Easter Vigil, Year A, B, C
Gen 1:1-2:2; Gen 22:1-18; Ex 14:15-15:1; Is 54:5-14; Is 55:1-11;
Bar 3:9-15,32 –4:4; Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28; Rom 6:3-11; Mt 28:1-10
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
If anyone asks whom God, is? One can hears different answers such as: God is the maker of heaven and earth, humankind and living things; God is the regulator of the universe, controller of the human and animal lives; God rewards the good and punishes the bad. That is also the common view of the Vietnamese people on ‘Trời’ (Heaven). When understood in this sense, the Vietnamese often add a title ‘Mister’ before heaven, called ‘Ông Trời’ (Mr Heaven).
The common view of the Vietnamese on Heaven also circulates folk verses such as May Heaven rain down for my drink, till my land, that I may eat and have straw for cooking. That Heaven of the common Vietnamese folk is in a sense God of the Christians.
One thing different is the Catholic know more about the God whom they worship through his revelation to them thanks to his prophets in the bible. Finally, the Son of God came down from heaven to save humankind, teaching his disciples. Due to the original sin of man’s first parents, sin came to the world and descendants have to suffer from the Original sin.
To save humankind, God sent his only Son to the world, born of the virgin, named Jesus. Jesus was anointed to be the Christ, preached the gospel of salvation for three years about God’s kingdom, about love, forgiveness and charity. He used his divine power to perform miracles such as to give sight to the blind, make the dead hear, the mute speak, the crippled healed, to give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty so that people may believe in him. Not to accept his way and his message, the contemporary Jewish authorities decided to persecute, crucify and condemn him to death. On the third day, he rose from the dead as he had predicted (Mt 16:21; Mt 17:23; Mt 20:19; Mk 8:31; Mk 9:31; Mk 10:34; Lk 9:22; Lk 18:33; Jn 2:19).
To build up his kingdom on earth, Jesus took twelve selected apostles, sent them to preach the gospel of salvation and testified to his resurrection by their deaths. Whichever way people want to define God, let them do so. As for John the apostle, he defines God in short, not wordy, but in a meaningful way: God is love (1Jn 4:8). Indeed out of his love, God has done all the above things.
Today we gather ourselves in the church to celebrate the risen Christ. Through death to sin in Lent, the faithful are risen in grace with God. Today the Church also celebrates with the newly baptized in their rebirth in water and spirit in the sacrament of baptism.
To newly baptized brothers and sisters!
You have been instructed on the Catholic faith from last September. From the beginning of Lent, you have been elected to continue to study the Catholic faith. During Lent, with the whole church, you have prayed, made sacrifices in preparation to rise with the risen Christ.
Today you are gathering here to share the joy with the risen Christ by asking to be born in grace through the sacrament of baptism. For those whose spouse is already Catholic, then from now on you both will see in the same direction, follow the same spiritual goal. You will aim at an integral love, total and lasting happiness. The integral love is a faithful love. Total happiness is happiness in material, emotional and spiritual life. Lasting happiness is happiness in this life and in the life to come.
Accepting faith in the Catholic Church does not mean you have to cut off your past relationship. If in the past, you were accustomed to make offerings to your ancestors, grandparents and parents on their death anniversaries, and then from now on you have duty to be filial to them by praying for them. That is the Fourth Commandment of Christianity. To specify a filial piety, today you are asked to give thanks to God for your parents who gave you birth and education and gave you freedom to adopt the Catholic faith.
Accepting the Catholic faith does not mean that from now on, you will never be lonely and sad. At times, you will feel lonely and sad. However, from now on, you will have God to travel with you on all your ways. God will be your reason to live and to die. God will be your light, your strength, your hope, your comfort and your salvation. From now on, God will be your heritage. You can come to God any time because God does not need to rest. You do not need to telephone him to find out if he is at home. You do not need to wait for your turn because he has been seeing someone else more important.
God is not partial to anyone. Before God, all people are equal. From now on, you can come to God anywhere because God is everywhere. To come to God privately and suddenly as such, you do not need to prepare such as to put on clothing or redo your make up. You will experience God’s love as real, not distant, but near to you, if you open your heart to him and let him enter your life personally. From now on, you do not live and work by yourself, but live and work in union with God and for the love of God. That is what Saint Paul affirmed in his letter to the Galatians: The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me (Gal 2:20).
Accepting the Catholic faith does not mean that faith is something that you can hold fast in your hands, or put it in a deposit box in the bank, or in a clay jar for burial, but you have to find ways to preserve it. Sometimes you would experience your weakness of faith, hours of desperation, days and months of darkness and doubt like Saint Thomas who doubted about his master’s resurrection (Jn 20:25). Other times, you would feel as if God is absent or no longer exists. However, like Mary of Magdala (Mk 16:1-8), Saint Peter and Saint John who still had to look for God (Jn 20:3-9) when darkness covered their minds, you also need to continue to look for God even when you feel discouraged and desperate.
My brothers and sisters! God is still there to wait for you. God still comes to you in your daily life when you eat, work and rest. God is still present in you through the wonders of the universe, the beauty of nature. It is necessary that we learn to be aware of his presence as to recognize his voice.
Prayer asking for rising in spirit with the risen Lord:
Oh Risen Chris!
We thank you for this day,
the day of the resurrection of your Son from the dead.
During Lent, we have prayed, fasted, repented
and performed works of charity.
At this mass, we just renewed our promise of baptism
to be ready to die to sin
as to rise in grace with you. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong