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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

Even the Bees!

In tonight’s Mass, which is rightly called the greatest Mass of our year, we hear the dramatic story of salvation, which reaches its climax in the story of the empty tomb of Jesus, who has risen from the dead. This is a night when we hear of our heroes, and of THE HERO, whose resurrection is the beginning of new life for all who believe in Him.  This is a night, when we celebrate our union with Christ through Baptism, and when we open our arms and welcome new members of the Body of Christ. Together, we are following an auspicious list of personalities who have captivated history.


But all that is only possible because Jesus came first – and went first, as well.  Jesus is the firstborn from the dead – the one whose resurrection is the beginning of the new age wherein you and I now have access to life eternal. This is the Good News of Easter, the Good News that we can proclaim with great joy: Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross, is risen! Alleluia! This is what this Vigil witnesses for us.


I hope you listened to the Exsultet – to the words.  It is a mysterious and beautiful prayer – a proclamation of the salvation that God has effected in our world and for us. All of the words of our liturgy this night are significant, as they related the story of the victory of Christ and why that matters for each of us.


However, I would like to point to one particular part of the Exsultet that has always caught my attention:


On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,

accept this candle, a solemn offering,

the work of bees …

But now we know the praises of this pillar,

which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,

a fire into many flames divided,

yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,

for it is fed by melting wax,

drawn out by mother bees

to build a torch so precious.

 

Why is all that attention focused on bees?  This is the great proclamation of the Resurrection and Christ’s victory over sin and death, and there in the midst of it we are hearing about bees and their little work. Does that seem odd? What do bees – of all things – have to do with the celebration of Easter, and of the wonderful salvation that you and I have gained through Jesus?


This sublime liturgy, the “vigil of all vigils,” speaks of the depth of God’s love. This love is what created the universe and everything it contains – an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. … all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds. It is the love that called Israel out of slavery in Egypt and led them dry shod across the Red Sea.  It is the love that offers sustenance to all, regard less of their ability to pay, a love that calls us to come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!


This same love is that which gives us new life in Christ through our baptism and incorporation into His Body, the Church. That love, which raised Jesus on the third day.  This is the love of which our liturgy speaks tonight. And along with the Scriptures, the Easter Proclamation of the Exsultet speaks as well.


The message of the Exsultet – of all those little people in the readings – of the “bees” – is that in God’s plan of salvation there are no unimportant players.  No one is unimportant to God – not the immigrant, not the child in the womb or her scared mother, not an elderly person who is living out his last days, not even the bees who make the wax for our candle. No one.


And there is nothing that will separate us from that love.  Not the threat of the Red Sea, not hunger or thirst, not the hardships of life, not war – not even death itself – will keep God away from us. Even as those little, unimportant bees have a special role in the Exsultet, so too do you and I have a special role in God’s plan of salvation.  Together, we are united with Jesus in our Baptism, when in these waters we died and were buried with Him, and we also come up from the waters and rise to new life with Him. God wants that for you!


Like the little bees, we are drawn to the sweetness of Christ’s light and given the gifts of grace and faith to share His light with others.  These new brothers and sisters, who will join us in Christ’s Church tonight, they are invited to that same life. No matter where you have come from, friends – no matter what hardships you have endured to this point, no matter what your sins have been – Jesus opens His arms for you tonight and welcomes you to new life.


And also like the bees, we are not to keep this life for ourselves alone.  No.  We are charged with the same duty as the apostles, as the women at the tomb of the Lord, who were sent to the others. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter,  ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”


At the start of our Mass tonight, the deacon and the choir proclaimed that beautiful Exsultet.  We stood in awe, with our candles lit and waiting.  Now, my friends, it is our turn.  We are the ones who must proclaim that Good News.


This is the night, 

when Christ broke the prison-bars of death

and rose victorious from the underworld. …

May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star:

the one Morning Star who never sets,

Christ your Son,

who, coming back from death's domain, 

has shed his peaceful light on humanity,

and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

 

That is the Good News of Easter – news that we cannot keep to ourselves.  Jesus Christ is the Risen One! It is what Christians have proclaimed since that first Easter, and it has brought joy to so many. This is what you and I are charged to share with the world, no matter how unimportant we may feel. Each of us, we are redeemed by the Resurrection of Jesus. He rose for you! And now it is our task to announce that news to the world.  It is what God wills for us – all of us, even the bees!

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