Our forty days of Lenten penance have come to an end. We sing again the joyful Alleluia.
Did you ever wonder what the word Alleluia means? Perhaps you already know. It comes from the Hebrew hallal, meaning praise the Lord. We praise God with joy and gratitude, especially at Easter. We rejoice that Christ has conquered death, that He is risen from the dead. We can repeat with Saint Paul his taunt of death: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Death is now like a bee without a stinger. Its stinger is lodged in the body of the crucified and risen Christ. And so we sing Praise the Lord, Alleluia!
We sing Alleluia at Easter because of the new life, the divine life, we have received through Baptism. The power of Christ’s Resurrection touches us in all the sacraments, beginning with Baptism when we were buried into Christ’s death and risen up with Him, becoming new creatures, adopted children of God. At the Easter Vigil, in our diocese and in churches throughout the world, men and women (catechumens) will be incorporated into the Church through Baptism and become our brothers and sisters in Christ. And so we sing with joy, Alleluia!
Pope Francis has called us to be joyful missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus. It’s not just a matter of singing Alleluia at Mass. We need to live the joy of Easter in our lives. Regarding the mission of evangelization, our Holy Father wrote: an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral. Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… (Evangelii Gaudium #10).
As believers in the Resurrection of Jesus, our hearts should be joyful. Pope Francis writes: There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter (EV 6). This exhortation to joy doesn’t mean a superficial kind of happiness, but an interior joy, the joy that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is a joy that endures even in the midst of suffering and trials. We see this deep spiritual joy in the lives of the Church’s martyrs. They were witnesses not only of the death of Christ, but also of His Resurrection. They sang alleluia in their hearts as they faced death.
The Gospel at the Easter Vigil this year is Saint Matthew’s account of the angel announcing to the two women at the tomb: He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said. Saint Matthew tells us that they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to His disciples. This is the missionary joy we are all called to have as we strive to bear witness to the Risen Christ in the ordinary circumstances of our life.
As Christ’s Church, as a community and as individuals, we are called by the Lord to go forth to bring the joy of the Gospel to all. The Lord will help us to overcome any fear. We should fear more “not going out” to others, not being missionary disciples. By its nature, the Church is missionary, a Church which goes forth. It must not be turned in on itself. Such self-centeredness is a sign of selfishness and spiritual sloth.
May the Holy Spirit fill us with joy and renewed ardor born of Christ’s resurrection, that we may bring to all the Good News of Our Lord’s triumph over death! Alleluia! Happy Easter!