Easter is Just the Beginning

Easter is Just the Beginning

Paschal Vigil

On this holy night, the most ancient and the mother of all the Church’s vigils we have been given an abundance of sacred texts to ponder and contemplate. We have also been provided with numerous symbols, in particular light, water and oil, all speaking to us of God’s immense love, pouring out innumerable blessings upon His bride the holy Church. We have been reminded of the debt of gratitude we owe to our God for having created us, having redeemed us, and having promised us eternal life thanks to the saving death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Over the past few days we have been turning our thoughts especially towards how much Our Saviour suffered to redeem us from our sins. The ancient Roman liturgy, by its lengthy ceremonies, gives us to take part in that redemption by inciting us to make the effort to pray at greater length in union with Him. There is, however, a certain danger that when we arrive at Easter, we feel like we have achieved the goal. We have arrived! We are here, and we can now revel in the beauty, in the certitude that now the victory is ours.

There is a sense in which that is true. We know that for those who are with Christ the victory is certain and it approaches with every passing hour. However, you should know by now that one of my most frequent concerns is to challenge you. That is my role as father. A father is not content to have begotten. He must educate. He must forge strong minds and wills to face the great challenges ahead.

If there is one point I really want to get across on this feast, it is this: Our Lord has won the victory for us, so that we in turn could be victorious over ourselves, over sin, over the world, over the devil. That is the whole point behind Easter. We have been made partakers of an eternal treasure, not so that we would sit back and rest on our laurels, but so that we would roll up our sleeves and get to work. Get to work doing what? Get to work becoming true Christians, becoming true Catholics. Easter is not the end; it is the beginning.

During Eastertide, the Church has us read abundantly from the Acts of the Apostles, the book which conveys to us the beginnings after Pentecost. And what do we see there? We see a small group challenge the world, first of all the little world of their immediate surroundings, and then the entire known world of the Roman Empire. They do not appear on the scene in such a way as to go unnoticed. They do not seek to hide. They make irruption in world history with the force of a hurricane. They mean business.

It is not that they were exceptional people. The Gospels make that clear. They were just as weak and cowardly and scaredy cat as any of us. They had the same weaknesses and the same sins. And yet, they are the ones who changed the world. The world did not change them. They converted the world.

How did they do it? Very simple. They proclaimed the truth of the Gospel, exactly as Jesus had given it to them. They celebrated the mysteries of faith in the sacraments that He Himself had instituted. They lived lives of virtue and holiness, fleeing all forms of sin, and challenging others to believe in the one true God. They did not fear to tell souls: Believe and repent, or you will be lost for all eternity. In this they imitated our blessed Saviour and His precursor, who, from the very start of their respective missions, put it clearly to all: The Kingdom of God is here. You must repent, and you must repent now, because tomorrow you will die and be judged. Whether you like it or not, there is only one God the Father, and there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, and there is only one true Church that comes straight from Him and is heading with Him into the eternal kingdom. If you are not part of that Church, you will be lost, just as all who were not in the ark perished in the flood.

The point behind all this is that at Easter we receive the power to be witnesses to the eternal truth: there is a God and Jesus is Lord. By the Holy Spirit given to us, we are empowered to make that statement to all who will hear it. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to not only live up to the demands of our new life in Christ, but also to endure the persecutions that come with being a Christian, that come inevitably with being a Christian. St Paul makes that clear: All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution (2 Tm 3:12).

So, as the world drifts further and further from God, our duty is to get closer and closer to Him by living more and more the life of Christ. Our duty is to challenge the world to leave behind its sinful ways, and to receive what is really the only good news that exists: Jesus Christ is Lord; He is risen, He is right here with us, and He will judge the living and the dead. Do not let the world change you. You must change the world, for you have received the anointing from the holy one.

And so, my dear Sons and Daughters in Christ, as I wish you a truly blessed and happy feast of Easter, I do so with a prayer: that each of you may truly be transformed in the Holy Spirit and become a true disciple of the one who gave us, just a couple days ago, these words as part of his final testament: Love one another as I have loved you. No man has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.