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!