My dear Friends in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in our Risen Savior as we gather here for the Easter Vigil. The case is often made that, as Catholics, we never read the Bible. Well, you can’t say that about this mass. We seem to have covered almost the entire Bible tonight. As I was praying over the readings, I couldn’t hope but notice a theme. God continually drives out fear with hope. We heard in the first reading how he made the earth and gave us a special role in it with a dominion proper to men and women. It’s not until the next chapter with the story of Adam and Eve that fear enters the world through sin. This was the fear that Abraham overcame when he travelled three days into the wilderness to slaughter his son, Isaac. God ultimately spared the Son of Abraham. And because of his obedience to the unfair request of God, Abraham is told that his name will be a blessing to many nations, and it is to anyone who calls themselves Jew, Christian, or Muslim. Yes, God spared the son of Abraham in hope and did not spare his own son to put an end to fear and start a new beginning of hope to all the nations through Jesus.
It was fear that caused the Moses and the Israelites to question whether God would save them from the oncoming Egyptian force. Yet, God had their back by sending his angel to protect them so that the Egyptians could not get close. Then he opened a way through the waters of the Red Sea so that only His people could pass, not the Egyptians. He used the waters of the Red Sea to point to the hopeful waters of Baptism, which drive out the fear of death.
This is what St. Paul was talking about in his letter to the Romans. Baptism is, for us, an entrance into the resurrected life of Jesus. He has died for us and we enter into his death in the waters of Baptism. He died for us so that we may no longer be a slave to sin. To me, the ultimate symbol of hope overcoming fear is in the gospel. There is an earthquake because the Angel of the Lord has moved the rock that blocked the way to the tomb of Jesus. The Angel, who appears in dazzling white, scares the guards so much that they become like dead men. Fear can be paralyzing like that sometimes. Yet, the women who have faith can see through the tumult of an earthquake, the hope that lies behind it. They hear the hopeful words of the Angel that he is risen. They ran fearful but overjoyed to the disciples. The fear is natural but Jesus had to get rid of it so that they could be completely hopeful witnesses so he, likewise, appears to them to drive out any vestige of fear they may have.
At our 13 hours, Fr. Hertges talked about how hope drives out fear. I kept thinking of all the things in this world that so easily deflate the kind of pithy hope that most people have. Internationally, the United States is in a four front war in the Middle East. There have been so many natural disasters; earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, etc. that it’s hard to keep up with it all. Gas prices keep going higher and higher and the economy keeps getting worse and worse and, to be honest, I’m not sure any politician has the selflessness, let alone the intelligence, to be able to deal with it. Our church’s struggle with sexual abuse has diminished our voice on moral matters to the extent that it seems to be ignored by everyone. And, still, there’s hope. In the face of all this tumult, the angel of the Lord looks at each of us and says, “Do not be afraid!” God has conquered sin and death. Jesus is raised from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!
We are to be like the women in the gospel today and announce the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection to the whole world. Like the women, we are undoubtedly afraid to do so because we may be spurned, mocked, and ridiculed. Allow Jesus, who comes to us tonight in bread and wine, to open your heart to his call to evangelization. Go tell your brothers and sisters to go to church, here they will see him. Here they will find hope to overcome fear. Here they will die with Christ so as to rise with him.