Easter Vigil: Mass of the Resurrection:
Gospel – Matthew 28:1-10

"
Be Good but, Become A Holier Person . . ."

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 19 April 2014

Angela our Parish administrator, shared with me that just before the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday was about to begin, our greeters were trying very hard to stop people from coming into the Place of Gathering to avoid congestion; while this was happening, the Processional hymn was repeated singing, “all are welcome . . . all are welcome!”  I found the situation to be hilarious because here we have a group of well-intentioned volunteers trying to do their very best in serving the Church . . . but, at the same time unaware of the seeming “liturgical contradiction” that was going on . . .

I have no doubts that these well-intentioned volunteers of our parish, and every one of us here tonight . . . are not fully aware of the “contradictions” in your life and my life, between the grand liturgical celebrations that glorifies God and the concrete living of our faith daily.

On this Easter night, all of us and all Christians around the world celebrate the climax of our faith – the climax of the Risen Christ . . . the climax of Christ’s victory over sin and death . . . the climax of God, in Christ opening the gates of heaven and offering us the gift of eternal life and everlasting happiness with God, our departed loved ones and all the saints in heaven.

      

On this Easter night . . . all of us who believe in the Risen Christ is challenged not only to be good, but become holy!  Being good is one thing, but becoming holy as God Wills of us is another.  The fact that we are all here tonight for this celebration . . . the fact that we are believers in God our Risen Lord, regardless of the trials and temptations, the weaknesses and sinfulness of our lives . . . it is fair to assume that we are at heart good people.  But, on this Easter night, we are each, without exception called by our Risen Lord, to become a holier person.

How many of us dare to admit that over the many years of our lives, we have been good persons, but have not grown in the holiness that God Wills of us.  “Holiness” is essentially living beyond just being a good person that we are, and passionately seeking and serving God’s Will in our daily living.  Such a way of living is fundamentally, living a life that is filled with the “Joy” of the Risen Christ!

In tonight’s Gospel of St Matthew and in all other Gospels, The Risen Lord, reminds His disciples, “Do not be afraid.”  “Peace be with you.”  Why?  This is simply because the Risen Lord while He was on earth had experienced and encountered thousands of “good people” who were filled with different forms of fears in life: the fear of failure, the fear of pain and suffering, the fear of their uncertain future and even the fear of an angry and punishing God.

The Risen Christ assures us and guarantees that our lives will be filled with lasting Peace, great Joy and deep fulfilment if only we are to live in God’s Love and Ways . . . if we dare to seek and live God’s Will passionately.

      

I have mentioned many times that to be considered a “parishioner” of our Church of St Ignatius, one of the criteria is that you live within the boundaries of our Parish.  More importantly, if you come here regularly and naturally every Sunday to worship; and consider our Parish family to be your spiritual family, then regardless of where you live, you are considered our “parishioner.”  What then do you need to do as a parishioner?  I had urged that you register online so that as a parishioner we not only know where you live, but more importantly, we can contact you, and invite you to become more fully active in our Parish-wide activities and programme.  What type of “spiritual family” are we if we are non-contactable?  What type of family do you belong to if you don’t give your handphone number and emails to your parents?

Don’t worry . . . be happy . . . belonging to our parish has it’s fringe benefits too: you will have preference in enrolling your children for our Catechism classes; you also have a preferential 1st offer for the niches of our columbarium . . . and the use of our Wake Prayer room when you need it . . . and of course, the compassionate personal and spiritual support of our very edifying Bereavement Ministry members . . . and the like.

      

When you open yourself to be “contactable” and show interests in not only in participating, but leading our Parish activities and programmes whether it is teaching catechism, singing in the choir, serving in our Migrant Workers Food Distribution, or leading in our Parish NCC groups or become an active youth and young adult of our parish, then in such conscious and concrete living you are challenging yourself to grow from being a “good person” to becoming a “holier” person.  And, growing in such means of holiness is one of the very important ways in which God may be challenging you on this Easter night!

To grow in the “holiness of God” we cannot be contented to remain in the back seats of our Church . . . “Holiness” in God is daring to discern how God is challenging you and I to play our part in contributing to the growth of our Parish family . . .  “Holiness” in God is daring to trust that God who calls us to such active participation, will give us the wisdom to overcome all forms of fears in our lives . . . and serve and persevere in His Ways and Love.  “Holiness” in God’s Ways and Love is daring to live the ultimate purpose of our life, as St Ignatius would say, “to Praise God, Reverence God and Serve God.”

Another good test of whether you are a genuine “parishioner” is whether you have memorised the “Prayer of Generosity of St Ignatius” that we pray at each Mass here in our parish.  If you have memorised the prayer . . . I can see that you are a good person . . . but, if the prayer has taken root in your heart, then God Himself will say that you are a holy person!

        

Because of time constraint, I we can only reflect on the “Prayer of Generosity” briefly.  First, let us note that the last line of the prayer that says, “save that of knowing I do Your Most Holy Will” tells us that, the whole prayer is about seeking and serving and living God’s Holy Will in our lives.

So, how do we live God’s Will?  St Ignatius tells us to seek the “Lord, to teach us to be Generous.”  “Generosity” we know is a giving, a sharing and a living that is not compelled or forced upon us, but comes from our heart of hearts.

The prayer then challenges us to “Serve God as He Deserves” . . . this is recognising that Goodness of God who has given us abundant gifts and blessings in our lives: the gifts of life, our faith, our family, our whole of creation and the universe . . . In response for such gifts, we should rightly, show God our gratitude by serving Him with all the abundant gifts that we have received from Him . . . out of love for Him and for His Greater Glory!

  
                     2014  Newly Baptised - RCIA (above) and RCIY (below)
  

On this Easter night, this is particularly appropriate for those who have received the Gift of faith in Baptism and have become sons and daughters of God the Father.

      
                    Reception into Full Communion with the Catholic Church

For those Christian brothers and sisters who are now received into full communion with our Catholic Church, you too have much to thank God; as you can now receive the fullness of God’s graces through the Sacraments of the Church that Jesus has instituted.

For those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation tonight, you too should all give praise and thanks to God with all your heart for the power of the Spirit to help you grow from being a good person to becoming a holy person of God.  
And, for those of us who have been Catholics for many years and from birth, we too in the renewal of our faith, should re-affirm that we will not be contented with being just another “good person” on this earth, but will strive more sincerely to become a holier person through accepting Our Risen Lord’s invitation to seek and live His Father’s Will passionately.

      
                            Receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation

As I have run out of time . . . let me quote the rest of the prayer of St Ignatius as he says that in living God’s Will passionately, we are called to “Give and not to count the costs, fight and not to heed the wounds, toil and not to seek for rest, labour and not to seek for reward . . .”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as I draw our reflection to a conclusion, let me remind ourselves that in St Ignatius’s vision of who God is for us . . . God is the Creator, Lord and Saviour and the Spirit of the Risen Christ who lives and labours in the very centre of our joys and trials of life, totally, selflessly and personally.  We too are likewise expected to live the radical spirituality of responding with deep gratitude in our hearts . . . thus, the “Prayer of Generosity”.

As such, I leave you with the Spirit of the Risen Christ to discern how to live God’s Will in His radical challenge for you and I to “give, fight, toil and labour in our daily living . . .

Let us dare to open our hearts to such a radical and unconditional love for God.  We are each called to trust that God who loves us will always give us the graces and strength to live the joyful and fulfilling life that He Wills of us.  To respond to such a call is to experience the profound and deep grace of tonight’s Easter celebration of the Risen Christ and to grow from being a good person into becoming the holy person that God Wills of you and me.

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

                  

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