The Easter Vigil (C) – 26th March 2016

Theme: IN BAPTISM WE DIE AND RISE WITH JESUS CHRIST TO THE NEW LIFE OF EASTER

  • Genesis 1:1. 26-31;
  • Genesis 22:1-2. 9-13. 15-18;
  • Exodus 14:15-15:1;
  • Ezekiel 36:16-28
  • Romans 6:3-11;
  • Luke 24:1-12

A happy and blessed Easter to all of you! We began this celebration of Easter with the service of light. Light in the New Testament symbolizes 3 things:

(i) Light symbolizes faith as opposed to unbelief which is darkness. (ii) Light symbolizes life, contentment and happiness as opposed to death, misery and unhappiness which is darkness. (iii) Light symbolizes good as opposed to evil which is darkness.

More importantly, the 3 themes are related, that is, with faith in God, we receive life, and the life from God is a life of goodness!

Most importantly, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life will overcome death, and good will overcome evil! This is because Jesus Christ the light of the world has overcome the devil the darkness of the world!

And Jesus Christ the light of the world will continue to overcome the devil the darkness of the world through the power of the Holy Spirit until the end of time when light will overcome all darkness totally, completely and fully! That would be the end of the world, that is, the end of the evil world, the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Parousia!

The service of light concluded with the Easter Proclamation! The most touching verse of the Easter Proclamation is:

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

How can Adam’s fault be happy? How can Adam’s sin be necessary? How can Adam’s sin merit for us so great a Redeemer? The verse is not telling us about Adam’s fault and sin, but it is telling us about the love of God!

God created the world out of love, but when we sinned God loved us even more. He became man to save us from sin, but when we crucified him on the cross he loved us even more. He died, rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit dwells not in heaven or on earth, but the Holy Spirit dwells among us and within us, nearer to us than we are to ourselves, and loving us more than we love ourselves! (St. Augustine) The Holy Spirit will continue to love us until we love God, love our neighbor and love ourselves! That would be the end of the world, that is, the end of the evil world, the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Parousia!

After the service of light we listened to 6 readings, 4 from the Old Testament and 2 from the New Testament. The first 3 readings from the Old Testament have been used in the Easter Liturgy since the fifth century! (Raas, p. 186) The first 3 readings are from the Law, the fourth reading is from the Prophets. We should read from both the Law and the Prophets. (Sunday Missal, 2011)

The readings tell us about the history of salvation! They tell us what God has done for us in the past and what God continues to do for us in the present in baptism!

The first reading tells us that God created the universe, but more importantly, it tells us that God created man and woman according to his image and likeness to be the co-creators of God to create life! But man and woman committed the Original Sin of Pride and brought death into the world! Consequently, instead of creating life, man and woman destroy life, destroy the environment, destroy one another and destroy oneself!

The second reading tells us that God began the history of salvation with Abraham the father of faith. Abraham’s faith was such that he was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac to God! As result, God blessed him with many descendents as many as the stars in heaven and as many as the grains of sand on the seashore! We are the descendents of Abraham the father of faith! We are the children of faith! Without faith we cannot be baptized! Only with faith can we be baptized! 

The third reading tells us about the Exodus, that is, the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt! The third reading tells us that God destroyed the Egyptians in the waters of the Red sea and saved the people of Israel! More importantly, the third reading tells us that God will destroy our sins in the waters of baptism and save us from death!  

The fourth reading tells us about the New Exodus, the Second Exodus, even more important than the First Exodus! The second reading tells us that the people of Israel sinned against God and were exiled to Babylon, but more importantly, the fourth reading tell us that God will bring them back to their homeland in the New Exodus! God will cleanse them with water. God will give them a new heart. God will put his spirit in them and they will live! But most importantly, the fourth reading tells us that in baptism God will cleanse us with the waters of baptism. God will give us a new heart. God will give us the Holy Spirit and we will live! 

The gospel tells us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ! In the gospel the two angels told the women that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

Finally, the fifth reading from the letter to the Romans tells us that it is in baptism that we die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter, never to die anymore and never to sin anymore!

After this homily we will bless the water. We will ask God the Father with his Son Jesus Christ to send the Holy Spirit upon the water:

“We ask you, Father, with your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font.”!

After that we will profess our faith by answering 6 questions, 3 rejecting Satan who tempts us not to have faith in God and more importantly, 3 professing our faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! After that we will be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! And we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

After baptism, the adults will also receive the sacrament of confirmation. They will be made strong in the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for witness is “martyr”, that is, one who suffers or dies for his beliefs! The adults will also receive the sacrament of the Eucharist so that they will continue to grow stronger and stronger in the Holy Spirit! That is why it is important that after baptism and confirmation we continue to come to Mass every Sunday! Again, a happy and blessed Easter to all of you! We will now proceed with the baptism, confirmation and Eucharist!

15th March 2015 – 4th Sunday of Lent

Theme:  JESUS CHRIST IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: THE LIGHT OF FAITH, LIFE AND GOOD

  • 1 Samuel 16:1. 6-7. 10-13;
  • Psalm 22 (23): R/ v. 1;
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • Jn 9:1-41 (Shorter Form, verses 1. 6-9. 13-17. 34-38)

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent, Liturgical Year B, but we use the readings from Year A, because there will be Baptisms on Easter Vigil Night! Last Sunday the readings told us about the “water” of Baptism. This Sunday the readings tell us about the “light” of Baptism. The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ is “the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

Light in the New Testament basically symbolizes three things: (1) Light symbolizes faith as opposed to unbelief which is darkness. (2) Light symbolizes life and happiness as opposed to death and misery which is darkness. (3) Light symbolizes good as opposed to evil which is darkness.

More importantly, the three themes are related, that is, when we have faith in God, we receive life from God, and we do good works! But when we do not believe in God, we experience death and we do evil!

Most importantly, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life will overcome death, and good will overcome evil! God will overcome the Devil!   

In the gospel today, light symbolizes faith. The gospel today tells us that the cured blind man had faith and his faith grew! At first he saw Jesus as a man, then as a prophet and finally he worshipped Jesus as Lord! The unbelief of the Pharisees on the other hand got from bad to worse! At first they did not believe that Jesus was from God, and then they did not even believe that the man was born blind, and finally they believed that Jesus was a sinner!

We have to renew our faith every year, so that our faith will increase like that of the cured blind man! If we do not renew our faith every year, our faith will decrease like that of the Pharisees! That is why every Easter Vigil Night we stand with candles lighted from the big Easter candle which symbolizes “Christ our Light”; and we renew our faith by answering “I do” to the six questions of faith, three rejecting Satan who tempts us against our faith, and three questions professing our faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! After that the priest will sprinkle us with the “water” of baptism! +

In the “Gospel Acclamation” light symbolizes life, contentment and happiness as opposed to darkness which symbolizes death, unhappiness and misery. (NJB) Thus we read in the “Gospel Acclamation”:

“I am the light of the world, says the Lord; anyone who follows me will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12; SM)

In the second reading, light symbolizes good as opposed to darkness which symbolizes evil. Thus we read in the second reading:

“You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” (Ep 5: 8-9; SM)

Again, good will overcome evil! So overcome evil with good! Do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good, says St Paul!

Besides the “light” of Baptism, the gospel also tells us about the anointing with oil and the washing with water in Baptism. Thus we read in the gospel today:

“Jesus spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man (anointing) and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself (baptism), and came away with his sight restored (light).” (Jn 9: 6-7; SM)

 

On Easter Vigil Night, our catechumens will receive the sacrament of Baptism, but some of our catechumens will receive all the three sacraments of initiation, that is, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist! And in that proper order!

For practical and pastoral reasons we have changed the order, that is, Baptism at birth, Eucharist at the age of about seven and Confirmation at the age of about fourteen.

Early this month a bishop from America told the Pope in Rome that he has reversed the order back to the original order and our Pope Benedict XVI praised him for doing so! (Internet, Catholic World News (CWN), March 09, 2012) Maybe one day we too will reverse the order back to the original order! We follow the original order of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist on Easter Vigil Night!

The first reading tells us about the sacrament of Confirmation. Thus we read in the first reading:

“Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.” (1 S 16:13; SM)

In Baptism we were born again in the Holy Spirit, but in Confirmation we are strengthened in the Holy Spirit! Confirmation completes the process begun at Baptism, and Eucharist completes the three “sacraments of initiation”!

 

The responsorial psalm tells us about the Eucharist! The responsorial psalm is on the “Good Shepherd”, but the second part of the psalm, that is, stanzas three and four, is on “the host of the messianic banquet”! (vv. 5-6; NJB) Thus stanza three of the psalm:

“You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.” (Ps 22 (23): 5; SM)

The “messianic banquet” of the Old Testament anticipates the Eucharist of the New Testament where we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood! And the Eucharist anticipates the “messianic banquet” in heaven!

 

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not to punish us for our sins; but to help us grow in faith, to prepare us to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! Today is also “Rejoice” Sunday or “Joyful” Sunday, because we are more than half way through Lent to Easter! A blessed Lent to all of you!