Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Easter Vigil: Catechumens, Candidates, and Everyone!

Dear Erin, Gina, Jen, Michael, Paolo, and Samantha,

It's going to be a long night! Yet the Missal says that the homily—even if brief—is not to be omitted tonight. I'm sure that rule was made mainly for your sake. You, who are about to be baptized, deserve some words of encouragement as you take the final step into a new life.

For my birthday, my mother took me to see the Wizard of Oz, with live music provided by the Vancouver Symphony. It might seem an unusual present for a man my age, but Mom knew that the annual appearance of the Wizard of Oz on TV was one of the central events of my childhood.

If you've seen this classic film, you know it begins in black and white. Only when Dorothy opens the door to Oz does it change into rich and vibrant colour.

However, we were the last kids on the block to have a colour TV, so we didn't get the benefit of Technicolor for some years. But it was a great movie even in black and white.

The liturgy tonight makes much of the passage from darkness to light. This may leave some of you wondering whether the Church thinks your life was black without baptism. I don't think that's the best way to look at it. Better we should see baptism as opening a door to beauties you have not seen, joys you have not imagined, and peace you have not felt.

The Resurrection of Jesus was almost too much for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They were alarmed. They were seized by terror and amazement. They were afraid. Not at all what you'd expect—but there was a reason. On that first Easter morning, there was no Church to help them take it in; there was yet no community of believers to help them sort out what had happened; since they were the first to hear the news, they had to figure out its meaning on their own.

Erin, Gina, Jen, Michael, Paolo, and Samantha, you will never need to be alarmed, or terrified, or afraid at the mighty works of God. We are here to help you take it in, to join you in faith, and to encourage you at every step of your walk as Christians. Amazed you may certainly be, but we are amazed along with you—amazed by God's goodness to you, and amazed by your generous response.

Carolyn, Matthew, Miranda and Suzanne, tonight three of you will enter into full communion with the Catholic Church; all four of you will then complete the sacraments of Christian initiation. Together with our six newly baptized, you will be confirmed and will receive Holy Communion for the first time. But before you celebrate these sacraments, you will recall and renew your own baptism and its central importance in your lives. In our second reading, St. Paul tells us that we are baptized precisely so we can share in His resurrection from the dead. And he spells out what this means: United to the death of Jesus by our baptism, we walk in newness of life.

You began a journey at baptism, and it's far from over. But a new and wonderful part of the journey begins tonight with these sacraments. They will help you to walk in newness of life every day from now until you inherit the life that never ends. And the Church will offer you roadmaps that not only help you to stay on the right path but also to avoid the potholes and pitfalls that may appear along the way.

And what about the rest of the congregation? Haven't I something to say to you?

No! Our brothers and sisters Erin, Gina, Jen, Michael, Paolo, Samantha, Carolyn, Matthew, Miranda and Suzanne are your homily. They are living and breathing reminders that Christ has risen and that He has risen in power. The resurrection is not just history—it is victory, victory that these men and women are claiming as their own.

When married couples go to a wedding, they often think about the day of their own marriage; when I attend an ordination to the priesthood, I recall mine.

Most of us were baptized as infants and so can't remember it; but all of us can see in the faces of our new Christians and Catholics the devotion of our First Communion and the zeal we felt at Confirmation. Their public commitment as adult converts should encourage us to renew our baptismal vows as if for the first time.

Tonight, become part of the action. Let what you see and hear during this solemn liturgy move you to a deep and personal response. With all your heart, "give thanks to the Lord for He is good;" celebrate His triumph and renew your own confidence, for we shall not die, but live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.


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