A word that we often hear during the Easter season is ALLELUIA. We have heard it often enough. But what does it mean? In fact, it comes from the Hebrew and means “All of you, praise God.” The root verb is HALLEL which means “praise.” The letter “u” at the end of the verb makes the verb plural. The “YAH” at the end of the word is short for YHWH, the proper name of God.
So it is that the feast of the Lord’s resurrection becomes a time for “praising” God. In reality there are many ways of praising God. For example we have the case of Peter who shifted his relationship with Jesus. During Jesus’ trial, Peter denied knowing him. And after Jesus’ resurrection Peter made a shift in his relationship with Jesus from denial to proclaiming him to others. (Acts 2:14-36) This shift from denial to proclamation was an act of “praising” God.
In the Gospel for Easter Sunday (John 20:1-9) Mary Magdalen came and saw the empty tomb. She ran and told the disciples that the tomb was empty and possibly someone had taken the body. Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb and found it empty.
BUT, they also saw the burial cloths nearby and realized that no one had taken the body. Something special had happened. They “saw and believed.” Everything that Jesus had told them about himself during his public life was true, especially his death and resurrection. This seeing and believing was their way of “praising” God.
How are we able to “praise” God? What will be our way of giving ALLELUIA to the Lord? Actually, there are many ways. The first would be an awareness of noting that every time that we come across the word “alleluia,” either at Mass or while reading, we can reflect on the many possibilities that exist for “praising” God. We can praise God in silence by deepening our prayer life. Even extending continuous silent conversation with God, expresssing our thanks for the many blessings that we have received, is a form of praise.
But I think that we can praise God much the same way that Peter and John did in the Gospel for Easter Sunday (John 20:1-9). Peter appeared to have a shifting relationship with Jesus. Before the resurrection, Peter denied Jesus during his trial. After the resurrction, Peter affirmed Jesus beause of what he saw in the empty tomb. This turn-around was a form of praising God. In truth, we also have a “shifting relationship” with Jesus. Whenever we sin, we are denying Jesus. Affirmation comes about when we ask forgiveness. This turn-around for us (from denial to affirmation) is a form of praising God.
Peter and John visited the empty tomb but they observed the burial cloths lying to one side. They concluded that the body of Jesus had not been stolen. The Gospel text strongly suggests that by that observation, Peter and John saw and believed. They began to understand what Jesus had said of himslf before the passion, death, and resurrection.
In our case, the more able we are to manage our relationship with Jesus, and the stronger our belief in Jesus, the better able we will be in our proclamation of Jesus.
Consequently, whenever we read/mention ALLELUIA, which means, “All of you, praise God,” we become aware of praising God not only in gratitude for our many gifts received, but also in prayer, in guarding our relationship with Jesus, and the growth of our belief in Jesus and in what he did.