Deacon Cornellís Homily


Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10


April 23, 2011 Easter Vigil Cycle A

When we baptize an infant, we start out by asking the parents if they fully understand what they are undertaking by bringing their child for baptism. I ask that question realizing that it is pretty unfair. We generally have met for about an hour, and for many parents, this is the first time they have had to think about their faith as an adult. In a few short minutes we will celebrate the sacrament of baptism for Benita. We will not ask her that question explicitly but we will ask her to state her belief in our baptismal creed. And while Benita has spent many months meeting with a small group that has reflected on our faith, I suspect that it is just as unfair a question to ask her, or for that matter, any of us here. And yet in a few minutes after we baptize Benita we will all be asked to renew our own baptismal vows.

The kind of belief we are asked to profess is not an intellectual assent to these principals; we are not being asked to weigh in with our view of whether these statements are true or not. We are being asked to profess that we will live our lives in a way that shows our belief. Let me give you a mundane example: every time any one of us gets in a car and drives some where, we believe that the drivers on the other side of the road will stay on their side. If we did not drive with that belief, we would never get anywhere. We can't guarantee that belief but we act on it. That is the kind of belief we are talking about here.

The first reality that we will be asked to profess our belief in is: Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? Am I prepared to say I believe that? In order to say yes, I have to be prepared to say that I believe that creation has meaning, life has meaning, my life and your life have meaning. And (here is the hard part) that meaning is NOT one that I assign to it. The origin of my life, the purpose of my life, and the destiny of my life are assigned to me; I donít determine it. I am not in control. I am creature, not creator. That is counter to everything our culture tells me: you have to get control of your life; you have to take charge; you have to pursue your agenda. Am I prepared to say that I will live as if †I am creature and not in control, working for God's agenda to make this creation paradise?

The second reality we will be asked to profess our belief in is: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? In order to say yes to that, I have to be prepared to say that, even though humans are not creator but creature, even though human beings are not in control and their value is determined for them, the value of each human being is so great, so precious, so incredibly awesome that God became one of us! Some one once said that if we imagine Jesus put on humanity as if God were putting on a suit of clothing, the amazing thing is: that suit of clothing did not need any alteration; it fit God just right, off the rack. And not only did God become human but he suffered and died and rose from the dead so that our humanity might share in Godís divinity! If human life is that precious, and that incredibly awesome, how must I treat each human being that I come in contact with, starting with myself? How must I treat my family and friends and neighbors and strangers? How must I treat those I like and those I donít like? Am I prepared to say that I will live as if human life is that incredibly awesome?

And lastly, we will be asked to profess our belief in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. You know I used to think that the Spirit got the short end of the stick in our creed. The father and son each have their own section which calls out different aspects of them, but the Spirit, I used to think, gets lumped in with the church, and the communion of saints, and all. Only lately have I begun to understand that all of those are aspects of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who draws us out of our selves into relationship with God and with others. In order to say I believe in the Spirit, I have to be prepared to say I believe that the primary way that God relates to us is God and US, not God and ME. Am I prepared to say that faith and religion are not private relationships with God but have their primary meaning in Godís relationship with a community? Am I prepared to say that all the different communities I am part of are exactly how I think they should be? Am I prepared to say that the Roman Catholic Church is absolutely as perfect as I can imagine? Can you? If not, am I prepared to let the Spirit lead me in a direction that makes that Church a better community? Am I prepared to let the Spirit open me to be changed for the better by the church? What about my family? My business community? My neighborhood? My country? Is the United States exactly what I would hope a country would be? Am I prepared to let the Spirit move me to make those communities better and to let the communities shape me for the better?

The last thing I want to do is to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord by perjuring myself in church. I stand here minutes away from renewing those promises without a lot of confidence that I can say yes I totally and fully believe in those realities. I am going to call on my keen sense of the obvious and guess that most of you are in that same position. You didnít take real advantage of those 6 weeks of Lent either.

In fact there are only two things that make me foolish enough to plunge ahead. The first is that I put my trust in the power of Jesusí saving act. It is not my worth or value but the value that is assigned to me, and to you, by the second person of the Trinity becoming human, suffering, dying and rising from the dead for us that lets us say we believe. The second is that I am not going to say I believe all by myself (at least I hope not). I am going to stand here with you and WE are going to say WE believe. I donít know that I would have the courage to say that alone. But with you, I do have that courage. My fervent prayer is that we all take that leap of faith, and together profess: We believe.

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