The Easter Vigil 2021
We are all familiar with the expression, “hindsight is perfect.” Very often we find ourselves looking back at something we did in the past, and realize we understand it differently now in light of subsequent events or insights. We’ll say: “If I had known then what I know now, I might have done things differently or perhaps not at all.” This happens frequently in our individual lives; it also occurs collectively in society at large. In fact, hindsight is what the world is engaged in now, twelve months into a pandemic. In reference to things like lockdowns, mandatory mask mandates, or vaccine delivery decisions, we hear a variety of commentary on what should have been done, offered in light of subsequent developments. Hindsight brings insight into past occurrences that often was not possible to attain when those events were actually taking place.
This is true as well in our life of faith. What we need to know more than anything else is that God is with us in every moment of our lives. Yet it is usually the case that we can see God’s active presence only through hindsight. When caught up in the present moment, especially when the circumstances are painful or anxious, we’ll find ourselves asking: “Where is God? How could God let this happen? Why isn’t He answering my prayers?” The answers to such questions often come only later, with the benefit of hindsight.
The biblical texts of this Easter Vigil immerse us in what I like to call holy hindsight, because they scan all of history and present it anew in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In this sacred light, what comes into view is a history of wondrous divine love, always present and at work to save humanity from the results of its folly, mistakes, and sins. Even though the human race, from the beginning, had turned away from God through sin, God did not abandon His people, but accompanied them always, intervening in history, turning wrong turns into right ones and mistakes into blessings. All of this was to prepare history for the decisive action by God that we celebrate tonight. Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, after having taken to himself all of our sins and dying on the Cross, rises from the grave, triumphant over sin and death. In this way, he reverses forever the downward trajectory on which sin had launched human history, and redirects it toward the fulfillment of the destiny God intended for His people from the beginning: eternal life in heaven.
Made clear by this holy hindsight is the steadfast love and mercy of God as always present with us and perennially victorious over evil. We need never doubt the loving presence of God in our lives, working often in ways we cannot see in the present moment, but always in a manner that is for our good. Here we see how holy hindsight grounds hopeful foresight. We may not fully grasp why things currently happen as they do, and we certainly cannot see all that lies before us, but remembering what God has done in the past gives us certainty now that in each event and every circumstance our Risen Lord is there, in the full power of his resurrection, to love us by guiding, correcting, healing, and forgiving us, all in order to lead us to eternal life. It is no wonder that our Easter liturgies resound with “Alleluia!” Christ is truly Risen and with his people. We are not alone; never alone. Let this conviction banish all fear as we place our faith fully in our Risen Lord and surrender our lives to him.
Tonight, we surround men and women who, for a long while now, have been engaged in their own acts of holy hindsight. Under the impulse and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have been gifted with an awareness of the action of God in their personal histories, leading them to this particular moment of entry into the very life of Christ as members of his Church. That awareness, together with the hopeful foresight it engenders, has left them wanting to shout “Alleluia” for some time now. I’ve seen their excitement. This evening we assure them that theirs is an excitement we share. We are eager to welcome and accompany them as new and treasured members of the Catholic family, as tonight, by the power of divine grace in the Easter sacraments, God grants them fellowship with us in the community of those who follow Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, and rejoice always in his abiding presence with us.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
April 3rd, 2021