Carry the light
Easter Vigil
St. Andrew's Cathedral

April 15, 2016

~ Download this homily


"I put forth also this challenge this evening, that we are invited not to stay at the empty bomg with so many who are grieving and suffering, but to know
Jesus Christ is not in the empty tomb. He is risen. He is alive."

~ Bishop Gary Gordon


Isn’t this just amazing? That song, Alleluia, why are you looking among the dead? He is not here, he is risen.

And yet, we, and so many people on our planet, on the earth, live the experience of the women going to the tomb. As our Holy Father said in the Easter Vigil earlier this evening in Rome (it’s one of the blessings of being nine hours behind: I get to borrow his good ideas!), their sorrow, their sadness, their excruciating pain that the one who had loved them more than any other was gone, is the experience of our human family.

Pope Francis talked about the experience of so many moms, whose children are killed in war. He talked about the sorrow of the mothers of the millions of refugees on the earth. He talked about the enormous oppression and persecution that our systems of economy continue to put particularly upon the moms, upon the women.

And yet it is not to end there, for he has put forth, and I put forth also this challenge this evening, that we are invited not to stay at the empty tomb with so many who are grieving and suffering, but to know Jesus Christ is not in the empty tomb. He is risen. He is alive. We would not be here this evening, unless he was risen and was alive. There’s no way on God’s green earth this many people would show up at a church in the middle of a long weekend, when the hockey playoffs are on, unless Jesus Christ was risen.

Our dear new ones, who are to be baptized, are here. I was speaking to them as we walked out [to light the Paschal candle], and I asked, “Why are you here? There are a lot of other places to be. What caused this, this faith?” Janice spoke about conversion and experience of God, when she was three years old. She’s on a journey. We’re all on a journey. Sally spoke about her grandmother. Her grandma handed on, no doubt, her beautiful smile and her love of the Lord. Sally said, “I think God can heal me.”

We have some candidates who are going to make their Profession of Faith, and be Confirmed, and make their First Communion. I know each one of you, all of us, has a story of encounter not with an empty tomb, but with the living person of Jesus Christ, and this is why we are here. Thank you for showing up. It’s really beautiful.

Now, going through the program, the teachings, the RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults], I don’t know if Fr. John or Fr. Harrison or your sponsors, or your godparents (and I want to thank them for journeying with you for these several months) … I don’t know if they told you that when you are baptized, when you’re confirmed, you get a job from the Bishop! 

You’re going to get a job. And I can tell you that the long-term benefit package is out of this world! But for this world, you do have, as all of us have, a mighty work—to bring hope to our world. To light up, as we have lit up our cathedral this evening through the Easter Candle, peoples’ lives with hope, with promise, with consolation, with comfort, with mercy, and mercy, and mercy, and more mercy. To light up the hearts of people.

It doesn’t look like much, does it, this candle we each carried. But multiply it by 750 people—it’s not bad! And so, your first job after you come out of the waters of baptism—we’re going to give you a candle. We’re going to give you a light from the Easter light, and your very first job is going to be to light the candles of all these brothers and sisters of yours. That’s your first job. And then, all of us, with all the faithful, are, to quote Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, to bring the light of the risen Christ where the darkness is greatest.

How do we do that? Well, if you walk around the streets of Victoria with your little candle burning, guess what? Somebody’s going to blow it out. So let me suggest a couple possibilities of being the light and creating moments of hope.

First: be grateful. Be thankful. A thankful people is a smiling people. A grateful person exudes a spirit of love. Be grateful. Be grateful and thankful about everything and it will be felt by people in darkness.

The second, being a little bolder, in every encounter with each person, believer and non-believer alike—for instance, at the end of the moment when you’ve received your change back from the cashier—say Thank you, and God bless you. I don’t know any other way to create hope other than encounter. And when we encounter someone as the living body of Christ, his risen body, it’s not just we who are there, it’s the grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There are going to be many empty tombs, and there are going to be many sorrows, and many sadnesses. But we are called as never before, as Christian people on this planet, to create opportunities of hope through our own joy that Jesus Christ is risen.

I’ll leave you with a story of what happens when you create opportunities of hope. A year-and-a-half ago I was at a funeral. I do quite a few funerals. Most of the time, they are funerals of people who are victims of profound poverty, suicide, tragedy, and great sadness. I was invited to conduct a funeral of someone who had died here on our streets. The grief was overwhelming. The pain was so very real. The family was distraught. The sense of loss and separation was compounded by 40 years of not being connected to the family. 

One would participate in that, and wonder, is there any hope? What is the point? What is the point of the Italian Navy picking up 2,000 people in the Mediterranean this afternoon? What is the point?

Well, here is the point. From that moment, on a pouring, rainy, January day on which we buried someone in the ground, a word came to someone in that congregation that said, “Give the people hope.” And this person went on to talk to the families, to the young kids, about God, about Jesus’ resurrection. And this person phoned me last week, and said, “Bishop, you better come up to Gold River. We’ve got a whole whack of kids to get baptized, to be confirmed, and to make their First Holy Communion.”

I got a message just before Mass tonight from the grandmother of those children. She hasn’t been in this kind of joy for a long, long time, because of grief, upon grief, upon grief. That’s the power of the resurrection. Joy, upon joy, upon joy.

Receive the light of Christ. This light is entrusted to you, to be kept burning brightly. Keep the flame of faith alive in your heart, so that when the Lord Jesus comes, you will go out to meet him with all the heavenly court.

I’m going to say those words, and your job is going to be to go and light up the whole church as we renew our baptism, as I go around and throw holy water on everybody. Don’t worry; I’ve never put out a candle yet!

And if I can invite and encourage and entreat: please, please, carry that light out there. Carry that light out there. There’s a lot of people who are suffering. We can do that. Light up our world with the light of Christ, the hope of humanity.

Amen.


 

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