“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there." ~ Clarence W. Hall
Prolific philosopher and Catholic Apologist G.K. Chesterton was once asked why he converted to Catholicism. “I wanted to get rid of my sins” he said, an unusually succinct answer from a man who was prone to lengthy soliloquy. Yet his response, wise and profound in its brevity, was meticulously thought out, as was every word he uttered. Chesterton believed that “When a man steps out of the confessional, he is only 5 minutes old. His whole life has started over again.”
On Good Friday, Jesus’ Earthly ministry, one so wrought with promise, had abruptly come to what would have otherwise seemed to be the most horrible and tragic ending imaginable.
Falsely accused, scourged, beaten, spat upon, tortured, abandoned . . . . crucified.
In reality, Jesus’ life and this episode in particular echoed the words from the Book of Wisdom (3:2-3), a passage often chosen for the celebration of the Catholic Funeral Mass: “They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction.“
But the mystery had yet to fully unfold. We soon come to understand that Jesus came precisely to embrace the cross. From the cross, Jesus takes everything from us that is dead, dark and broken and lifts it up to the Father in this prodigious gift of self. God takes this gift, the worst thing that can happen, the rejection and death of his only begotten Son, and transforms it into the most beautiful and majestic of outcomes, the Resurrection.
Seven Readings are chosen to be proclaimed at the celebration of the Saturday Easter Vigil before we delve into the Gospel, Matthew’s account of Mary and Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord at the empty tomb (28:1-10). Sometimes all seven are read, other times they are not; it’s left to the celebrant’s discretion. But one passage is always read. One passage is absolutely essential. That passage is Exodus 14:15-15:1.
It is in this text that God dramatically parts the Red Sea, thus allowing Moses to lead the Israelites to their long awaited freedom from the shackles of slavery, powerfully foreshadowing the Sacrament of Baptism in the process. The Elect, those poised to enter into the fullness and richness of the Catholic Church by way of the 8 month journey known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, will in fact be baptized later in the evening.
For the Israelites, everything that was seemingly lost was found in a single instant, a very real moment in time. From slavery to freedom. Hopelessness to hope. Despair to joy. Death to wide-awake spiritual awareness. . .
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, the sins that have burdened and enslaved the souls of the Elect are drowned in the waters of the Baptismal Font just as sure as Pharaoh’s seemingly unconquerable army was drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. I can visualize the mustachioed, 300 pound-and-then-some Chesterton adorned in his patented 3-piece suit leading the charge of the Israelites through the stormy, canyon-sized gash that divided the Red Sea, his tousled head of hair and perpetually wrinkled necktie blowing in the ornery winds of the stormy seas.
. . . rescued . . delivered . . freed . . saved.
Saint Paul teaches us that if Jesus is not raised from the dead, we remain utterly and hopelessly lost in our sins. We are indeed the most pitiful of people. Christ came to suffer, to die and to rise, so that we can pass through sin and death and triumphantly emerge on the other side, just as the Israelites emerged on the shores of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. Waiting on the other side is the promise of eternal life in an incomprehensible paradise that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The world we live in is a mess. It does no good to deny it. Satan is a far more formidable and wicked adversary than Pharaoh. He is hell-bent, quite literally, on destroying souls. Baptism does not change that reality nor does it free us from the battle, a battle that at times will be fierce. But through Baptism, a Sacrament wherein God wields his power over an enemy that his Son has already crushed, we pass over from this wayward world into God’s Kingdom. As children of God, sin no longer has dominion over us. We are in turn called to go out and tell the world about the God who did this for us. As the old expression goes, “Those who have been rescued, rescued others.” This is to say that those who have been transformed by God’s grace go out into the world and tell others about Him. They speak of the God who loves and fights for his children. How can you not?
As I look back on the vast array of daily readings we’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon over the days and weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, a diverse collection of sacred texts that, along with the Holy Eucharist, serve as our food for the journey, I urge you all to. . .
Pray like Nehemiah . . .
Obey like Daniel . . .
Lead like Moses . . .
Serve like Martha . . .
Believe like Mary . . .
Fight like David . . .
Educate like Paul . . .
Build like Noah . . .
. . . and love like Jesus ~ the Lamb who is and forever will be, unconquerable.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 13, 2020:
Nice sermon. short and sweet and to the point.