Archbishop Lucas gave this homily during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral on April 11, 2020.
I wish a very happy Easter to all of you on behalf of Father Grewe, our pastor, my brother priests and deacons, and in my own name, the joy and the peace of our Risen Savior be with you. Thank you to all of you who are joining us via livestream on this holiest night of the year. We miss having all of you here at the cathedral.
Such a beautiful liturgy has been prepared and it's such a privilege to celebrate it and a privilege to share it with you as we can, even as we all pray, asking God's mercy that before long, we can be delivered from the worst of the pandemic and can have the chance to come together again to celebrate all kinds of good things, but especially to celebrate the sacred liturgy together. I'm grateful that we've been able to bring these liturgies to you electronically these days of Holy Week, but I think we've all felt that we've been missing something as blessed as we have been to be together in this way.
I know last evening when we celebrated the liturgy of the Lord's Passion and Death, that I missed being able to sit in the cathedra and watch so many people who always come here to the cathedral for Good Friday, missed being able to see each of them come forward and venerate the Lord's cross–so many different backgrounds, so many different kinds of piety, so many different stages of people in relationship to the Lord and to the church, but all welcome in the embrace of the crucified Lord.
And tonight I miss in a special way what would have been the baptism of the elect here in the cathedral parish–those who have been preparing for the Easter sacraments, the others who are ready and anxious to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. We're missing the elect and these candidates in our parish churches all across the archdiocese tonight.
Really, baptism is central focus of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. So we're missing something, but of course the Lord is always offering us something. Always offering us an opportunity. I know when I'm performing the rites of baptism, –it's a great privilege to do that–I'm focused on what I'm doing. I'm focused on the one being baptized and others who are there witnessing it are also focused on the elect and focused on surrounding that person with prayer and with faith during the ceremony. Maybe tonight, then, since we're not participating in a baptism, we have the opportunity to think about ourselves, not to focus on someone else, but to recall our own Baptism, to recall the beautiful truth that we have been baptized into the death and resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ.
We have the opportunity to reflect for a few moments on what this means for us. What does this fact that we have been baptized tell us about God? What does it tell us about ourselves?
One of the things that it tells us about God–we've been baptized, you and I–it tells us that God has not given up on the human family, the family of Adam and Eve, and he's not giving up on you and me. We heard in the readings earlier in the liturgy how lovingly God created everything that we see in the world around us, but He gave special care in the creation of man and woman, creating them, creating us in his own divine image and likeness. But Adam and Eve turned their back on the plan of God, and we've all done that in turn. We created a separation between ourselves and God, but God's not ready to settle for that separation. God has not given up on the children of Adam and Eve. Rather, he claims us as his own sons and daughters.
Through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God's favor rests upon us and we receive in baptism promises of life in Christ, not only in this world, but eternal life in the world to come. Eternal life is ours if we'll take it. God's favor is on us if we'll receive it.
You know on the day of your funeral and mine, the same symbols that are present on the day of baptism will be very evident then: the Paschal candle will be lighted and water will be sprinkled on our remains. And a white garment, recalling the garment of baptism, will be laid over our coffin as a sign to all present that once God has claimed us, once he has given us the promise of eternal life, he's not going back on his promise.
We may turn away from God. We may sort of give up on that dignity that is offered to us as God's sons and daughters. But all through life, God's promise remains, and as long as we're open in some way to receive it, the promise is renewed again and again, and is renewed at the time of death if we are at all disposed to receive what God is offering us.
God's not turned his back on us. He's claimed us. He never withdraws his favor. The fact of our baptism tells us something important about ourselves, and of course it's related to the favor of God that we enjoy. Now having been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are to see our primary identity as members of the household of faith.
We have different vocations and different roles to play in life and in the human family and the family of the church. But we see ourselves first as sons and daughters of God and members of his household. We are entitled now to the inheritance that Jesus has won for us through the power of his cross and resurrection.
In a sense we might say that we get to enjoy as baptized members of the church what Jesus himself enjoys as the glorified Son of God. We get to enjoy it up to our own capacity–Jesus has that perfectly–but everything that we can possibly take God gives to us in his son, Jesus Christ, this overwhelming inheritance that comes to the daughters and sons of such a loving father.
Each of us now is eligible for the benefits of membership in the Holy Catholic Church. We're no longer outsiders. Through the waters of baptism, we pass from death to life, from darkness into light, and we are able then to enjoy the benefits of the other sacraments.
Particularly, we look forward, having been baptized, to being confirmed, to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit; to be fed from the table of the Lord with his own body and blood; to be able to have our sins forgiven; to be anointed if we're sick or dying; and then to hear the call of the Lord in the Church to perhaps a vocation of service and witness in marriage or in Holy Orders.
Again and again in our lives, the favor of God opens up to us once we have been baptized and have come into membership in the living body of Christ in the church. We're able to come to understand ourselves and as disciples of Jesus Christ, which means the Lord calls us by name and desires to have a deep personal relationship with each of us. He reveals to us the truth that we celebrate at this Easter vigil: that Jesus is alive and we encounter him in our Christian living, encounter him in the liturgy and the sacraments, but we encounter him in the details of daily life, too.
We don't just think about him from a long time ago or remember what he did in ages past, but as disciples of Jesus, we have a living relationship with him here and now. And as his disciples, then, he sends us out to be his witnesses, to be known as his disciples, to be known by one another and those that we're just meeting, to be known by our faith in Jesus and by the good works that flow from our faith.
Each one of us, then, having been baptized, having been incorporated into the body of Christ, each of us disciples of Jesus is responsible in some way for the mission of the church as the church proclaims the risen Jesus in our time and place. Those who have been ordained have special roles of leadership and service, it's true, but each of us is a full member of the church by baptism. Each of us has our rightful role. Each of us is responsible, we might say, for the health of the body of Christ in some way.
It's easy enough sometimes to kind of stand back and criticize the church–the church should be doing this, or I'm mad at the church for that. And we should be able to give mature criticism of for what we experience in our life together in the church, and those of us in leadership should be ready to listen to that humbly.
At the same time though, each of us needs to take responsibility for the holiness of the church, for the faith of the church, for the faithfulness of the church, for the charity that should always be a hallmark of the life of the church. It's the responsibility and the privilege that is given to us through our baptism.
We take responsibility for the health of the body of Christ by living faithfully the commands of Jesus, by living up to our dignity as sons and daughters of God, and especially by making the charity of Jesus known and felt by the least among us in the community. On this Holy night in just a few moments, we have the privilege of renewing our baptismal promises, our baptismal profession of faith. Let this be a moment of gratitude to almighty God for choosing us, for adopting us. And let it be a moment of commitment to live now in freedom as God's beloved daughters and sons.
May the peace of the risen Christ Mark your homes and your hearts during these Easter days. A blessed Easter to you all.