Easter Vigil Mass 2022
In recent days, I received a notice from the provincial government telling me that my driver’s licence will soon expire. Last week I took some food out of the fridge, only to see that it had gone past its “best before” date. A while ago, as I was making on online purchase, the computer directed me to indicate the expiry date of my credit card. We are all accustomed to many things having expiry dates and needing either to be renewed or discarded.
Let’s keep this in mind as we ponder what is taking place here in this solemn Easter Vigil. I draw our attention specifically to the biblical texts and to the sacrament of Baptism to be celebrated with our catechumens.
Echoing through all that we heard tonight in the many texts of Sacred Scripture is the message that God’s love for us never expires. Even when we turned away from God in sinful rebellion, God’s love remained steadfast. He who created us in love, faithfully accompanied, guided, and rescued us again and again over the course of the centuries, until such time as the supreme manifestation of his everlasting love was given in the gift of His Son, Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is definitive proof that not even death can place a limit on the love of God for us, His people.
Neither does God’s plan for us have an expiry date. From of old God pledged to make of us His people – forever. This promise is fulfilled in Baptism. By this sacrament, the one baptized is set free from sin and so united with Christ the Son of God as to become in him a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. By Baptism, God the Father adopts us as His beloved children, and thus bestows upon us an identity that never expires. We are eternally His, and forever called to live in the peace and joy of His children. This is why Baptism, once conferred, is never repeated. The promises and call of God are irrevocable. Our Christian identity is bestowed on us by God Himself and nothing can take that away.
Now, if my government-issued ID card expires, it does not mean that I do. I continue to exist. The card is simply the means by which others recognize my existence. Our Christian identity, which is solely the result of the choice and action of God, is recognizable by means of the God-issued ID formed by the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. By faith, I rely trustingly on the love of the Father, who will always provide for His children in Christ; by hope, I have confidence that God’s promises will always have a fulfillment, especially that of eternal life; and by charity, I have God as the ultimate object of my love, and strive to love others as He has loved us in Christ. By a life of faith, hope and charity, I am recognizable as a baptized son or daughter of God and follower of Jesus Christ.
Knowing that my driver’s license or credit card will expire, it is my responsibility to pay attention and renew them. More importantly, we have a responsibility to watch over our faith, hope and charity. These can be weakened by life’s challenges and difficulties. When an increasingly secularized world tells us we must be self-reliant and self-creative, we are tempted to allow our reliance upon God through the act of faith to diminish. In an age that places its hope more and more in technological progress, we can lose sight of the truth that the only reliable reason for hope is the love of God. If we fall prey to society’s proposal of self-reference as the only necessary moral compass, the love of God and His will, and charity towards others, may no longer be given first place in our hearts. We need to keep constant vigil over all of this, and be ready always to renew our “Christian ID card” – faith, hope and charity – so as to live faithfully and joyfully as God’s children.
This opportunity for renewal is precisely what is given to us by the Church at the Mass of Easter. Each year, those of us who have been baptized renew our baptismal promises. By pledging anew our complete faith in the Triune God, we commit again to place our hope in His fidelity, and to live according to the commandment of love.
So, as we witness with joy God’s act of permanently adopting Jayden, Vanessa and Zack as His children, and bestowing upon them an identity that can never be taken away, let us prepare with gladness to be renewed in our own baptismal dignity. Together with our new sister and brothers in Christ, may we all, by divine grace, always live freely and joyfully as the children of God.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
April 16th, 2022