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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To Shake With Joy

As the Exsultet was proclaimed at the Easter Vigil we heard this summons: “let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples!” That is an arresting image! Easter announces joy, it summons to joy, a joy that should reverberate not only within our sacred buildings but also throughout our cities and world. Jesus is risen! The joy that inhabits us is the joy of redemption. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been set free from all that holds us in bondage, we have been forgiven our sins, we have been restored to life and have been given the real hope of eternal life. God’s will is life, the fullness of life, for the people he has created.

I love the many readings from Sacred Scripture at the Vigil. What a banquet! Their beautiful words speak in many ways of God’s will that we live. In the beginning, God formed light from darkness, order from chaos, beauty from nothingness and then created all forms of life, above all human life, and gave the means for that life to continue and multiply. God’s will is life. When we wandered away from him he intervened to rescue us from oppression and slavery and from our own sins. He sent prophets to call us back and to remind us of his love. Through them he promised that he would so act as to cleanse us from our sins and give us new hearts. God’s will is life. Finally, in an act of ineffable love, to save us from death forever, he sent us his Son. By his passion and death, Jesus took upon himself the sins of humanity and in reparation for them offered the gift of his very self! His resurrection from the dead was the Father’s acceptance of this self-gift, the forgiveness of sin and the reversal of its consequences. God’s will is life! He has given us life in creating us; he has given us the hope of unending life in redeeming us by the resurrection of his Son.

So, indeed, “let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples!”

In the Gospel account for the Vigil we heard that the resurrection itself was accompanied by a mighty shaking, namely, that of an earthquake. An earthquake is something terrifying. The foundation of the earth itself shifts, things split apart and there can be great destruction. The soldiers who witnessed this shook, but with fear. We are called to shake with joy! The resurrection of Jesus is, indeed, an earthquake. It does shift the world’s very foundations, because it changes the foundation of every human life, moving us to the core. The foundation is no longer love of self and the sin it engenders, but the love of God and his mercy. This earthquake causes to crumble all the barriers we set up in our lives to separate us from God and from one another, and from out of this necessary destruction arises the beautiful and indestructible edifice we call the Church, the Body of Christ. This is the holy building that must shake with joy. I would be thrilled to see that holy building, which is God’s people, shake with the joy of the redemption and allow that joy to reverberate everywhere. There is no more effective annunciation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than the witness of joy in the hearts and voices of his people.