Some time ago, a friend of mine had the amazing experience of chanting the Exsultet during the Easter Vigil. Different forms of this prayer have been sung during the Easter Vigil since the seventh century. My friend sang this prayer as he celebrated the six month-anniversary of his sobriety. Only a very few of his friends were aware that he was celebrating this milestone. As the incense wafted around the ambo during his proclamation, I could not help thinking that the “cloud” represented the presence of God within the temple!
He chanted, “O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!” Tears gently fell from my eyes. His proclamation of this ageless prayer, for me, exemplified what the Resurrection is all about: through the mercy and love of God, we are made new. We are resurrected from death and sin not only by Jesus’ death on the cross, but also by what happened in the tomb.
I can see you nodding as you read this. However, have you ever thought about the fact that as we celebrate Easter, the anniversary of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live in a world that still experiences death, war, addiction, racism and an entire multitude of other evils? How can we truly understand what the resurrected Christ can tell us? The one thing that we can understand is the transformative power of love in the world. Isn’t this what the Resurrection stories show us – the power of that love?
Consider: “In his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis gives us a possible understanding. In his closing prayer, he writes: ‘Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel, discovering Christ in each human being, recognizing him crucified in the sufferings of the abandoned and forgotten of our world, and risen in each brother or sister who makes a new start.’
This beautiful prayer suggests at least part of what the crucifixion and empty tomb are trying to show us. First, in the crucifixion, we see that God is suffering in and with us humans as we suffer – in all our human crucifixions of racism, injustice, poverty, oppression, violence, abandonment, misunderstanding, mean-spiritedness, and hate. And then, in the Resurrection, we see that God is rising with every brother or sister whenever they rise and make a new start.”1
Another way of looking at this is: In the resurrected form, His closest friends did not recognize Him. His living body still had wounds that were open; you could put your fingers in them! These wounds were not wounds of the horror of the event that happened on Friday. Nope. Not in the least! These wounds were not reminders of what happened; they were transformed into proof of His unselfish, self-emptying love for us!
As my friend journeyed through the 12 Steps of AA, and continues to even today, he voiced to me that he discovered a “silver lining” to his addiction. He learned up close and personal about the gift and grace of being an addict. He learned about God’s mercy and love even when he was too drunk to accept it! He also discovered that if he was “true” to the program, God could use his brokenness to not only help others, but to be patient and forgiving of others. After all, we pray in the Our Father, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.” God has forgiven us, and we are called to live that out.
This is a message that’s certainly something to be exultant about!
1Knipper, J. J., ed. Hungry, and you fed me: Homilies and reflections for Cycle C. Clear Vision Publishing. (2012). pg. 90.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness