By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Encounter that Changes Everything

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
These words from the Exsultet capture beautifully the message of the Church as she announces the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Joy and light replace sorrow and darkness. This is what happens when we encounter the Risen Lord! Mary Magdalene serves as an example.

The Gospel of Easter Sunday recounts her journey to the tomb following the death and burial of Jesus. What the narrative describes of her could well be posited of all humanity. Her experience is ours.

Mary is searching for her Lord. So are all of us. The human heart seeks happiness, truth, and peace. Since only God can satisfy this thirst, this longing is ultimately a quest for God.

Mary is weeping. So, too, is humanity. Hers are tears of grief, which will come to each of us at the death of loved ones. Yet we also mourn the pain and suffering of friends, the tragedy of poverty and homelessness, or the anguish of refugees and victims of war and trafficking.

Mary is perplexed. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Confusion and lack of understanding darken the human mind of today. Ceaselessly bombarded by multiple, rapid-fire and superficial communication, we are losing focus, and with it the ability to think deeply. Breathtaking changes in biotechnology, the capricious volatility of the markets, the fragile and dangerous state of world politics – these impact our lives in significant ways, yet are very hard to understand. Beneath all this is a widespread loss of a moral compass. Each one seems abandoned to determining for oneself what is right and wrong, which leads to societal confusion and tension. We wonder: What is happening? How did we ever get to this point?

Finally, Mary does not recognize Jesus. She fails at first to grasp the truth of his presence, even as she addresses him. The same can be said of our world today. In society there is a widespread eclipsing of God from public life. Even in our personal lives we can act as if God is not present, or does not exist, even as we profess belief in him. Have we in fact stopped believing that the Lord is truly present with us?

Everything changes when Jesus calls Mary by name. The search ends; tears of sorrow become tears of joy; confusion gives way to clarity. This is what happens when we encounter the Lord and recognize the signs of his presence. We know that we are known; we know that we are loved; we know that we are safe. From this encounter with the Lord arises a deep peace that the world cannot give. “Peace be with you,” were the words Jesus spoke to his apostles. He speaks them also to us.

Exsultet! The Lord is risen! He is with us! Be at peace.