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  • Nicholas Sheehy LC

Powerful Night, Powerful Light



An Easter Vigil Reflection

A night can make all the difference. Just the other day, I went to bed during a tremendous storm. Rain kept pounding on the roof, and wind buffeted the walls. At some point, I finally drifted off to sleep, oblivious to the storm. The next day, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise. Just enough clouds dwelt in the sky to remember the sky, but the rays of the sun proclaimed victory for light and warmth.


I want to speak about how the Easter Vigil can make a difference in our lives. It takes us from where we are and pushes us towards where we are supposed to be. I like to think of this as the “caterpillar effect.”


Is a caterpillar a butterfly? No, not exactly. We know that a caterpillar will become a butterfly. It cannot stay a caterpillar forever. It seems that as Christians, we can have the experience of staying perpetual caterpillars. We know how we should end up but balk at the prospect of going through the change required to become true Christians. Each celebration of Easter offers us a push to become what we were always meant to be. It is our opportunity for metamorphosis.


The Resurrection does not change the facts of history, but it does give them a new meaning.

What is so powerful for us to go through Holy Week is that we see the events through the first witnesses' eyes. They experienced it very differently from how we do. We know how the story ends. We feel the joy of victory, even as our hearts are weighed down by the pain and suffering that we know Our Lord underwent.

This is tremendously good news for all of us. I am always amazed when I can accompany somebody through a difficult period in life. It is always an opportunity to grow in strength and become a much more mature and fulfilled person. I always suspect the person is having a “caterpillar moment.” We can re-visit each event during Holy Week and find new meaning because of the Resurrection.

Each time we celebrate the Easter Vigil, we re-live the mystery of the sacraments of initiation. These are the sacraments that introduce us to the Catholic faith.


Baptism

This is the most obvious sacrament for all of us. It is the gateway to all the other sacraments. The Paschal Candle figures largely in all the baptisms throughout the year, especially in the baptisms during the Easter Vigil. The Paschal Candle represents Christ, and each person who is baptized is baptized into Christ.


Confirmation

We are called to be soldiers for Christ. The sacrament of Confirmation affirms our decision to live as adopted children of God. For catechumens coming into the Church at the Easter Vigil, they can receive this sacrament in the same ceremony as their baptism. This is a sign of a faith that is being tested and purified, just as it is beginning. Confirmation connects us to the larger community of the Church.


Eucharist

To be adopted into God’s family is already a fantastic gift. To partake more fully through the reception of the Eucharist defies description. Christ, who is God himself, gives himself to us through the gift of the Eucharist. Only the initiated may approach. Thus, this sacrament indicates the fullness of entrance into the practice of the faith.


How to live all of this if we already have the sacraments

This seems to apply particularly to those who are joining the Church at Easter. How does it affect those of us who have received these sacraments years ago? Each of us has a particular path to God and happiness.

Easter forces us to face the question of whether we are living as Christians. We have the temptation to succumb to the world and focus on worldly gains and earthly pleasures. Accompanying Christ on the Way of the Cross and contemplating him in his death and resurrection invites us to conversion and change.


The Paschal Candle is plunged into the water, symbolizing death. Then, it is pulled out of the water, symbolizing re-birth. May this Easter Vigil call us forth into a new life, confident that we can become a little more Christian this year. Let us cast off the shackles of sin and commit ourselves to Christ, who is our light. Remembering the sacraments of initiation helps us to be more fully Christian. Remembering our baptism, we remember that we are adopted children of God. Remembering our confirmation, we remember that we are part of a Church community. In the Eucharist, we recall that we are called to be the Body of Christ. Easter is an opportunity to become more Christian.


As the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, may we be transformed into true Christians.


Video in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jigID_nH8xI

Video in Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpDbPDCqvfU


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