Once again, we sing, “Alleluia!” this weekend – an acclamation of praise and rejoicing that we have not heard in our liturgies since before Ash Wednesday. Perhaps it is because winter seems to be hanging on too long, or maybe because the news of the world is so depressing, but “Rejoice!” is not the word I’d use to express my inner most feelings of late. We hear of the unending attacks on the beleaguered citizens of Syria, Nigeria and Myanmar, the shooting deaths of innocent children and adults with mind-numbing regularity and the ever-expanding revelations of abuse, harassment and discrimination based on gender, race and religion by those in positions of authority. Discerning which of our designated leaders we can believe or trust has never been more confusing. So where in this mess does our Easter call to “Rejoice!” fit in? What possible relevance does Jesus’ rising from the dead over 2000 years ago have in our modern world?
The answer lies in our greatest belief as Christians; that the resurrection of Jesus is not just a marvel of the past, nor is it only a promise of heavenly life after death. No, it is the belief the resurrected Christ is within each and every one of us, right now, right here, each and every day! His resurrection promises that in every darkness we encounter, light is possible. For every fear we experience, hope is possible. For every despairing spirit, joy and mercy are possible. It is a promise that for every empty tomb in our life, there is a promise of renewed life in Christ.
“Christ is alive!” Pope Francis said in his 2017 Easter Vigil homily. “Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened…The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as leaven of new humanity.” In other words, when we live as though hope, mercy or love are not possible, we have not fully understood the “salvation” Jesus offers; we have left unopened the gift of his death and resurrection.
So, what relevance can our Easter celebration possibly have in today’s seemingly “dysfunctional” world? We rejoice in the conviction that no matter how dire our own lives and the situations in our world may seem, life and renewed hope are possible because of the “heartbeat of the Risen Lord” within us all and that works through every act of love, act of joy, act of justice or act of mercy we do in faith, no matter how small. The risen Christ within us all has the power to accomplish what no individual can do on their own; resurrecting light from darkness, hope from fear and joy from despair. God is alive and working through all of us who believe. This is indeed reason to rejoice! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!