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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Very Welcome Breach

Lately in the news we've been hearing a lot about Facebook. What has caught everyone's attention is the enormous privacy breach that has occurred. Personal data has been harvested, and then exploited for commercial and perhaps even political gain. Privacy is important to us and we rightly expect it to be honoured. Our assumption is that firewalls will be built up around our personal information to protect it from predatory practices. That wall, however, has been breached, and many people are justifiably outraged.

Easter is all about a breach, the crossing of a boundary. This, though, is a breach that fills us not with righteous indignation but unbounded joy.

Ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve, humanity has been steadily building a wall, a barrier of separation, between ourselves and God. The wall grows higher and thicker each time we repeat in our own lives their sin of refusing to trust in the love and providence of God and to rely instead upon ourselves. The foundation of the wall is the lie that we do not need God. By surrendering to that falsehood and building the barrier upon it, we end up barricaded in upon ourselves. The result is tragic. The barrier closes out God's light, and in the ensuing moral darkness we lose sight of the truth of things and end up doing great harm to ourselves and others.  We need this wall to be breached if we are truly to live. We need the barrier to be destroyed if we are once again to live in communion with the love of God. Yet, our experience shows clearly that this is something only God can do. On our own we succeed only in building the wall higher.

The great news of Easter is that God has breached the boundary, that God has acted to destroy, indeed, to pulverize the wall constructed by our sin. He did this definitively by raising Jesus from the dead. As we ponder this, our hearts are filled not only with joy but also with astonishment at the way God has acted. God does not need any tech company to harvest our personal data and create personality profiles. He knows us through and through, better than we know ourselves. He is God, after all, the One who has created us. The personal information of each of us, indeed of all humanity through the ages - the stories of our sins, mistakes, failures and betrayals, of all the things that we regret, and from which we cannot break free as long as we are enclosed within our self-imposed barricade - is known immediately to God. He acted upon this information not to exploit but to save us. He sent his Son to become one of us, Jesus, so that he could take all of that "data", the whole history of human sinfulness, in order to erase it forever. By his willing submission to death on a cross, Jesus took to himself our sins. By rising from the dead, he nullified their power, destroying even death itself, so that we all might live again in communion with the very life of God. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the wall has been breached, and we are set free! No wonder the Church cries out, "Alleluia!"

The breaking down of the wall happened uniquely in Jesus. It remains for the liberating power of his death and resurrection to take hold in each of us. How does that happen?

Consider again the Facebook scandal. It has angered millions because the data harvesting and exploitation occurred without users' permission, an act that violates human dignity. Well, God will never act in our lives without our permission. In creating us, God has bestowed upon us the gift of freedom. In redeeming us, he acts in accord with that gift by respecting our freedom absolutely. We give God permission by choosing to believe, by the act of faith. When we turn to God in faith and in repentance for our sins, his love breaks down the wall by the power of his mercy, and his light and grace come rushing in to transform our lives. The more we each do this, the more we shall also find that the walls that separate us from one another - the barriers of hatred and injustice - will themselves come crashing down so that all can live in the harmony and peace God intends for his children.

Everything hangs upon our decision to believe, upon our choice to live in joyful dependence upon the love and power of God. This is why we renew the act of faith every Easter Sunday. With the help of God's grace, we re-affirm our faith, we profess once again our belief in God, and are thereby renewed in the joy that comes from seeing the barrier breached and the opening up before us of the gift of eternal life.