[A 3 minute read for Holy Saturday]
I’d had a bad day, needed some cheering up. So someone who cared said, ‘Come on, let’s go to the cinema, that will make you feel happier.’ Three hours later, I emerged from seeing the movie Titanic, and jokingly thanked my friend for cheering me up by showing me a movie whose climax was hundreds of people plunging to their death, with the tragic love story of Rose and Jack intertwined. Actually, the climax of the tale is rather richer. As the centenarian Rose looks back over her life and of her falling in love which ended in death, she says of her dead love, “You see, he saved me in every way possible that a person can be saved.”
And so to the great water adventure of the Exodus which colours and interprets so much of what we celebrate on this holy night. As the Israelites are led through safety and freedom through the waters of the Red Sea, those who pursue them plunge into the waters and are drowned. This Exodus forms the heart of the Jewish Passover, and gives meaning to our Easter celebrations and our life with Christ. On this night, the liturgical celebrations draw us to fire and water. These are such human inclinations – to gather around the warmth of a flame or to be drawn to the water’s edge. Tonight, around the fire, we tell stories, the story of our Salvation, beginning at the creation of the world when God hovers over the waters of chaos bringing life and order. Then there is the great flood of Noah’s time when he and his family are saved, and the Exodus story at the heart of proceedings. The invitation in Isaiah to ‘Come to the water all who are thirsty,” and the staggering words from St Paul’s letter to the Romans which declares that “when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.’ Tonight, we celebrate the power of God’s love and his desire to save us. We return to the waters of baptism to reaffirm the promises made at our own baptism when we were buried with Christ so that we may walk with him in newness of life.
Throughout time, God has called a people to himself and, in so many and different ways, reached out to them, continued to call them back to him, to save them. Finally, he has sent his Son whose death has torn the curtain which divides us. Having been raised from the dead, Christ will never die again. Pope John Paul II once addressed a large group of young people in Manilla for World Youth Day. Faced by so many young people with all their plans and dreams and ambitions for the future, he said, “Remember you have been made to live with God for ever.” This is our hope. This is our destiny. This is what we celebrate on this holy night. Perhaps of Jesus, then, we can most perfectly say, “You see, he saved us in every way possible that a person can be saved.” Happy Sailing!