Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which, by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share in his victory over death. — Lighting of the Paschal Candle
What do we hear, when we listen to the words from Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel and the others? Do we hear perhaps the story of our redemption unfolding? Might we find that God does not intend for us to be caught in a world of darkness where no true light shines in? This night we are reminded that God knew that nothing short of His own intervention would break the cycle of violence, anger, neglect, and hopelessness that has plagued this world since humans could think and do things that were against God’s will. So, God broke into the world, as the prophets had predicted for more than 1,000 years. But this glorious person named Jesus was not what they expected. He was strong and articulate and a bright and shining star in the constellation of humanity. But he was not a warrior, not a king of human design; not a prophet, really, whose only role was to prophesy. Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, came to shine His actual light, the light of the eternal God into the world in such a way that the world would never recover from it. Jesus, the Light of the world, has died; death has been overturned; and He has risen, a shining Light of redemption that the apostles took hold of and ran with.
There is a book coming out on the life of Oscar Romero called The Scandal of Redemption. It is taken from the Archbishop’s letters, diaries, homilies, and radio addresses in the late 1970’s. Pope Francis recently announced that Romero would be canonized, becoming a bonified saint of the church. But Romero was a reluctant proclaimer of the good news, just a few years before his death, when viewed by what he was doing at the end of his life. In 1977, when the seat of the Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, became vacant, Romero’s fellow bishops chose him because he was rather boring. A status quo kind of priest and bishop. He would have to learn how to walk the way of the Cross with Christ’s people, the same people who were in the crosshairs of a civil war and military death squads who were apt to silence anyone who sided with the people: farmers, laborers, the poor. But, as Romero traveled in the shoes of the poor and disenfranchised in El Salvador, particularly in and around San Salvador, he began to see that the Cross of Jesus was being lived by these people. And he began to speak out against the government and military that were primarily responsible for the thousands of killings that were taking place all over (including four American nuns, Salvadoran priests and religious, too). Romero famously said, “A church that does not provoke crisis, a gospel that does not disturb, a word of God that does not touch the concrete sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what kind of gospel is that?”
Romero spoke his message of equality on the radio, in the name of Christ’s love, calling for inquiries into and the halt of extra-judicial killings, and help for the poorest citizens being traumatized by the civil war. He was threatened personally, the radio station he spoke at was bombed and vandalized, yet he preached on. Finally, in 1980, three years after being elected Archbishop, he was killed by an assassin while celebrating the Mass. But his life in Christ lives on. Resurrection means that death does not have the final say; it means that Christ’s message of hope and promise lives on and gives life; the Resurrection of Jesus assures us that our redemption is converted into Light that can dispel the darkness of the world. Christ does not need our help to overturn the darkness; yet, he calls us to work with Him and in Him, to make the reality of Resurrection the way of the world, the Light of the world.
Redemption is something that Christ has done for us. We respond in the world because we are saved by God’s grace, renewed by His Resurrection, and strengthened by His continuing spirit. As the Exultet sings, “This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin and are restored to grace and holiness of life ...” It continues, “How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave [to sin ], you gave a Son. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and humanity is reconciled to God.” We need not stifle the Light that emanates from the empty tomb; we are asked, implored by Almighty God, to roll away the stone of our broken hearts, and let in the light of the Risen Jesus. Let it flood in. Christ is risen. As we continue our service with Baptism let us remember that we are baptized into the life of Christ together; one people, one Love, redeemed by the action of God, on this most holy night, through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.