What follows is my homily from the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday Night). The Vigil is the holiest night of the year, when all the adults entering the Church are received into the community by celebrating the sacraments of initiation.
What we do matters… An individual human life matters, so do its actions and its in-actions. Such, brothers and sisters, is the history of salvation: Adam and Eve’s actions mattered, Noah’s actions mattered, Abraham, Moses, David… their “yes’s,” their “no’s” were the hinges of salvation history leading up to the yes of Mary… and the individual human life that changed everything, Jesus. We heard his, “yes” yesterday in the Passion, “not my will, but thy will be done.”
Think about how awesome that is: that God has chosen for human actions to matter to the salvation of our own souls and indeed the return of all Creation to him in heaven. And because the Father traced this course in Salvation history, leading up to the Passion Death and Resurrection of Christ – what we do tonight, the sacraments we do tonight – matter. They have meaning.
He was baptized. He told us to “Go baptize all nations”… so we do baptism
He forgave sinners and told us “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” and “Unless you forgive seven times seventy you will not be forgiven.” So we do confession… we forgive sins.
He healed and “through the Apostle James commanded us ‘are there any sick among you let them send for the priests of the Church and let the priests pray over them annointing them…” So we do the Anointing of the Sick.
He went to marriages and called the Church his Bride… so we do marriage.
At the Last Supper he left of a priesthood to serve us so we do Holy Orders.
On that same night He left us his very Body and Blood as food for the journey…and so we do this in memory of him.
Our brothers and sisters who have completed the RCIA process have all been touched by God in one way other another and perceiving his love compelling them they did something about it. They prayed and learned and now they celebrate the Sacraments because they know that doing this tonight…and living sacramentally every day of their lives matters to them and to those they meet…and indeed to Christ himself.
I’m harping on this doing of stuff because it may not be as obvious as we think. The dominant culture of our time even within some quarters of Christianity implicitly tells us that nothing do matters.
Consider death… the one thing that affects absolutely every human being… practically speaking most people think that either we die and nothing happens (in which case life has no meaning) or we die and everyone goes to heaven… Hell is reserved to Hitler Stalin and maybe one or two other people …but everyone else -no matter what- goes to heaven regardless of who they were what they believed or how they lived… in other words nothing they did in this life had any affect on the next.
On the flip side there are fundamentalists who will say that yes there is a well populated heaven and a well populated hell, but your actions have no influence on where you’ll go, it’s all decided by the whim of God… again, the message: what we do doesn’t matter.
So brothers and sisters what we celebrate tonight is three-fold:
That Resurrection is real and that God desires it for us.
That our catechumens and candidates… and all the rest of us… have been touched by this hope and responded by doing something about it… immersing ourselves in the sacraments…living each day sacramentally. And finally, that in the best tradition of Catholic humanism the physical things we do… the sacraments, our actions leading up to and coming down from them… what we do matters and has a real affect on our eternal lives and the eternal lives of all.