This is a sacramental night – a sacrament is a sign that speaks of something beyond itself. We live our lives in sacraments. A smile, a hug, a kiss, a wave, a scowl, these are parts of our body language that send a message.
This is a sacramental night; we begin this evening in darkness, the sacrament, the sign of quiet, of the unknown, of sin and death. Then we have the sacrament of light, a light that shatters the darkness and brings us into the known, now we can see – we have the sacrament of the Easter Candle, the Risen Christ the conqueror of sin and death. We had the sacramental action of spreading the light of the Risen Christ to every person here so that the whole church is in light. We’ve listened to ancient scriptures reading them in the light of the Risen Christ, seeing a deeper meaning in these ancient texts.
Soon we will be celebrating the sacraments of initiation into the church, baptism, confirmation and holy communion. In a way this is the most important night in the life of our parish for tonight in this church and in churches around the world our church is enriched by new life as these good people join our faith community. In the early church baptisms were done by immersion. The person was buried in water, a symbol of the tomb that, for a time held the body of Christ. Coming out of the life giving waters the baptized person symbolizies the Risen Christ and shares in the life He purchased through His Death and Resurrection.
In his letter to the Romans Paul writes –‘you have been taught that when we were baptized in Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death – in other words when we were baptized we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory we too might live a new life. – If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection – we believe that having died with Christ – in these waters of baptism – we shall return to life with him.
Next, these good people will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Baptism makes us the receiver of gifts. Baptism enables us to receive all the other sacraments. Confirmation makes us the does or deeds. This sacrament is meant to strengthen us in the life we received at Baptism. In Confirmation the Holy Spirit enriches us with the gifts we need to live more fully the Good life into which we are born at Baptism. Finally during the Mass these good people will be nourished by the greatest of the Sacraments, the Body and Blood of the Lord. They will accept the gracious invitation of Jesus; take and eat, take and drink.
I want to tell you good people I admire your decision to become a Catholic. This is not the easiest time to join our Catholic community as we are confronted and embarrassed by the crimes of some priests and the lack of leadership of some of our bishops. As I said last Sunday now is not as easy time to be a Catholic, now is not the best of times to be a priest. But I admire your decision and welcome into this community of sinners and saints.
But on this holy of all holy nights we are all invited to renew our baptismal commitment to the Risen Lord, our sacramental gesture shows our desire to live life as St. Paul lived his: ‘I live now, not I but Christ lives in me and the life I live I live trusting in the Son of God Who loved me and gave his life for me.’
On this feast of Easter we celebrate the sacrament of Christ’s Resurrection, the immortal sign of the victory of life over death, love over hatred, joy over sorrow, freedom over oppression. Christ’s resurrection is foundational to our lives as Christian people. ‘If Christ be not raised then we are still in our sins – in other words Good Friday was a waste – and we of all people are the most to be pitied. But Christ is raised and we too have been raised with Him to live a new life for God. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge and promise of our own resurrection.’
As we continue this evening’s celebration we pray for these good people and for each other that our lives be lived giving witness to the truth – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
In the celebration of a Passover Meal the youngest member of the family asks the question, ‘why is this night different from all other nights?” And then they hear the story of the deliverance of the Jewish people from the slavery of Egypt.
Through out the world the Church celebrates this night that is different from all other nights, our Passover from sin and death to life and love, all of this is accomplish through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
Our night begins with the lighting of a new and the lighting of our Easter Candle, the symbol of the Risen Christ. This light as it is spread throughout the church shatters the darkness of night. We’ve just listened to 10 readings from the Jewish Scripture – in the light of the Risen Christ – seeing in this ancient reading a foreboding of the Jesus as Savior of the world.