In homage to Fr. Cody, I want to echo the first words of his homily on Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
“Whatever I say tonight, will NOT be enough. As we enter into the Paschal Triduum, these three days of the life, suffering, passion, death and resurrection, words are simply not enough.”
How very true these words are for the Easter Vigil. So Holy Mother Church lavishes us with symbols meant to speak to the very depths of our souls. She desires to arouse in us a profound encounter with Jesus Christ, sent by the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Everything we have done and do this holy night is rich in symbol and meaning.
Beginning in darkness, we gathered at the new fire built from the trees that adorned the crèche at Christmas.
From this fire that pushed away the darkness and coldness of the night, we lit the Paschal Candle and sang not once, not twice but a trinity of proclamations against the darkness of sin and death, “Light of Christ,” holding high the symbol of Christ resurrected.
Placing it next to the ambo from which God’s word is proclaimed at every Eucharist, Deacon Rob sang the Exultet, the Easter proclamation, announcing the mystery of this night.
Mother Church then led us back to the beginning and unfolded through Sacred Scripture the profound story of our salvation. These passages provided one final teaching on baptism for those approaching their initiation tonight. They also reminded us, about our own baptism and the wonder of the Resurrection.
More than merely “recalling” events, these readings show the extent of God’s plan through salvation history. They are meant to accompany believers INTO a participation in these mysteries themselves. The readings do not simply repeat stories. They make us live them anew.
The first reading from Genesis of creation, envisions that both the resurrection of Jesus and the baptism of our Elect express new creations, new life. Just as God once granted birth to the world out of nothing, so God promises a new birth to every follower of Jesus Christ.
The eerie second reading recounts Abraham’s preparations to slaughter his only son. Isaac foreshadows Christ on Calvary, the beloved Son who carries the wood of the cross uphill in preparation for the one, true sacrifice that will reconcile the world to the Father.
The account of crossing the Red Sea is the fulcrum upon which the liturgy balances the old and new covenants. As the chosen people of God reached safety from their enemies in the waters of the Red Sea, so the new chosen people, our Elect, will reach safety from sin and temptation in the waters of baptism.
Life-giving water is echoed in our readings from Isaiah and Ezekiel, water that will refresh the soul and create a new heart.
The reading from Romans sums up everything when St. Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters, are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
This mystery of dying and rising not only refers to what will happen in just a few short minutes for our Elect, but also for us all at the end of our lives if we but persevere in our baptismal discipleship of following Jesus every day and being faithful to him above all else.
Dan Waters, you have been accompanied by Andrew Pittelkau whom you met at Alpha. As Andrew, your sponsor, who will bring you to the waters of baptism, follow his example of faithfulness.
Amayah, our shy little one, hold close the hand of your dad, Shaun, and grow strong in learning more and more about your faith. Help him to bring you to Mass every Sunday that you may be a witness to others.
Joan, you have faced many challenges on your journey here. Trust in that call from Jesus in and through the Catholic Church and find strength for the journey ahead.
Sweet Amanda, your deep desire for baptism touches our hearts and makes us, like you, yearn for a deeper and deeper relationship with Jesus. Thank you for your “yes” to Jesus.
Liam Outlaw. What a great name. Yet you are not an outlaw but rather a faithful follower of Jesus. Thanks to Saint Michael School, Miss Petruska, your class mates and your mom’s example of coming into full communion last June, you are ready. I can see it in your eyes and in your smile.
Ella Hurd, you are new to the sixth class this year at Saint Michael School and have found a strong connection with Mrs. Yabut and the Edge program. What a gift these have been to you and you for them. Your mom, Erika, is in the catechumenate as well. What joy for your family now and hopefully next Easter Vigil.
Jamie, it’s coming full circle. Last year your daughter Emeory was baptized. I remember how she bobbed in the water of the baptismal font at the Westside, coming out dripping and smiling. Then dad was received into full communion of the Catholic Church in June, and now it’s your turn. Be embraced by this mystery.
Dang Nguyen is our Dysmis this year. Supported by our Vietnamese community, in his senior years Dang being baptized and fully initiated into the way of Christ.
On the other end of the birthday spectrum are Brendan and Sydney. Sydney is in third grade and Brendan fourth. Both participate in the beautiful religious formation program entitled “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.” As they have participated in the different “works” of catechesis, they have come to a profound experience with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Sydney, Brendan, continue to listen closely to hear his voice and follow him as you grow up and become mature disciples of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Erin is, for me, much like an angel. Having attended Alpha almost two years ago, I have encountered you many times in Adoration, Sunday Mass and walking by the rectory after prayer. Erin, help us by your example, to grow deeper in love with Jesus.
Susan, thank you for your faithfulness. You have faced many trials this past year and during your catechumenate have come to a faith that has grounded you and brought you a peace and calmness in the midst of the storms. Keep your eyes on Jesus who will guide you day by day.
Noah, what a joy it is to have you here tonight. It was just last year at the Easter Vigil that your mom, Katrina was baptized. Like Ella and Liam you go to school at Saint Michael and are in the sixth grade. This is what Andrew Cassad, the Steward for RCIA,wrote about Noah. The family is very engaged in the life of the parish, the school and Noah, a sixth grader, is as squirrely as one would expect a sixth grade boy to be. Is that true, Noah?
Our last elect is James Sebastian Curran. When I first met him, I was impressed by his intense desire to know about the faith. Unlike many high school freshmen, he is thirsty to encounter Jesus more deeply in his life. His journey has been connected with the Boyd family who have modeled for him faith and love of Jesus Christ. James loves baseball, just about the only sport I really understand.
Since we are name sakes, James, would you be so kind as to tell me why you want to be baptized tonight with your fellow Elect?
Thank you so much, James.
Our Elect, our soon to be sisters and brothers in the Risen Lord Jesus, are icons for us, symbols of yearning for Christ and his Church. May they spark a renewed desire in us to be disciples of Jesus and to live our lives placing God first in all things, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus and growing in holiness daily through prayer, sacraments and service.