“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”. (Ps 117:22)
These words taken from Psalm 117 – our responsorial psalm for this Easter Sunday – give the reason why the sadness so visibly apparent in Mary of Magdala in the early darkness of that morning gave way to the gladness and joy of the light of Easter Day, “the day the Lord has made”.
“The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world.” (Easter Preface III)
Today, we celebrate that Christ has been raised from the death. That he is truly risen is the cornerstone of our Catholic faith. It is the cornerstone on which our lives as Christians are built. As Christians, we rejoice because Jesus’ resurrection reveals to us that death does not have the last word in the history of our human existence in this world. For the Christian, death will not claim the final victory. For the Christian, the sting of death is overcome in the sure promise of future immortality. For the Christian, Jesus’ resurrection from the death points to and confirms that Jesus reveals to us and fully bestows on us life in all its goodness and in all its truth.
To be a Christian means to share personally in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. This sharing is brought about sacramentally by Baptism: in baptism, we die with Christ and we also rise with him. For this reason, the Easter Vigil celebrated last evening is the privileged time for the celebration of Christian initiation. Last night in the 80 parishes of our local Church, more than 500 people were baptized into the Catholic faith. And, of course, today in these same parishes, our Catholic people – after a Lent of prayer and fasting – will renew their own Baptismal Promises. In doing so, we take to heart the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading which are addressed to each one of us as we renew those promises: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears then you too will appear with him in glory.”
Today, we celebrate life; we celebrate the new life of grace given to us through faith in Christ Jesus who suffered and died for us; and, was raised from the dead. And, through the renewal of our baptismal promises, we ratify once again our choice for life, the true life revealed to us in the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection.
Today, for us Catholics, this reaffirmation of this option for life, lived out within the community of Jesus’ disciples and in obedience to his commands, is more important than ever. In renewing our baptismal promises we expressed our belief in Life, and in its fullness and its meaning as revealed in the Resurrection of Our Lord. In doing so, we cannot be unaware that in our culture we are faced with many competing beliefs on what constitutes life. And these cannot be reconciled to our life in Christ.
For this reason, our Easter celebration was preceded by 40 days of Lent in which we heard the call to conversion of our minds and hearts– through prayer, fasting and other works of penance. And, for this reason, our Renewal of Baptism Promises is preceded by a call to renounce Satan and his false promises. Those “false promises” represent the various ruses that Satan has used over time to seduce mankind into a different vision of life, a vision that holds that life can be found through the seeking of power, or through the pursuit of pleasure or in the accumulation of vain riches.
These “false promises” beget a culture of death where God is exiled, where his commandments are forgotten, where others become expendable objects to be sacrificed on the altar of our own desires. We can see the power of Satan’s allures – and why he is called the Father of lies – in the lives of those who smitten with the “spirit of the age” have abandoned the practice of the faith. They claim that to embrace the gospel is to embrace a joyless existence – one where you cannot have any fun; one in which your freedom is stifled. (cf. Deus Caritas Est # 3,4)
Yet, “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” In those newly baptized, who last evening, died to selfishness and sin, we also see the greater power of grace. In asking to be baptized, they renounced sin; and in doing so they find true joy. In asking to be baptized, they embraced the commandments – not so as to limit their freedoms as men and women; but so that in observing them they might know true freedom. In asking to be baptized, they professed their belief in God, in a God who calls them – and each one of us – into a personal, a loving – and thus a life giving –relationship with Him through his Son in the power of his Spirit.. As the Church sang last night in the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation, O Felix culpa – O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer.
In the glory of Easter Sunday, the Cross stands revealed as the Tree of Life – for in his love to the very end, Christ overcomes hatred and sin. This is the ultimate meaning of the Cross: not to seek life for oneself but to give one’s own life. Easter Sunday proclaims us that the Cross did not close the door to life but rather it is through the Cross, the Cross of Christ, that the doors to life – to abundant life – are opened. And it is that life that Our Risen Lord shares with us in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our communion in his Body and Blood. It is that life which restores our friendship with him. St. Peter proclaims in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” Let us stand and make our profession of faith.