Saint Victor RichfieldEaster Vigil (B) With Catechumens – April 4, 2015
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men (sic) of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man (sic).
Thus begins the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in Modern World, Gaudiem et Spes, of which we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of promulgation in this the 2,015th year of the Common Era which is most notably for us this evening the very first year that we as the people Saint Victor Parish welcome Maggie Bennekamper and Brandon Erden as our sister and brother Follower of Christ.
Brandon and Maggie, from this evening forward, as your sisters and brothers in faith, your joys are our joys, your hopes our hopes, and we will be with you as well to help you bear whatever griefs and anxieties confront you in the years ahead. You in turn, by the “I do!” that you will respond to each statement of the Baptismal Promises, pledge that the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of those in this parish, the local church of Cleveland, the church throughout the world and indeed all those of this age are yours as well.
We begin with this beautiful quotation from the Second Vatican Council because it expresses very concisely that the church is indeed a community and is comprised of all of the singularly wonderful, challenging, mysterious, and ever expanding complex of relationships that form it. You are not achieving “member status” in an institution, organization, or exclusive club. You are entering into a relationship. A relationship with God and with God’s People.
This is why the word “Encounter” is so perfect an expression for the sacraments of the church, particularly for you this evening the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Edward Schillebeeckx, a Dominican Priest and one of the greatest Catholic thinkers of the 20th Century promoted this idea in his book “Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God.” It is perhaps one of the most important Catholic works of the past 100 years.
In its conclusion he writes,
It is by the sacraments that we journey toward our final goal – the sacramental way is our hidden road to Emmaus, on which we are accompanied by our Lord. And even though we are not yet able to see him, we are conscious of his concealed presence near us, for when he addresses us through his sacraments, our hearts, intent upon his word, burn with longing and we turn at once to Christian action – in the words of the gospel writer, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Maggie and Brandon, it is just this kind of encounter with Jesus Christ, as companion and friend as you journey though life, that you are about to experience, knowing that he is a friend and companion with whom you will always be able to share your joys, hopes, anxieties and griefs.
Through the waters of Baptism Christ will save you in the same way that God saved the Israelites. As they were brought safely through the waters of the Red Sea by your rising to new life with Christ through the life-giving waters he saves you forever from the effects of sin, sickness and death.
Sealed by the Spirit you will receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom, understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God’s presence.
In the Eucharist you will receive bread that breaths and wine that bleeds. Jesus becomes bread and wine for you and for us so that all of us together can become Jesus for the world. For all the people of the present age.
Brandon and Maggie, I know that Mrs. Peltz has been spending many hours preparing you for this evening. Your sponsors and families have supported you as well. Your parish community has been praying for you. I can tell that all of these people love and care for you very much and they have done a very good job making you ready. How can I tell? Because I have seen the joy in your faces. I have seen your enthusiasm. I have seen and heard that you know very well what you are about, what you are doing, and what you are committing yourself to.
Thinking about your joy on this evening prompted me to think about the recent words of Pope Francis in his letter “The Joy of the Gospel.” He gives us all some very good ideas about how best to live as followers of Christ. Here are just a three of them:
· No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community. This people which God has chosen and called is the Church.
· When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; but there is also a third way. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. “Blessed are the peacemakers!”
· Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.
Maggie and Brandon, we are all happy and proud to see your joy this evening. Our prayer for you is not only that this joy will remain strong in your every day, but that you in turn as members of Christ, as being sealed by Christ with his Spirit, and by your becoming Christ in the Eucharist for others your joy will be infectious and that because of you everyone you meet will know the Joy of the Gospel.