I wish you all Happy Easter!
During the Easter Vigil Mass in Niigata Cathedral, 9 people were baptized and confirmed. Nine sounds very small to some but that was the biggest number of a group of baptism in my Cathedral. Congratulations to those newly baptized.
Following is a rough translation of my homily during the Easter Vigil.
Happy Easter to you all.
What we are celebrating this evening is the very basics of our faith, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without his resurrection, there would be no faith of ours. As St.Paul wrote in Corinthians "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith"
In the reading of the letter to Romans today, St. Paul emphasized importance of those who are baptized to be "buried with him through baptism into death" in order to live a new life in Christ.
Therefore, celebration of Easter is not only to commemorate the very basics of our faith which is the resurrection of our Lord but also, as one to live a new life in Christ, to be buried and raised with Jesus Christ. If we would like to be buried and raised with him, then we have to know what death and resurrection of Jesus really mean to us today.
This evening, we have listened to the story of Exodus from the Old Testament. Liberation for Israelites from slavery in Egypt were achieved through actual transition from present life to the new one by making physical move to the new land. It was achieved through transition from old life to new life. That was the Passover. However, the Passover could not complete instantly but was achieved through continuous challenges such as leaving Egypt and wander around the wilderness for 40 years.
Our Lord Jesus went through tremendous agony before he ended his life on earth but he overcame the power of death and moved into the new life. This is the new Passover. Gospel today tells us that risen Lord did not keep on staying one place but, rather, told disciples that he was moving to Galilee. That was not the beginning of the way of safe life for disciples but sufferings in Evangelization, even to risk their lives.
We are to move on. We are not to stay at our sfe refuge. We are to always face challenges. If we would like to be buried and raised with Christ, then even in the midst of challenges we should not lose our hope in faith and keep moving on.
Catholic Church in Japan has just celebrated the beatification of Ukon Takayama. Niigata Diocese has 53 Martyrs of Yonezawa led by Blessed Uemon AMAKASU. Those blessed martyrs and others persevered through persecution and had risked their lives in order to find the way which would lead them to the new life in Christ. And their life became true witness of Gospel to many.
We do not face such persecution in 21st Century in Japan. Unfortunately in other parts of the world, so many lives are exposed to great danger because of their religious faiths. Some takes advantage of religious teachings to violently deprive of human life. It is not acceptable for any religion to ignore the dignity of human life and teach their faithfuls to kill others. We have to remember those in such danger of life at this moment especially people in Syria. I do not believe that exercise of force to solve international conflicts to be justified.
In Japan today, we also have another style of difficulties to maintain our faith. That is attack against our inner spirit so that we are tempted to withdraw into the inner world.
As you know, Holy Father has been emphasizing that no one should be excluded and mercy of God to be brought to all. It is not because Christians are kind people. It would be very nice that all of us, Christians, are kind people. But that is not the reason why Holy Father has been telling us these. The reason behind is that, in this modern society, we are facing difficulties to maintain the value of God and that reality of the society is attacking our soul. Attack against our soul has much more negative effects than actual physical attack over us because it makes us passive, inactive and to bend to peer pressure.
Our action based on our value such as being merciful to others or accepting anyone and not to exclude are sometimes considered as foolish and naive in modern reality. Sometimes such criticism makes us to think that it is better to keep quiet than being criticized as dreamer or idealist. It makes us to keep our mouth shut. What a negative power such attacks have.
The risen Lord is calling us to take action, to face difficulties, to live into new Passover and do not remain in comfort of safe refuge.
The Easter candle is shining in the darkness. It is telling us that the risen Lord is light of hope for people living in darkness. And this evening, we received fire from this candle to ours. Therefore, we are all called to bring this light of hope into all over the world. That is our mission. That is our vocation. We have so many good news to share.
Let us pray to the risen Lord that he might grant us courage to shine the light of hope in darkness. Let us pray to the risen Lord that he might grant us courage to embark on our journey of facing challenges. Let us pray to the risen Lord that he might grant us patience to continue to persevere through people's indifference to the gospel message. And let us pray to the risen Lord to grant us mercy so that we can share it to others.