Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all of you!
5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
March 25/26, 2023
Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 1:11-45
There comes a time when every man and woman desperately needs the felt presence of God. There comes a time when we too pray, like Mary did in the Gospel, “Lord, if you had been here this wouldn’t have happened!” I know; I’ve been there.
Human nature hasn’t changed. Life’s challenges and questions haven’t changed much either over the centuries. Whether now, or 2000 years ago, or 2000 years in the future, humanity is confronted with the same questions and realities of life. Foremost among them are “Does God really exist? Is he present when all seems lost? What is death? Is there eternal life? Will we rise from the dead?”
The people of Jesus’ time asked these questions, and so will we — all of us in some way or another. We will wonder: “Is what we profess to believe really true? Are the promises of Jesus real?”
The people in today’s Gospel — many we were told, but not all — did come to believe after Lazarus was raised from the dead, after seeing with their own eyes life after death.
Jesus wept out of love for his friend Lazarus. We must weep with love for our friends and loved ones. We must weep in hope of the resurrection. We must weep in faith, believing that God can and will raise them, and that death never has the last say. God does.
But like all of humanity, when we are confronted with the reality of death, sickness, injustice, poverty, confusion, violence, and so much more, we have the same questions, the same struggle to believe, to hope, and to love: “Lord, if you had been here, death, illness and pain would not have happened. You cared for others; why did you not care for me and my family?”
Think about a time when you were desperate and alone. Think about a time when you lost someone you deeply loved. Think about a time when your grief, your fear, and your anger darkened your soul with doubt.
Perhaps that original sin of Adam, which has affected us all, was in part seeing death and illness, poverty and injustice, and all the other things with which we struggle, as the end of the story and the absence of God. Maybe the sin of Adam leads us to question why God allows suffering and death. Maybe it leads us to question his promise of eternal life, or indeed if he even cares.
Maybe this is our greatest challenge: seeing death and misfortune as the beginning of a new life and abundant grace and not the end of the story or the conclusion of the book. Who would have ever thought that Lazarus would come out alive, after four days in tomb? Maybe death and illness are not the real issues. Maybe what really counts is believing that love and life are always present.
Here is the pearl you can take home and ponder. Here is the pearl of every Lent and the joy of Easter: Every death, every illness, every misfortune, every disappointment that you experience is a moment of grace. Every death, illness, misfortune and disappointment is a moment when the power of God breaks through. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is outside God’s will. He allows all those things we abhor only to reveal his love and his power over them. We cannot thwart God’s will; we cannot stop his love. We can reject it at great peril to ourselves and our eternal destiny, but we cannot thwart it. God wills life after death. The raising of Lazarus clearly show us that God’s power and love breaks through the darkness of the tomb and brings new life to us.
This is what we remember in Lent, and especially during Holy Week. Yes, Jesus suffered and died, but that is only the beginning chapter of the book. The Crucifixion was the moment when God’s power over death was revealed, and his death led to new life. So too it will be for all of us, if we are faithful to God. Death is real, but God has redeemed it and has made it the portal, the door, into new life and love and happiness for all eternity. That is the end of the story and the conclusion of the book! May God be praised!