"Alleluia!" Rise and Shine!
This is our acclamation today, as we see Jesus risen from the dead, death and sin defeated, and eternal life opened for us all.
But it’s more than an acclamation; it’s an invitation.
Perhaps you know that the word “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord!” However, I would like to share with you the full meaning of the word. “Alleluia” comes from a combination of the Hebrew words for God’s name, “Yah” and the verb “Hâlal,” which means “to praise, commend, boast, or shine.” Place them together, and we get “Hallelujah!” We wait all of Lent to be able to say this word, and on Easter, it is the triumphant cry of the Church.
As I said, it is not simply an acclamation and a cry of praise; it is an invitation to all of us, the People of God, to praise – and more than that: to shine!! “Alleluia: People of God, won for the Father by Christ’s rising from the dead, People of God, gathered in His name here, now, and everywhere, People of God, shine!” The Easter cry of Alleluia is not only directed at the Lord Jesus, it is directed to us! We are called to praise; we are called to shine brilliantly!
And there is good reason to do so. As we hear proclaimed in the Exsultet, “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld…. O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.” We are united with Jesus in His victory, and because of His resurrection we have access to heaven and eternal life. This is what we celebrate today of all days, but also every day as Christians.
This is the life to which Jesus calls us, even in our sin, even in our brokenness, even in our unworthiness, because now, all is grace! In an ancient homily, one holy preacher put it like this, speaking of Christ’s descent into Hell and His greeting of Adam there:
“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.”
We were not made for darkness; we were not made to be prisoners, and we were not made to be dull! Certainly, today, we can see the effects of sin and darkness in our world. We are all affected by it – even the Holy Church Herself. However, that same Church is the beautiful Bride of Christ, and He still chooses her – every day. He chooses you, your sins notwithstanding; and He calls to you as you cry Alleluia to Him: Shine, my children! Shine for Me! Even a dirty lightbulb can shine brilliantly.
And God’s grace is fully active here. There is no need to be afraid of anything or anyone. Jesus speaks to us: “Do not be afraid. Go…” Go, friends, go and shine; live your Alleluia now and always. Because, as St. John Paul II liked to say, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.” Live your faith boldly. Love your enemies; forgive those who hurt you; serve one another; give to the poor and hungry; recognize the marginalized and honor Christ present in them. Pass that Alleluia along to them, as we have passed the light from the Paschal Candle. The world should now be set ablaze with disciples of Jesus, shining as we praise His victory and His love.
“Awake, O sleeper. Rise from the dead. And shine with the glory of Jesus that has been placed in you.
Alleluia: it’s more than an acclamation; it’s an invitation. As we praise Jesus for His victory and Resurrection, He echoes that cry back to you: “Alleluia: Rise, and shine!”