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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hype vs Joy

It must be quite the movie! Among the lead storylines in newscasts these days is the extraordinary response to the new Star Wars film. Great hype! Fans are queuing in long - very long - lines for hours, dressed in costume (!), sometimes to watch not only the new movie but all the earlier versions as well. Personally, I think it has been more than thirty years since I've seen any version of this Star Wars genre, but I must say that all this excitement is making me curious. Might even get out to see it over the Christmas break.

It is instructive to compare this excitement with that which imbues the Scripture readings we heard proclaimed on Sunday. In these passages we find a real excitement which is anything but hype. It is, rather, the excitement which bursts forth from a deep-seated joy.

In the teaching of Scripture, we are engaged in a real and very serious "Star Wars", if you will. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul puts it bluntly: "For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph 6: 10-12) Such a struggle has been marking and marring human history since the Fall of Adam and Eve, and is far beyond limited and weak human strength to engage. From this we can understand the reason for the joy we encounter in the Scriptural readings. Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist are responding to the awareness of the presence in their midst of the long-awaited Saviour, the one sent to save the world from sin and liberate it from the tyranny of darkness. No wonder there is such joy! God has remembered his promise of mercy, and is visiting his people in the person of the child to be born of Mary!

Mary has just received the annunciation from Gabriel that she would give birth to the Saviour. Moved by joy, she rushes to visit Elizabeth, who greets her with a response of joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even the child John in her womb leaps for joy! This is a response to something real. The hype at the movie theatres is a reaction to fantasy, and is therefore superficial and short-lived. The response to the message of salvation, on the other hand, is deep, lasting and unshakeable, when we realize it is actually true! No fantasy here. God has truly heard the pleas of his people and come to us.

What, in fact, is the nature of this response? Here let's turn to Mary. Of her, Elizabeth exclaimed: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." (Luke 1:45). The response to the announcement of salvation is faith - belief that God means what he says and will do what he promises. The ultimate foundation for our joy is the fidelity of God, of God who loves us beyond all telling and who ceaselessly bestows his great mercy upon us.