Easter Vigil Homily 2015
Haven’t you asked why we always start the Easter Vigil Mass at sunset? For the Jews, the setting of the sun signals the end of the day and the start of a new day. For the Jews, the evening of Black Saturday, the Easter Vigil, is already Sunday. “On the third day He rose again”. Exactly, as the “third day” begins after Jesus’ crucifixion, we celebrate His resurrection.
Does the Resurrection of our Lord still have an impact in our lives? What does it mean concretely for me and for you? So that we can answer these questions, let us reflect on two very powerful symbols in our liturgical celebration which is very rich in meaning: the New Fire and the Paschal Candle.
The New Fire. In the first part of our celebration, we have witnessed the Blessing of the New Fire. Fire gives warmth. Sometimes, our Christian life, our life of discipleship, lacks warmth and becomes cold and dry because of our sins and because we are negligent in our relationship with God: we often forget to pray every day because we are so busy, or to go to Mass every Sunday perhaps because of our job or business. Our love for God ceases to burn. Christ’s Resurrection is like fire that gives warmth to our spiritual life. We hope that we shall always feel the warmth of His presence especially in the Holy Eucharist.
Fire also brings renewal and transformation. According to Pope Benedict XVI:“Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. Like fire that burns everything it touches, the Spirit of God also transforms every heart that He touches. Christ has already burned your sins on the cross. Now, in His Resurrection, He has purified our hearts with His burning love. This is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezequiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36: 26).
Do you still believe in this? Do you still believe that Christ can transform you and that He can still change your vices if you just allow Him to do so? Have your sins been burned in the fire of Christ’s love in the Sacrament of Confession? Do you still feel the warmth of Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist?
The Paschal Candle. After the Blessing of the New Fire, we lighted the Paschal Candle, the sign of Christ’s Presence. Then, we carry it in procession towards the altar, in the midst of darkness inside the church. The Paschal Candle gives light. We recall the words of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (1: 1-3).
This evening, we witness again the same scene as described in the Book of Genesis. In the midst of darkness inside this temple, light appears – the Light of the Paschal Candle, Jesus Christ, who has risen! Christ has entered into our individual life, our individual world – a world that is also “formless and empty, (and) darkness was over the surface of the deep”: formless because of our sins; empty and full of darkness because of the absence of God in our world. And Jesus now said: “Let there be light!”
The lighted candle that we are holding while the Paschal Candle is being carried in procession signifies that we have already shared in Christ’s light: that Jesus has illumined us with His light! In the light of Christ, we see our sinfulness. But Jesus has already died for our sins! Resurrection is a new creation! In Christ’s Resurrection, He has renewed the world; He has renewed our lives. In what way do you wish to change your life? What are your resolutions today towards the renewal of your behavior, after God has enlightened you?
The Paschal Candle is burnt up as much as it gives light. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself.” After we have been illumined and transformed by the light of Christ, we are also called to give light to others. May we become like Paschal candles to our family, our neighbors and friends.
However, like any lighted candle, let us not be surprised if we burn up in as much as we give light, the light of our sacrifices. May we shine in as much as we burn up! May our self-righteousness and our pride melt as we give light. But may our patience towards others never melt, for God’s patience for us is never burnt up!
Brothers and sisters, if you still believe that your sins are already burned in the fire of Christ’s love; that it is still possible for you to change your life for the better by avoiding your vices; that you still feel the warmth of Christ’s presence especially in the Holy Eucharist; and that your life has been illumined by Christ and you are also ready to give light to others despite the fact that you burn up in the process, then, indeed, in your life, Christ is risen!