Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
Apr. 20, 2019
Most of us know something about keeping vigil. At time or another many of us have worked through the night, studying for a difficult exam or preparing for a major presentation at work. If the cause is important enough, we will stay up all night . . . we will keep vigil.
We also keep vigil for more profound reasons. Parents will take turns staying up all night to be at the bedside of a child who is sick. When I can’t sleep because of some worry or concern, I sometimes walk down the hall to the chapel in my residence to pray. There, in the quiet of a darkened chapel, I ask for guidance and peace. Maybe you have risen during the night to pray a Rosary or to pour out your heart in prayer to the God who never sleeps.
Those kinds of vigils get us closer to the vigil we are keeping tonight. We assembled as darkness fell upon the earth. The darkness of this night symbolized the long night of sin and death, our sinful estrangement from God and from one another. Isaiah’s words came to mind as we reflected on the darkness of the night of sin: “…darkness covers the earth; and thick clouds, the peoples” (Is. 60:2). And never was the darkness denser than the night when Jesus lay in the tomb. His death and burial epitomize the long night of sin and death.
We’ve all shared in this night of sin and death, whether through our personal sins or through the effects of sin in our world. When we see the rising tide of violence and death at home and abroad; or when we see the poverty and addiction rampant in our communities; or the abuse crisis and the leadership failure that has engulfed our Church; or people whom we know who have lost their faith and their capacity to hope… …we know that the world is not yet fully free from the grip of sin and death.
Light in Darkness
For that reason, we came to this Cathedral Church to keep vigil. In the darkness, we lit the new fire… As the fire pierced the darkness, the flame of hope was rekindled in our hearts. Next we were led into the darkened Cathedral by the light of a flickering candle, and the light was Christ, Christ who is the light of the world. B. As we walked up the aisle, the light began to spread throughout a darkened church, just as the light, the light of Christ, scatters the darkness of our hearts. The silence of the church was broken by the three-fold cry, “Light of Christ!” and by the Easter Proclamation, the Church’s song of praise to her Risen Lord. Then we listened to a series of Scripture readings that tell the story of our salvation. The light grew brighter as we heard how God delivered his people from slavery and accompanied his chosen people on the journey through history… a journey that included wandering in the desert and being sent into exile. In the midst of all of this and more, God drew ever closer to his people until that moment in history when he would send his Son into the world to share our life, to preach the Good News, and to suffer, die and rise so as to save us from our sins. When the holy women arrived at the tomb of Jesus and encountered the angel, they were among the first to hear that sin, despair, and death are not the last word. Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, has risen from the dead! The light has shone and the darkness will not overcome it.
This night we see the light of Christ reflected in the joy of those who are to be baptized, received into the Church, and confirmed; we see it as they join us at the Eucharistic Table for the first time, to receive with us the Body and Blood of Jesus, Crucified and Risen. In solidarity with them, all of us will renew our baptismal promises, pledging anew to reject the advances of Satan and the glamour of evil, pledging anew to believe in the Gospel and to live the Gospel so fully that we ourselves become luminous persons, those who keep, safeguard, and spread the light we have received from Jesus, those who are, in a word, “missionary disciples” in an increasingly secular world.
So on this night of nights, when the darkness is forever pierced by light, let joy overwhelm our hearts coupled with a newfound desire to embrace our faith, to live without sin, to grow in holiness, to participate in Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation with fervor, and to love the poor and vulnerable as Christ Himself, such that the light of Christ may shine through us onto a darkened world. Christ is Risen! Indeed he is truly Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!