Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stories of Salvation

Whenever families get together for picnics or during the holidays, it is inevitable that stories about the past are told. We remember the members of our families who are no longer with us. We laugh at the jokes they told or the silly things they used to do. The older members of the family tell stories about how their parents immigrated from another country or found work. No matter how many times we hear those same old stories, we cannot help but laugh or cry over them all over again. We never grow tired of telling or hearing about our past because they remind us of who we are and where we came from. Stories are like mirrors not only showing us our past but giving us a direction for our future.

Tonight we gather as a family of faith to tell the story of our salvation. All these tales both in the Old and New Testaments have been meticulously written down and passed on to us through the centuries so that we could have a record of all the marvels the Lord has worked for his people. We remember tonight how God created us from the dust of the earth and gave us dominion over all creation. However, we disobeyed him and lost Paradise. Many centuries later, as our people grew in number, we were enslaved in Egypt, forced into hard labor to build the cities of the pharaohs. But God took pity on us and through Moses led us out of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. Yet still we disobeyed, looking to foreign gods for salvation. And so, God sent his prophets to pass on another promise to us. He would send a Messiah who would cleanse us of our sins and place God's own Spirit within us.

Then, in the fullness of time, the promises were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. He performed mighty works and revealed the love and mercy of God. However, in our blindness, we put him to death by nailing him to a cross. Yet God raised him on the third day. Because of his death, we have the forgiveness of our sins and through his resurrection we have the promise of everlasting life by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as God created us by breathing life into Adam, so he gave us a new and everlasting life by breathing his Holy Spirit into us. This is the story we recall today - that God has conquered sin and death through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, these stories are not about what God did for other people many centuries ago. Rather, this is our story. These mighty works were performed for us so that we might have friendship with God and know eternal life. That is why we never grow weary of hearing them over and over again, like the stories our parents tell and that we pass on to our children. That is why they have been preserved for us. That is why our heart fills with joy and our eyes well with tears whenever these readings are proclaimed. They are the mirror reminding us that we are children of God washed clean of our sins and empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to live a good and virtuous life.

We entered our biological family through natural birth. Our mothers carried us in their wombs for nine months, and we were born into a family which nurtured us and brought us to adulthood. On the other hand, we entered the family of faith through a rebirth. That rebirth came through the waters of baptism. Through that powerful sacrament, we became members of the family of God, members of the Church. We have nourished ourselves on God's word and on the sacraments. It is now time for us to become adults in the faith, to take our rightful place in the family of God. It is up to us now to pass these stories down to a new generation of believers so they too can know what God has done to save them.

It is through our baptism that God's promise of a new life through the resurrection of Jesus became a reality for us. Therefore, we will renew the vows of our baptism tonight. Having heard the stories of God's mighty deeds, let us take those vows up again with renewed purpose. Bathed in the light of the glory of the resurrection, let us stand and tell the world who we are - daughters and sons of the God who created us, who led us out of slavery, who raised Jesus from the dead and who even now fills the earth with his Holy Spirit.

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