Easter vigil always renews my hope. As we stand in the dark church, each of us holding a taper, the Pascal candle is lit. Then one to another the light is passed, flame to flame, until the interior of the church is wonderfully, dramatically bright. Praise, song, and prayer fill the space as we wait in churches around the world, going from darkness to light. Every year this ritual is performed, and the long wait of Lenten Holy Week ends in triumph. Every year we declare that we stand in the light of Christ, the light that darkness cannot overcome.
This year I stand with the RCIA class as teacher, sponsor, and parent of a sponsor. My 17-year-old son Mike stands with his girlfriend, Jessi, as she formally enters the Roman Catholic Church. She and 11 other baptismal candidates wear baptismal garments, waiting for the moment when they will be called to enter the font, kneel, and submerge their heads under the water three times. I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The candidates arise, and the priest anoints their foreheads with chrism. I anoint you priest, prophet, and king. Go now and put on a white garment of salvation. As Jessi and the others leave to change clothes, I see my son wipe away a tear.
The 12 candidates, still damp from their moments of initiation, rejoin the rest of their RCIA class. The others in the class have already been baptized and have chosen to profess the Creed, receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist, and stand together with us as the body of Christ.
Without cost you have received, without cost, give. Why do the class members choose this path? How has God called them, and through whom has God called each one to this moment, to stand in the middle of the assembly and become one of us? What witness to the power of the Holy Spirit, and what witness to the light in the darkness! Another quotation pops into my mind: Keep in mind that you may be the only Gospel someone ever hears. How many times in class have these catechumens said that one of the major attractions of the Catholic Church is the teaching of the sacredness of the ordinary moments and interactions in our lives—those times and places we find God if only we will look?
I stand with the girl who has asked me to sponsor her, another one of my son’s friends. Jane and Jessi have been attending church with our family for the past few years. At this moment they are part of our family more than ever. They witness to all of us gathered here on this vigil of the Resurrection that no matter what we hear of darkness and despair, Jesus is with us always, giving freely to all who seek him. Our commission as the baptized is to witness to all whom we meet that God is present in all moments of life. This witness is both our mission and our privilege.