Dear brothers and sisters,
For the past seven weeks we have kept the Easter Candle here in the sanctuary, lighting it every time we have celebrated Mass. The living flame of the Easter Candle reminded us that Christ is alive, that he rose from the dead just as the sun rises each morning to put an end to the darkness of the night. The tall, white candle with a burning flame on top reminded us of God's faithfulness throughout all of history. It symbolized the two miraculous pillars – smoke by day and fire by night – that had guided the ancient Israelites out of Egypt, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Now it is Christ, the Risen Lord, who is our pillar of smoke and pillar of fire, our sure guide out of slavery to sin, through this world of trials and temptations, and into the Promised Land of Heaven. After today, we remove the Easter Candle from our sanctuary. Until next Easter, we will only use it during baptism ceremonies, when Christ's risen life is given for the first time to new members of the Church, and in funeral liturgies, when the Church prays for the deceased to be received into the fullness of Christ’s light. Does the removal of the Easter Candle mean that Christ is no longer among us? No! The sanctuary lamp beside the Tabernacle reminds us that Christ hasn’t gone on vacation. Rather, today is Pentecost, the day when Christ’s risen life was entrusted to the Church by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who descended like tongues of fire on the Apostles nine days after Christ has ascended into heaven. That new season in the life of the Church is paralleled by our new liturgical season, Ordinary Time, when we take the Easter Candle out of the sanctuary, because we ourselves become living Easter Candles, burning flames of wisdom, pillars of Christian faith and love spreading Christ’s hope in the world.
Congratulations to our 41 young people who receive today the Sacrament of Confirmation. Many thanks to their parents and catechists who have prepared them for this moment. May they continue to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit within them as they go forward as fully initiated members of the Body of Christ.