First of all, for those of you who are not regular attendees at our Masses, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to you. Maybe you’ve been away from the church due to bad experiences in the past, or maybe you come because your family drags you with them. Whatever the reason is, welcome! I hope you find hospitality and acceptance in this community, and that you would consider coming back for more!
I remember the first time I came to an Easter Vigil Mass. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I thought to myself, “This Mass is too long. Why do we have so many readings? And why do I have to watch the baptisms of strangers?” In fact, I remember walking outside the church to “chill” during the baptism and only went back in after the regular Mass parts resumed.
Only years later, I started to understand the significance of Easter Vigil liturgy. The readings are a retelling of salvation history, not only for the Israelites, but ours, the whole humanity. We hear how the earth was created, how a people was freed from slavery, how God satisfied their hunger and thirst and gave them a new heart.
And the newly baptized? They are not strangers. With baptism, they are now united to us in Christ. As St. Paul wrote: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). As they get baptized one by one, we rejoice with them by shouting, “Alleluia!”
The darkness at the start of the liturgy is replaced by the light from Paschal candle and hundreds of candles carried by the assembly. The Gloria is again sung after not hearing it for 40 days, accompanied by the sound of bells. The Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet is chanted, declaring that this is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld, wickedness is dispelled, sins are washed away, innocence is restored, mourning turns into joy, hatred is driven out, concord is fostered, and the mighty is brought down.
By his resurrection, Jesus shows us that death does not have the final say, that light can overcome darkness, and that good can defeat evil. After a long time struggling with the pandemic and political and social divisions, we are reminded that things can get better, that life can come from death, that we can work together to defeat the virus, take care of the vulnerable, create good policies and that good can defeat evil. After a long time struggling with the pandemic and political and social divisions, we are reminded that things can get better, that life can come from death, that we can work together to defeat the virus, take care of the vulnerable, create good policies and just laws, and truly be brothers and sisters to one another.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not keep his old body, but instead put on a glorified body. As we rise up from this pandemic, may we too put on the risen Christ, not by going back to our old ways, but by acting like a resurrected people. Yes, we can. Alleluia!
Peace, Fr. Sam Nasada, OFM
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