Holy Saturday Vigil 2016
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
A. This night, a tiny, flickering light entered this Cathedral church. The deacon proclaimed three times, “Christ our light!” and gradually the light spread from person to person until its glow enveloped the whole Cathedral. And with the Church throughout the world, we gave thanks for the light that fills the dark night of our souls with grace, the light that gives hope to our days.
B. In that light we read abundantly from Holy Scripture. We listened intently as Scripture proclaimed how God created the world, how he created us in his image and likeness, and how he sought after us when we rejected his friendship by sinning. He did so by choosing a people, an obscure tribe of nomads, and in the course of their turbulent history revealed himself to them. Through them, the light of his truth and love shone on a world darkened by sin.
C. The flickering light of a candle and the choice of an obscure people… our Service of Light and our Vigil of Readings from the Old Testament teach us how the Lord chooses to deal with us … namely, with gentleness and mercy. How easy it would have been for the Lord to do otherwise – to reveal himself through the mighty powers and rulers of the ancient world: the Egyptians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. How easy it would have been for the Lord to overwhelm the earth he created and demand lockstep obedience from each person and from each of his creatures. Instead, the light of his love shone like a flickering candle and the sound of his voice was heard like a whisper amid the din.
D. The pattern continued as salvation history unfolded. The Savior of the world arrived not in a palace but a stable, and came of age not in a metropolis but in a humble village. He chose as his closest followers not the wise and wealthy but rather unlettered fishermen, a tax collector, and possibly a physician. Condemned to death, he died not as an outspoken revolutionary but rather as a mute lamb, indeed “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
E. Only a few of his followers remained true to the end and after the miraculous event of his bodily Resurrection, the Risen Savior with radiant wounds on his hands and feet showed himself to a small group of disciples upon whose testimony we continue to rely, after some 2,000 years.
F. And we might ask why God chooses to act this way in human history. Why does God not show us his power and might and put an end to doubt? Why does God not form alliances with the mighty instead of with the weak? It is not for us to question God’s motives or choices. Rather, on this night of nights, let us give him thanks – for in his eternal wisdom he has come “not to overwhelm us with external power but to give [us] freedom, to offer and elicit [our] love” (Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, II, p. 276). He has come not to scold or condemn us but rather to save us in his mercy. The Resurrection is not the triumph of one political force over another, nor is it the triumph of mind over matter, nor still less an idle display of divine power. The Resurrection is the triumph of mercy: grace over sin, hope over despair, life over death.
II. Those to Be Baptized
A. Grayson, Ewan, Aaron, Mark and Bill – now about to be baptized – and Delaney about to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church: I pray you have experienced already the gentle & merciful love of the Risen Savior. I hope you know that the Lord gently knocks at the door of our hearts (Rev. 3:20), and gradually opens the eyes of our soul to the beauty of his saving truth and love.
B. This night as you are baptized, in the power of the Holy Spirit the life of the Risen Lord will fill your soul and the Father of mercies will rejoice to acknowledge you as a son or daughter. Open the doors of your heart to him just as once the door of the tomb was opened. Rejoice that you have begun to share in the triumph of mercy not as an isolated individual but as a member of Christ’s Body, the Church, confirmed in the Spirit and nourished by the Lord’s own Body and Blood.
C. And Delaney, as you are received into the Church: rejoice that God’s mercy in its fullness has found you and led you here. May the Lord, crucified and risen, always be your Savior as this night you are received into the Catholic Church, confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and welcomed at the table of the Lord.
D. And as all of us, longstanding members of the Church, renew our baptismal promises, let us resolve not to overlook or take for granted the Lord’s gentle love but rather to allow it to continue transforming our hearts and our homes, so that we too might stand one day before the Throne of God purified of self-centeredness and replete with the glory of his self-giving love, recipients of mercy who have become agents of his mercy in our troubled world. Thus might we share forever a love and a joy that knows no bounds, in the Kingdom of Heaven, where Christ is seated the Father’s right hand.
Christ is risen! Indeed he is truly risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!