We began the liturgy tonight with the blessing of the Easter fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle. Our procession into this darkened cathedral behind the Paschal candle symbolized our journey of faith through darkness into light, the light of Christ. Indeed all of human history, like the Israelites’ journey through the desert to the Promised Land, is a journey seeking light, seeking paradise, seeking true happiness and peace. Where do we find it? The answer is a Person: the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. Recall the words I spoke at the beginning of this liturgy in preparing the Paschal candle: “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to Him and all the ages, to Him be glory and power through every age forever.”
Our catechumens and candidates here with us have been on a journey as well, seeking light, happiness, and peace. And, yes, they have found the One for whom their hearts longed: Christ the Lord. Tonight they will receive from Him the wondrous gifts of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist, the sacraments of Christian initiation. They and all of us here present have gathered for this Easter Vigil because we have chosen to follow Christ through our journey of life. We believe that He is indeed the resurrection and the life!
At his holy vigil which Saint Augustine called the “mother of all vigils, we commemorate that holy night when our Lord rose from the dead. I invite you tonight to reflect on what it means to follow the Risen Christ. There are three things I wish to highlight about our vocation as disciples of the Risen Lord.
Number one: following Christ means being attentive to His words. We cannot live by bread alone, Jesus says, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. We cannot live on money or career or power or success. We live on the Word of God, the Word that illumines our journey through life. God’s Word at times corrects us. It always renews us. It shows us how to live. As followers of Jesus, we need to listen to Him in His Word, contained in Sacred Scripture, to listen to Him in the events of our lives, to listen to Him in His Church, to listen to Him in the liturgy and in our personal prayers. Only in Him do we find the words of eternal life!
Number two: following Christ means obeying His commandments. Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” His commandments are summed up in the twofold commandment to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Following Christ means having compassion for the suffering and having a heart for the poor. It means living a life of charity towards all. It is not enough to listen to Christ’s word: we must act upon it. Obeying his voice is the way that leads to the fullness of joy and love. The Holy Spirit received in Confirmation strengthens us to live our faith, to defend our faith, and to share our faith. The Holy Eucharist nourishes us so that we can love one another as Christ has loved us.
Number 3: following Christ means loving His Mystical Body, the Church. Tonight, here and throughout the world, tens of thousands of people will be incorporated into Christ’s Church. They will become part of the Body of Christ. Though many, we are one Body in Christ. Our unity as Catholics is a result of our union with Christ which happens through the sacraments, especially Baptism, which unites us to Christ’s death and resurrection. The Holy Eucharist deepens our union with Christ and His Church, indeed, it takes us up into communion with Him and with one another. In His Body, the Church, we receive the gifts and assistance by which we help one another along the way of salvation. May we always love the Church, the Body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit!
On this holy night, our catechumens will pass from death to life through the waters of Baptism. All of us who already received Baptism will renew our baptismal promises. Our candidates and catechumens will be strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation and nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. These wonderful Easter sacraments help us to follow Christ more closely. We rejoice that the Lord Jesus has risen from the dead and that He shares with us the gift of eternal life. I repeat again the words from the beginning of this liturgy at the preparation of the Paschal candle: “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to Him and all the ages, to Him be glory and power through every age forever. Amen.”
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