Live-Streamed (Coronavirus Crisis)
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
April 11, 2020
The Right Side of History
As we live out our lives from day to day, we hope that, when we’re gone, we will be remembered fondly by family members, friends, and colleagues. We hope they’ll remember us as good-natured, virtuous, and accomplished. Some people hope to be remembered, not just by family and friends, but by history. They hope that history will recount how they changed the world. Such people may also fear that they will end up “on the wrong side of history” – that history will focus on their blind spots and not on their greatness.
Most of us don’t entertain those kinds of aspirations, but my friends, we should all want to be “on the right side of history.” By that I don’t mean to say that we need to be unblinkingly in step with the times. What I do mean to say is that you and I must strive, with the help of God’s grace, to be on the right side of that history which God has written and continues to write. Our hearts must be attuned to God’s ‘plan and set purpose’ in human history, that is to say, we must become attuned to “salvation history”.
In this great Easter Vigil, a fair amount of what we call salvation history is on display. It is presented not just to inform us about the past but to give us hope and trust – hope and trust in the Lord who created the world in love; hope and trust in the Lord who redeemed the world with still greater love. How important for you and me to cling to this hope at a time when it is easy to lose hope, to sink into depression, to see life itself as absurd. Our Vigil traces for us how God has accompanied his people throughout history, and, in the process, revealed his plan for the salvation of the world. Our Vigil traces how, even now, the Lord is guiding us through the storms of history, including and especially the destructiveness of COVID-19, and how does it do so? I. The Lucernarium: Light of Christ In the darkness of this Cathedral, I blessed and lighted the Paschal Candle, the great candle which recalls how God led the Israelites by a pillar of fire that shone in the darkness of the desert night. Christ is the true light of the world! Christ illumines the whole of human history; Christ speaks on every page of Scripture; his light flashes in the hearts of unbelievers and enlightens those to be baptized; As the Psalmist says, ‘In his light we see light’ [Ps. 36.9], for it is by the light of Christ that we discern the hand of God in history: in the history of the world, in the history of the Church, and in our personal histories. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Christ, “as to a lamp shining in a dark place” [2 Pet. 1:19], on Jesus who will unerringly keep us on the right side of salvation history!
The Easter Proclamation and the Liturgy of the Word
With the Easter candle blessed, the Church sang her Easter praises, the Exsultet, a hymn of praise to God, the almighty Father and his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, a hymn of praise to God for coming to the rescue of a sinful humanity, for caring for us and for loving us so much as to give us so great a Redeemer. “O love, O charity beyond all telling,” we sang, “to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!”
What followed, were readings from Holy Scripture, the Old Testament and the New, readings that unfolded the story of how our loving God did indeed rescue a humanity gone astray. We read how God created the world to be a place of goodness and beauty, a place resplendent with his glory, a fitting home for the human family made in his image. We know the sequel, you and I, for at the dawn of history sin entered the world, marring the image of God within the human heart and changing the course of history. To sin against God and against one’s neighbor is always to be on the wrong side of history! Subsequent readings told us of God’s determination to turn the tide of history, by choosing a people of his own, by making them a light to the nations, by rescuing them from the slavery of Egypt, bringing them dry-shod through the Sea, and delivering them, after their desert sojourn, into the Promised Land. …And more than that, by promising to implant in a wounded humanity a new heart and a new spirit, capable of rejecting the idols of greed and sensuality, a heart and a spirit able to embrace the truth and love contained in his commands.
Yes, the light of Christ shines on every page of Scripture as the events of Israel’s history and the words of her prophets look toward that day when the Savior of the world would enter human history in person, take on our flesh, and for the sake of our salvation, suffer, die, and rise from the dead. Here is the pivotal moment of history when we are liberated from our slavery to sin, that unique moment which set the stage for the ultimate victory of God over Satan. This, my friends, this is the side of history we want to be on! For this reason, we renew tonight our Baptismal Promises, our solemn pledge, to reject the glamor of sin and the promptings of Satan and indeed to follow Christ unreservedly.
United in Praise of the Risen Lord
Many people were to have been baptized and received into the Church this evening. They have been drawn toward the fullness of faith by the Holy Spirit and seek to share in the victory of Christ through the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism by which we are given a heart to share in Christ’s death and resurrection; Confirmation by which the Spirit deepens our attachment to the Risen Christ by incorporating us fully into the life of the Church; and the Holy Eucharist by which we share in Christ’s sacrifice of love and receive his most holy Body and Blood.
How my heart aches that I cannot share these Easter Sacraments with you in person, and how ardently I look forward to the day when we can celebrate them together. For now, may all of us – those already baptized and those soon to be baptized – may all of us join together in prayer, in Christian hope, and in spiritual communion, uniting our hearts in praise of the Risen Lord, he, the Lord of History, in whose love we can overcome every weakness and adversity, in whose love we too can help change the tide of history, in whose love we too can be a light brightly shining!
May the Risen Lord bless us and keep us always in his love!