Tonight, this night, the mystery of our faith will be unveiled. Tonight, the world is changed forever. Humanity is changed forever. One of us, one of our own flesh and blood, rises up, breaking the bonds and boulders of death. The true offspring of Adam and Eve, formed in his mother’s womb as have all since that first couple, he lived in the world, grew, aged, seemed to be set upon the common path of all humanity, the path that ends in the grave. But not he! Not our glorious blood brother, for he unlike all before him, falls and then arises, and in his resurrection, we find our hope.
For that reason alone, we must call him our Lord, he who proved that death is not our end. But our homage and worship are not complete until we acclaim him also our savior, until we worship him as God. Lord, Savior, God, and Christ.
In the soft light of dawn, three women approach the tomb. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. What do we know of these women, whom God chose as the first witnesses to the resurrection? We know little, save that these three were followers of Jesus during his life, and that these same were present at his crucifixion to see his last breath. They rise early and slip through the still sleeping citadel of Jerusalem. The sabbath is past. The time of their leaving, as well as the purpose of their errand, are established by the old Law, and their idea is as well a symptom of the world that has passed over. Who will roll away the stone… they wonder? We today wonder- why did they set off with baskets and flasks of precious oils to anoint a body they believed blocked behind a boulder. Yet they went, though they could not know to what end of their pilgrimage would come.
For it was a pilgrimage, the first Christian pilgrimage, though they were unaware. Since that day, how many thousands, over thousands of years, have taken that same pilgrimage to the tomb of the Lord. Wars have been fought over possession of that rock, churches built and destroyed and built again. It is praiseworthy to make this pilgrimage, arduous even today. Perhaps some among us now have seen that holy site with their own eyes.
Praiseworthy and beautiful, yes, but not sufficient. The real pilgrimage that we must take, that all Christians must take is not to the tomb, but through it. Through the tomb of Jesus, through death with Jesus, then to arise with him. “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” asks St. Paul of the Romans (Rom 6:3).
All who undertake the pilgrimage of baptism are as unaware of what we will find there as were the three women on that day. Those three holy persons could not know what it means to be baptized into Jesus’ death, and we today are no better informed. Who among us can tell of what passes in the sacrament of baptism? Who can come close to understanding the workings of the Holy Spirit, God the Son and God the Father when we undergo the death of baptism and emerge as new creations? Young infants, certainly not. It is the career of we who are baptized as infants to own the baptismal promises made for us and to live the baptismal graces granted us when we were baptized.
Is it any different for those who are baptized later in life? Who can comprehend what it means to be adopted into God’s family through baptism? All the theology and eons of holy contemplation cannot begin to describe that glory. We, who are creatures, become sanctified, are made holy, through baptism.
Tonight, you will be invited to pray for and be witnesses to the baptism of our RCIA elect. The words of scripture they have studied, the catechism and teachings of the Church they have partaken of over these last months have prepared them to take this step and we will joyfully welcome them as our new sister and brother. And then you yourselves will be sprinkled with the Easter water, renewing your own baptism of no matter of how many years ago.
Those who have just completed RCIA, we here who live our baptismal promises, the saints who have gone before us, all travel in the footsteps of those three women on that first Easter dawn. We approach the crucified Lord, approach death in the waters of baptism, not knowing what we will find there. Like those three, our steps sometimes falter in fear or in doubt. As did they we carry with us what our culture holds as precious and useful, and like them we wonder.
We however have hope, the hope of a post resurrection people. Even though we know how this part of the story ends, we here tonight are no less utterly amazed than were Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. We with the benefit of knowing that Jesus has risen still stand in awe and wonder. Even the angel cannot grasp the significance of this human event and tells the women – do not be amazed. Angels, who do not suffer death, despite their superior intelligence are incapable of human amazement in the miracle of resurrection.
But we are amazed. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. One of us, one of our own flesh and blood, has risen up, breaking the bonds and boulders of death. And we acclaim him Lord, Savior, God, and Christ.