In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he writes, ‘I handed on to you as of first importance what I myself received, that Christ died for our sin in accordance with the scripture, that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scripture.’ These three realities – died, buried, raised – are at the core of our Christian faith. Without them we have no reason to be. As Paul teaches ‘if Christ be not raised we are still in our sins – Good Friday was for nothing – and we of all people are the most to be pitied – but this night we proclaim our faith that Christ has been raised – and his resurrection is the pledge and promise of our resurrection.’
At this Vigil service for Easter we celebrate new life coming into the family of the church with baptisms and the profession of faith of men and women baptised in other Christian communities but now joining us in our faith family.
This is a sacramental night. A night of signs that speak of something beyond themselves. We begin in darkness – a sign of our separation from God. Then we light new fire, a fire that shatters darkness. We light the paschal candle, the symbol of the risen Christ. We bring the candle into a dark church and Christ the light brings light to all as the flame is passed throughout the church.
We listen to readings from the Hebrew Scriptures beginning with the story of creation, we hear of ancient prophets foretelling of a transforming future. We look at salvation history in the light of the Risen Christ.
Tonight we welcome new members into the church. With them we renew of baptismal promise – we reject Satan and all his empty promises – we state again our belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With them we commit ourselves to seek the things that are above where Christ is seat at the right hand of the Father.
We listen to the teaching of Paul ; Do you not know that all who have been baptised have been baptised into his death- we have been buried with him by baptism- just as Christ was raised from the dead by the father’s glory so we too must walk in newness of life. This newness of life calls us to live with the conviction that life is more powerful than death, love is more powerful than hate, grace is more powerful than sin, justice is more powerful than oppression.
Good people we welcome you into the Catholic, a church wounded and shamed by scandals but a church of hope, especially with our new Holy Father Francis who has already set a tone of simplicity and welcome and respect for all peoples of faith and no faith. Hope is that aspect of faith that looks to the future.
As we celebrate this Easter season enriched by these new members who have joined us this Easter Vigil, we can pray for ourselves and for each other that are always aware of what is of first importance in our lives as Christian people – that Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised from the dead and that his resurrection is a pledge and promise of our resurrection. May we all be blessed with Easter joy.