Holy Saturday – 2020

Holy Saturday, the day between the cross and the resurrection is deceptively quiet. The tomb is closed and sealed. The crowds have gone home. The disciples are in hiding . . . it appears that nothing at all is happening, but appearances can be deceiving.

Early Christians knew that all was not as it appeared on this day. An ancient homily for Holy Saturday begins . . .

“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and a great stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.”

Our ancestors in the faith understood much better than we do that the momentous events that we remembered yesterday, the reality that Christ was not only crucified but dead; not only dead but buried, shook all of creation to its core and that nothing was the same.

They understood that Holy Saturday is a metaphor for our lives.

Holy Saturday is liminal – in-between, transitional. It’s like our present situation in quarantine and similar to the reality of the first disciples hiding in fear after the death of Jesus and waiting to see what would happen next.

To be liminal is to occupy a position at, or on both sides of a boundary or threshold.

Saint Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, “Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might live a new life.

It’s appropriate that we reflect a little on the sacrament of Baptism today, because the ancient tradition of our Church, was to baptize catechumens at the Easter vigil, just before midnight on Holy Saturday so that it was finished by the first moments of Easter Sunday. This was to make clear that this new life was not just for the future when we die and go to heaven. It is for right now too, here in the world.

Our Baptism plunged us into the passion death and resurrection of Jesus.

Our Baptism created a charge that is already working resurrection in us.

Because of Baptism we live a new life here in the world.

Jesus said that we are liminal people. He said that we don’t belong to the world any more than he does, but that he has sent us into the world so that those who hear our words and see how we live our lives, will come to believe, will come to faith. In other words, we are called to make a difference, the biggest difference of all in the lives of our brothers and sisters.

We are an unlikely bunch to be chosen for such an important job. None of us are famous. We are ordinary people.

But it is usually people with backgrounds like yours and mine, ordinary good people, who can and do make a difference.

In Poland, it was a young electrician named Lech Walesa, the son of a carpenter, who transformed a nation from communism to democracy.

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela, a brave man who worked his way through law school as a police officer, spent 28 years in jail to make one central point – we are all created equal.

And now? It is our medical workers, first responders, grocery store and pharmacy workers who get up in the morning, put their uniforms on, and do their duty . . . risking their lives to save others.

I am not suggesting that you all have to go out of here and run for public office, change history or give your life, but you do have a responsibility. To be a Christian means that it is not enough just to have a skill and do a job. You are plumbers, and carpenters, and toolmakers and engineers. You are doctors, social workers, teachers, nurses, lawyers, accountants, journalists, parents, and grandparents. You help save lives, provide prosperity, record history, prevent disease and train young minds. I know that some of you accompany the homeless in shelters and soup kitchens. I know that you mentor youth. I know that you volunteer countless hours to the church, to the Red Cross, and to many other organizations. You make a difference not only by what you do but also by who you are. You bring the love of God with you wherever you go and the world needs you. God needs you. Through you, God gets skin in the world.

You are meant to be here, at this time, in this place. Cardinal Newman said, “God has created you to do Him some definite service; he has committed some work for you to do that he has not committed to another. You have your mission. You have a part in this great work; you are a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created you for nothing. You shall do good, you shall do his work; you shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in your own place, while not intending it, if you do but keep his commandments and serve him in your calling.”

~ Sister Mary Ann Strain, CP