Homily delivered at the Easter VigilOur Lady of Mercy Church The Very Reverend Bernard A. Healey, Pastor March 26, 2016
I lived in Belgium for five years when I was a seminarian studying for the priesthood. I lived at the American College in Louvain, just outside the City of Brussels. I still have many friends and acquaintances there. They are safe as far as I know from those I have had contact with over these last days. The recent attacks in Brussels are the cause of great outrage and anger, profound grief and sorrow for the Belgian People and for the victims and their families, and all people of good will and peace. The senseless attack upon innocents is a great horror which has provoked great fear and it is the cause of great doubt for many. Darkness has overcome the Kingdom of Belgium and we live in its sinister shadow. There is, my friends, great need of light, the light we celebrate this night, the light of Christ that scatters all darkness and destroys death.
In 1993 when I was a student in Belgium. I saw the Funeral Mass of Baudouin, King of the Belgians. He was a reluctant monarch, becoming King only after his father King Leopold III abdicated. He was a man of deep faith, very devout and faithful Catholic. Once on a visit to our seminary Baudouin revealed that he had really wanted to spend his life in prayer and devotion as a Trappist Monk put God called him in another role as King.
During King Baudouin’s funeral something remarkable happened. His widow, Queen Fabiola, sat among the Belgian Royal Family, the Crown Heads of Europe, the Presidents and Prime Ministers from out the world. They were there to pay their respect and offer their prayers for the late King and were dressed in solemn black befitting the funeral of a King. The Queen of the Belgians, herself a devout Catholic, however, wore a dazzlingly bright white dress, so deeply did she believe in the hope of the Resurrection and so profoundly did she understand the power of Christ the light of the world.
My dear friends, you and I are believers too. And for those who believe in and trust God, life has meaning and purpose, found in the virtue of hope. Evil may have its moment and darkness may have its day but in the end nothing evil ever has a chance of being victorious for those who accept God’s light and love into their lives. Tonight we celebrate the great feast of Easter. This feast of faith is for us. For as believers we celebrate our victory through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. This is not nonsense, it is not superstition nor is it a fable.
Christ’s resurrection is a reality, the empty tomb a fact of our lives as believers! We have been buried with Christ in baptism, so that we may rise with him to a new life! That is our hope: eternal happiness and total union with the Sacred Godhead. This is what St. Paul tells us this Holy Night in his letter to the Romans: “We were indeed buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Romans 6: 4)
The resurrection of Christ gives us the power to be a people of love and hope, in a world that is in desperate need of both. The resurrection of Christ gives us faith and light, in the midst of doubt and in the heart of darkness that is the evil in our world. Basking in the light of the resurrection, we can begin to see this world we live in as a place where we make pilgrimage toward something higher, more permanent, and more splendid. Only the risen Christ can bring us to complete union with God, to the place where our own powers are unable to bring us. Truly Christ the Good Shepherd puts the lost sheep upon his shoulders and carries them home. Clinging to his body we have life, and in communion with his Body we reach the very heart of God.
This is exactly what happens in Baptism: he draws us towards himself; he draws us into true life. The Risen Christ leads us through the often murky sea of life, where we are frequently in danger of sinking amid all the confusion and perils. In Baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, the Lord leads us along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life. My friends especially you eight to be baptized, received and confirmed tonight into the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Grasp his hand firmly! Whatever may happen to us in life, whatever may befall us or our world, let us not ever lose our tight hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path holding tight to the hand of the Risen Christ, making our way to newness of life. Yes, we know that the Christian pilgrimage is at times up-hill, we know that sometimes we easily get sidetracked by selfishness and sin, or overcome with the burden of pain and suffering, and even at times we are lost amidst the darkness and fear. Yet we endure. We endure in hope. We endure in faith.
Yes we endure our pilgrimage my friends because what awaits us at that final destination is: Endless glory. Perfect peace. Everlasting joy. Jesus Christ risen!
A Blessed Easter! Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!