By Fr. Matthew Brumleve
First of all, I want to say congratulations to Sarah – who will be Baptized tonight,
And Jennifer – who will be making a profession of faith. And hopefully you realize what we do tonight just marks the beginning of your journey in our Catholic faith – not the end – because our journey with the Lord is life-long — and ends when we gaze face to face at Christ in heaven.
I welcome all those who have come to be with you both this evening – and with the faith community of St. Patrick as we celebrate this solemn vigil tonight. And, of course, I wish all of you a happy Easter.
In however God led you here tonight – I am glad you are with us — and hope you experience something in this liturgy which re-ignites the flame of faith in your heart so you can run from this place and boldly proclaim by your words and actions – the good news of Easter.
At the foot of my parent’s bed all throughout my life – there was a cedar chest – given to my mother years ago by her parents — as a hope chest.
So it was once filled with sheets and linens and I suppose pots and pans — all the things she would eventually need to set up her own household.
All those things were taken out – when her hope was fulfilled when she married my father in 1953.
That one-time hope chest then became a secure place for storing such things as photo albums, cast off baby blankets, war medals awarded to my uncles – and many other family treasures and heirlooms.
For well over 30 years — whenever I would go home, I would spend some time – exploring our family’s history by exploring the contents of that cedar chest. All of those precious items allowed me to connect to those who had gone before me – and gave me a sense of belonging.
As Christians – we spent some time tonight – a lot of time, really – exploring our family’s history by opening up our cedar chest – the Bible: both the Old and New Testaments. . .
We have listened attentively to the Word of God – in order to connect to those who have gone before us –so that we can have a sense of belonging.
We have read and sung more from the Scriptures tonight – 9 different readings plus the singing of Psalms – then we normally read in almost a month of Sundays!
And when we read from Scriptures – we always hear a consistent message: God loves us!
Tonight our cedar chest of readings from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, Romans, and Luke – spans roughly 2,000 years of time.
Near the bottom of the cedar chest – is the second reading from Genesis telling us of Abraham’s test from God which occurred some 75 years or so AFTER Abraham was first called by God: placed historically by scripture scholars around the year 1,800 BC.
And the top layer of the cedar chest — contains St. Paul’s letter to the Romans written around 57 AD – right before he is taken in chains to the great capital city of the Empire. And the Gospel of Luke, probably reaching its final written form around 85 AD.
The point I wish to make is not the exact span of time covered by the readings – which leads some to estimate the age of the world – but my point is the consistency of the story line within this broad range of readings…. The story that has repeated itself well over 2,000 years and will continue to repeat itself in our brief life span — and repeats itself in the very fabric of our individual faith lives.
That story line is:
In love, God reaches out to his people.
People respond to God’s love.
People get distracted by other things and stray from God.
God doesn’t give up and reaches out a 2nd, 3rd, and a 4th time – in love. God never gives up on us!
The question that comes to my mind is: I wonder if God ever gets tired?
Tired of you, tired of me, tired of all his created beings – who just can’t seem to stay focused or committed to him for very long. . . and stray off on their own – leaving home with their bags packed, always in search of greener pastures – but often times ending up in the slop of the pig sty. . .
And that is an easy question to be answered based on 2,000 years of Scripture: NO:
God never tires of extending his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his grace – because God desires nothing more than to spend ALL eternity with each and every one of us. And so God wants to connect with us – to claim our hearts as his own – and so reaches out again, and again, and again.
THIS IS GOOD NEWS!!
We follow a very strange God – a God who lavishes —-lavishes—such extravagant love on each one of us. A get down on your knees God who does anything he needs to — so as to gain our attention AND capture our hearts: A God who does not even withhold his OWN SON from us – allowing him to be crucified for our sake.
The one who embraced the cross – rather than run from it.
The one who willing laid his hands upon the wood of the cross – instead of fighting it.
The one who willingly handed over his spirit – so that we might have that same spirit PULSING within us.
Jesus’ very spirit – who gives us life. Gives us courage. Gives us strength and confidence.
And the best news of all – is that not even a tomb with a huge stone at the door —could hold back God’s love for us!!!
NO – as the women who go to the tomb at daybreak on the first day of the week find out — the stone is rolled away from the tomb so that we could get in – and see that DEATH HAS BEEN ROBBED OF ITS POWER!!
The stone is rolled away – so that we could get in — and see that a new world order has begun – so that we could see the truth of Jesus words: “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up!”
The stone is rolled away – so that we could get in — to see, and hear, and experience that by his cross and resurrection, Jesus has set us free. Free from sin. Free from death. Free from our old ways of doing and being.
Free from all those things that may hold us back and distract us from following Jesus with all our minds and all our hearts – and keep us from loving our neighbor as ourselves.
The stone is rolled way — freeing us from all those things that keep us locked up in fear – than reaching out in mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness.
YES – the greatest news of all — is that the TOMB IS EMPTY.
And there is only one way of responding to such good news: alleluia – alleluia — alleluia!!