant in the trial that you’re now undergoing.” Life is a land of trial, but God appeared as one of us. Nothing is excluded – not even death.  The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.  So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”  We need to ask for his mercy – for ourselves and for others.  That is why in this liturgy of Good Friday, we place all of our needs and those of the world before our Lord, uniting them with Christ in his passion.  We pray that we will all have hearts open to his mercy, for as Pope Francis likes to say, “only those who have been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly know the Lord.”

Jesus, may the crosses I experience bring me into conversation with you.  Help me to recognize that my thirst is for you, so I can cry out to you with joy, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”