From the Bishops We are the Easter people of the Risen Jesus Christ

Scripture readings at the Easter Vigil tell the story of our relationship with God, from the first moment in time to this moment in time, and beyond. The first reading from Genesis is about creation, all of God’s love poured forth creatively in the heavens, the earth, life, and men and women in His image and likeness. The second from Genesis tells of the choosing of a people to be especially God’s own, in Abraham and Isaac, and their descendants in the people of Israel. The third reading from Exodus describes the first deliverance, the first Passover, from slavery to freedom, from death to life, from Egypt to the promised land under Moses, through the waters of the Red Sea, leading to covenant.

The fifth, sixth and seventh readings, from the Prophets Isaiah, Baruch, and Ezechiel, tell in different ways of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant and of God’s loving call to conversion of heart, reconciliation, forgiveness and renewal of life in him. The eighth reading from St. Paul, in Romans, startles us by saying that we have been buried with the crucified Christ, died to sin with him in the waters of baptism, in order to rise with him to new life now and forever: “dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus!” All possible because of what happened that first Easter, all possible because, as Luke tells us, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

In Luke’s gospel we are told that the women come to the tomb at dawn. “Dawn” is a good image for the resurrection of Jesus, because only slowly does it “dawn” on his followers the wondrous thing that has happened. Their lives are never to be the same again.

Now and then something happens which seems to freeze us in space and time, and everything that happens after that event is more or less colored by it. The first Easter Sunday was like that. All the family, friends and followers of Jesus were never to forget where they were when they first heard the news that Jesus had been raised from the dead, when it first dawned on them that their lives were never to be the same. Jesus, their teacher and healer, was indeed the Son of the Living God. Jesus became the Way they chose what to say and do, the Truth they used to test all other truths and meanings, and the Life they shared with each other and hoped to share forever with him. The risen Jesus Christ was, as he claimed, the Light of the World, the light of their world, and they learned to see everything and everyone in their lives “in the light that is Christ.”

And that’s the difference Jesus wants to make in each of our lives, through our faith and through Baptism and the other sacraments. This is especially meaningful for the elect, the catechumens and candidates who will become members of the Church at Easter Vigils around the archdiocese and around the world. Baptism is a radical break with the past: St. Paul is very clear about that. Our brothers and sisters among the catechumens and candidates can tell us about Christ changing their lives, about changes in relationships, in priorities, in values.

Jesus wants to make it true for all of us, over and over again. He wants to do this all our lives. We express our faith and love for God today in our renewal of Baptismal promises. Think of parents and children, husbands and wives who love each other all their lives long: they need to keep on telling each other of their love, and showing that love in action, over and over again, not taking each other for granted, not taking their love for granted. That is true for Jesus Christ and each one of us – all of us together as Church. In these Sacraments, these signs of our salvation, the Father and the Son and the Spirit tell us of their love for us and show it in action: in Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist most of all; Penance as well.

Christ calls us to let him be our life. At the Easter Vigil, our new brothers and sisters in Christ will promise to make Christ their life. Moments after that, all of the rest of us will renew our baptismal promise as well.

And none of us is supposed to keep this good news and life in the risen Christ to ourselves, bottled up inside us. From the beginning, the good news of the risen Jesus has made missionaries out of all of us, witnesses to the world around us. The first were the women at the tomb in Luke’s gospel: they heard the good news from the angels and immediately told it to Eleven apostles. Jesus Christ’s resurrection thrusts all of us into mission, into being sent: go, proclaim the good news, don’t keep it to yourselves, let this news be good and saving for others, by what you say and by the way you live. What began with Genesis and reached its fulfillment on Calvary and on Easter Sunday, must now achieve its full effect daily in the lives of all of us, the Easter people of the Risen Jesus Christ.

Reprinted with permission from the  Catholic San Francisco.

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