DELIVERED FROM SLAVERY TO SIN AND DEATH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [GN 1:1–2:2; GN 22:1-18; EX 14:15–15; ISA 54:5-14; ISA 55:1-11; BAR 3:9-15.32–4:4; EZ 36:16-28; ROM 6:3-11; MATT 28:1-10 ]
This evening we celebrate the Mother of all Vigils as we welcome the dawning of new life in Christ’s resurrection. We began this celebration in darkness and moved through the church, carrying the Light of Christ. As we processed into the church, we saw the light of Christ getting brighter and brighter, culminating in the singing of the Gloria when all the candles and lamps in the church were lighted up. These liturgical signs and actions are meant to help us go through what the people of Israel had gone through, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from death to life.
Indeed, many of us, especially the Catechumens, are like the Israelites in Egypt under the slavery of sin and death. We live an aimless and futile life. Many of us do not know what the purpose of life is. We do not know our origin and our destiny. As a result, we are caught up by the illusive pursuits of the world. Many of us have become slaves of our passion, our desires and the world. We want our freedom but we have become slaves to the freedom of the world. We are addicted to all kinds of worldly pleasures, whether it is promiscuous sex, pornography, drinking, smoking or food. These forms of slavery have caused our health to suffer, not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually. We are slaves to our pride, anger, greed, envy, insecurity and sloth.
Most of all, we fear death. There is nothing this world fears more today than death. People today are not only more conscious of their health but some are even obsessed. Others go for a makeover so that they do not have to face the pain of aging, at least so they think. Others seek to clone themselves and even freeze their eggs so that when they die, life would continue in some ways. But this cannot give us true life. Truly, because we believe that death is the end of everything, we commit all kinds of sins, either to keep ourselves alive or to enjoy everything on this earth, every pleasure that we can think of, since after death, we are no more. When we live without a goal beyond this life, there is no reason for us to sacrifice our lives for others, to do good or to make life better for everyone. It is about grabbing as much as we can for ourselves so long as we are not caught.
However, God did not abandon fallen humanity. Instead, the Lord wants to restore the creation that has been destroyed by sin. After the joyous and triumphant singing of the exultet, the liturgy provides us seven readings from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament, delineating for us the wonderful plan of God in saving us, from the act of creation, to the choice of Abraham, through the Exodus and the Exile and finally culminating in the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. The scripture readings bring out the entire history of salvation.
In the first reading, we read of how God created the world in its beauty and order. After each day of creation, the author said, “God saw that it was good.” In the second reading, we read how God chose Abraham, the Father of faith and therefore of all nations, to lead the way. Through Abraham, God chose His people to become the instrument of salvation for the entire world. Just as Abraham sacrificed his only Son, Isaac, so too, God our Heavenly Father sacrificed His only Son for our salvation. And this has been fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection when all peoples who are baptized in Christ are called to be God’s children. By sharing the faith of Abraham, we too are made members of God’s family in Christ Jesus.
Just as Moses led the people from slavery to freedom, Jesus who is the Light of the World led us forth as we entered into the church with lighted candles in darkness to symbolize that we are ready to cross the sea that drowned us because of sin. And just as Moses led the people in the darkness of the desert sustained by the Pillar of Fire, so too, Christ as our pillar of fire will show us the way to the Promised Land. Just as the Cloud overshadowed the people of Israel, so too, the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Church in our journey towards the Promised Land.
In order for us to know the way and be enlightened in the truth, necessarily, we need to hear the Word of God and meditate on the great promise of God to deliver us from sin and death. God sent us prophets in the Old Testament to call the people to repentance and to be faithful to the covenant. Christ, of course, is the eschatological, the last prophet. Christ as the Light illuminates every man and woman because He is the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, as the prophet Baruch proclaims. Indeed, baptism in ancient days is called the Sacrament of Illumination. By listening attentively to the readings, we enter more deeply into the saving grace of God and understand deeper the divine plan of God.
In Christ, we see sin and death overcome. The death of Christ is the act of total giving of God to the world. By dying to sin, to hatred, unforgiveness and revenge, Jesus shows us that the way to live is through the giving of oneself to others unconditionally and selflessly. By giving up His life for us all in love, service and forgiveness, He shows us how to overcome the evils of this world. Death is not something to be feared but it is an act of self-giving to God and to our fellowmen. By rising from the dead, He tells us that death is not the end of life but the beginning of the fullness of life. Christ destroyed the fear of death by assuming death in His body to assure us that death is not definitive. There is definitely a better life after death, not extinction.
The truth is that love is stronger than death. When there is love, death cannot even overcome us. The call for euthanasia is not out of love and mercy for the suffering but rather the lack of love and mercy of those who are called to be caregivers. This is what the resurrection means. Christ’s love for us unto death is stronger than death itself. It is Christ’s suffering that reveals to us the mercy and love of God. When we know that God loves us unconditionally and that He Himself has suffered with us and for us, we too can carry our sufferings even if we do not always understand the plan of God for us and why we must suffer.
However, the resurrection of our Lord is more than just the raising and transformation of the earthly body of Christ back to life. Indeed, the resurrection of Christ must not be confused with resuscitation of the earthly body. The resurrected body is different and that is why the Risen Lord was not easily recognizable unless with the eyes of faith and a heart of love. Rather, the resurrected body is so permeated with the love and the light of God that it shares in the life of God so perfectly. In other words, the resurrected person like Christ is now in full communion with God and is now wholly with God, for Him and in Him. This is the new life that Jesus is having in the resurrection. It is more than a mere body that is transfigured and glorified. When we live our lives always in the fullness of God’s presence and in Him, our body is certainly radiant with His love and joy.
This is what it means to be baptized. Baptism is not just our entry into the community of faith or even a cleansing of our sins so that the soul is purified. Rather, it is truly a dying to ourselves, especially to sin so that we can share the new life of Christ, be reborn in Him and be transformed into Christ. We are now the children of God, living a life of freedom in the Holy Spirit, the freedom to love and to share our life with others. We live not just for this world but also for the life that is to come. This life on earth is but a foretaste of the fullness of the resurrection at the end of time. It is with this hope that we walk in truth and love.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.