Theme: IN BAPTISM WE DIE AND RISE WITH JESUS CHRIST TO A NEW LIFE, NEVER TO SIN ANYMORE
- Genesis 1:26-31;
- Exodus 14:15-15:1;
- Romans 6:3-11
- Matthew 28:1-10
A happy Easter to all of you! Tonight we celebrate Easter Vigil! The most important celebration of the liturgical year! The night of all nights! We began this celebration with the service of light. Light in the New Testament symbolizes mainly three things: (1) Faith as opposed to unbelief which is darkness. (2) Life and happiness as opposed to death and misery which is darkness. (3) Good as opposed to evil which is darkness. (NJB; Jn 8:12) More importantly, the three themes are related, that is, when we have faith in God, we receive new life from God, and the new life from God is good! Most importantly, in the end, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life and happiness will overcome death and misery, and good will overcome evil, because Christ our light has overcome Satan our darkness! After baptism tonight our brothers and sisters will be given the light of Christ, so that like Jesus Christ, they will also be the light of the world, giving faith, life, happiness and good to the whole world!
After the service of light we had the Easter Proclamation. The Easter proclamation proclaims mainly three things, that is, the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the salvation of the Christian from the slavery of sin, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Fuller) Let us look at the verse: “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” Paul tells us that the grace of Jesus Christ more than compensated for the sin of Adam. Where sin increased, grace increased all the more! So much so that the life after baptism is not only better than the life before baptism, but it is even better than the life before sin! O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam!
The second part of tonight’s celebration is the liturgy of the word. The readings tonight tell us what God has done for us in the past, what God continues to do for us in the present, and what God will continue to do for us in the future for our salvation!
The first reading tells us that God created the whole universe, especially man and woman, and God saw that it was very good. The whole universe was created from chaos to cosmos, that is, from disorder to order. The universe has an order, a plan, a direction, a meaning and a purpose. The universe came from God and goes back to God. God is the Alpha and Omega, that is, the beginning and the end.
God created man and woman in his image and likeness to be the stewards of his creation. Human beings are to love as God loves, humans are to create life as God creates life, especially human life, and humans are to be happy as God is happy in heaven! But humans sinned! Humans committed the original sin of pride! Consequently, humans committed actual sins, mortal sins and venial sins. Consequently, there is no more love, no more life, and no more happiness, but there is hatred, death and misery.
But God loved us even more! The second reading tells us that God began a history of salvation with Abraham, the father of faith. Without faith we cannot be saved. God tested Abraham, not only in the sense of trying his faith, but also in the sense of strengthening his faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. (CCB) But before Abraham could sacrifice Isaac, an angel intervened and Abraham sacrificed a ram instead. Abraham called the place/mountain “God provides”, providence! Indeed, God provides. God provides us with his Son Jesus Christ. He sacrificed his Son Jesus Christ for us! Isaac is a symbol of Jesus Christ. (NJB; CCB; Fuller) The promise made to Abraham that his descendants will be as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the grains of sand on the seashore are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Today all of us who are baptized in Jesus Christ are the descendants of Abraham and tonight in the sacrament of baptism more descendants will be born to Abraham our father in faith!
The third reading tells us of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It is about the crossing of the Red Sea. God opened the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass on dry ground, but when the Egyptians pursued them, God closed the sea on them and destroyed them! The crossing of the Red Sea is a symbol of our baptism. The waters of baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit, will destroy our sins and save us from death!
The gospel tonight tells us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel tells us two important things. First, the gospel tells us about the empty tomb. The angel told Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, that the Lord is risen and showed them the empty tomb, and told them to tell the disciples that the Lord has risen from the dead and will meet them in Galilee. Second, and more importantly, the gospel tells us that Jesus appeared to the two Marys and they fell down before him and clasped his feet. He then told them to tell the disciples that he has risen and will meet them in Galilee. In Galilee the Lord commissioned the disciples to baptize all the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! It is through Christ’s death and resurrection that the Holy Spirit is given to us! And we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism!
Thus Paul tells us in the first New Testament reading tonight that in baptism we die and rise with Jesus Christ to a new life, never to sin anymore. In baptism, not only are our sins forgiven, but we also receive the grace to help us not to sin anymore!
We now come to the third part of our celebration, that is, the liturgy of baptism. We will now bless the waters of baptism. We will ask the Father with his Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of baptism. After that we will answer the six questions on faith: Three rejecting Satan who tempts us not to believe in God, and three professing our faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; and when those to be baptized answer “I do” to all the six questions, the priest will baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And they will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! And the whole congregation will sing the acclamation: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, that is, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, because it is all God’s doing! Each and every individual baptism is important, because even if you are the only individual in the world, the Lord will still die for you! That is why for every individual baptism we sing the acclamation: Alleluia, alleluia, Alleluia! After that we will move to the fourth part of our celebration, that is, the liturgy of the Eucharist! Again, a happy Easter to all of you! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.