29 March 20205 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A - John 11:1-45

A patient asked Dr Karl Menninger what he should do if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on. He expected the famous psychiatrist to respond, "Call me immediately." Instead, he said, "Go out and find somebody in trouble and help that person."

I go to many funerals. It goes with the job. Often a dead man's friend gives a eulogy. Invariably he says, "We come here not to mourn a death but celebrate a life." I say to myself, "Buddy, if you're not mourning, you're in the wrong church." Jesus shed copious tears at Lazarus' tomb. He wasn't celebrating his life. One wag said, "Christ cried so loudly He woke Lazarus up."

This Gospel reveals much about the generosity of Lazarus and his sisters toward Jesus. He overnighted with them often. He felt their home was His house. "Nuestra casa tu casa." There He could chill out. They would summon Him to a lasagne and chianti supper after a nap. They would spend the evening playing Scrabble. Next day He would leave refreshed.

It could be said of this family what Wordsworth's friend said of him after his death, "Thou had for weary feet the gift of rest." We would do well to copy their style. In the Bethany family's case, the guest was the Christ. We shall have to be satisfied with a surrogate Christ. "Be not loath to entertain strangers," wrote Paul, "for thereby some have entertained Christ unawares."

Also, when Jesus received the sisters' messenger asking Him to return to Bethany, there was a price on His head. It would be unhealthy for Him to return behind enemy lines. Yet, He rolled up His sleeping bag and moved out of the mountain's safety.

Lazarus was in trouble. He would go to his side no matter the consequences to His person. He believed Woody Allen's dictum that showing up is two-thirds of life. This beau geste says much about the character of Christ. It tells us that we can expect the same consideration from Him also. It suggests He would have us help others in trouble. A sorrow shared, said Shakespeare, is a sorrow halved. You know now whose game plan Dr Menninger was following.

The Lazarus story informs us that the Savior hated death. His weeping is evidence of that. Jesus reveals to us that God is upset when nasty things happen to people whether saints or sinners.

Jesus is the God of life and not of death. He came to do battle with death and vanquish it. Ezekiel today tells us this welcome message from God. "I will open your graves and have you rise..."

If we comprehend the Lord with another mind-frame, then we are stuck with a faux Jesus. The genuine Christ longs for the hour when death will go belly up for each of us.

Check what Jesus says to Martha. "I am the resurrection and the life." The Galilean emphasizes He is the God of the living. Why do we keep saying over corpses lying in our middle aisles, "Eternal rest grant unto you." Is it not more correct to take our cue from this Gospel and say, "Eternal life grant unto you."? Jesus never said, "I am the resurrection and the rest."

If we think of Heaven as a place to collect bedsores, why not dress the dead in cheap pajamas from Wal-Mart rather than in expensive traveling clothes? Obviously Jesus thinks of Heaven as a place where we go to party hearty and look our best. To make Heaven otherwise is to make it dullsville. No wonder even the best of us are loath to quit this present existence. Who wants to go to a dull party that goes on for eternity?

Martha replies to Christ that she knows her brother will rise down the road. Jesus replies sharply, "I am the resurrection and the life." So, if Jesus becomes the mainstay of our lives, we can experience resurrection in the now and here. Who really wants to wait for a resurrection years away?

We say what Jesus did for Lazarus was super. Was it? In Heaven, every tear is wiped away and all pain removed. Why would Lazarus want to leave paradise and return to earth with all its problems? Furthermore, he would have to die again. Once is enough. I wager an angry Lazarus said to Jesus as he came out of the tomb, "With friends like you, who needs enemies?"

Jacqueline Kennedy, who unhappily for her was an authority on death, said, "The Catholic Church is at its best at the time of death. Its message is that death is not the putting out of light. It is rather turning off the lamp because the dawn has come."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Come Out of the Tomb

The gripping drama of the rising of Lazarus points towards Jesus as the Lord of Life and prepares us for the celebration of our sharing in His Life at Easter.

However, this gospel is more than this.  It is a call for to consider if we are in a tomb.  This gospel asks us to hear the voice of the Lord calling us to shore up our courage and to come out of our tombs.  We are called to come into the Light.  We are called to come to the Life. The gospel calls us to walk to the Lord.

We often put ourselves in tombs.  There are times that we feel very dead, particularly dead to the Lord.  When we are in this spiritual malaise, we do not want to reflect on our lives.  We play a game with the Lord and ultimately with our eternal existence.  The game is this:  If we do not think about what we have done or are doing to ourselves, then we can attempt to overlook our situation.  Only, we cannot really do that, can we?  We can fool others into thinking that we are happy, but we cannot fool ourselves.

So, we get involved in things that are negative, nasty, and sinful.  We tell others that we are happy with this life.  We try to convince ourselves that we are happy with our lives.  But we have a difficult time looking into the mirror.  We have an even more difficult time walking into a church.  And we have a horrible time taking God inside of us, or simply sitting before Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

We try to blame others.  We make believe that they have put us into the tomb.  For example, others have said, "You don't know what you are missing.  Drink this.  Take that. Do this.  Do that.  You will be happy.  Loosen up!  You are the only one at the party who is not drinking.  Everybody is taking X now, why do you think you are so different?  Of course we have sex; you're the only one I know who doesn't."  And with a group around us, with our defenses down perhaps due to various difficulties in our lives we say, "No big deal.  I should try this.  I should do that.  Everybody else is."  Then, the next day, if not sooner, we feel rotten, dirty, even dead.  We can blame others for putting us into the tomb, but ultimately, we did it to ourselves.  We chose sin and suffer from it.

There are also times that we race into a tomb completely on our own, without the temptation of others.  We convince ourselves that this or that is not going to hurt us so much.  And we go places where a Christian does not belong, be those places in the world or within our own rooms, or we do things to ourselves that frustrate ourselves, and then we feel dead.

"Come out, Lazarus!"

Jesus is calling us.  We are all Lazaruses.  He is calling us to come out of the darkness, and come into His Light.  He is calling us to come out of the place of death and come into His Life. In his second book on Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI points out that the early Christians referred to themselves as The Living. That is what we are called to be, alive in an otherwise dead world.

Out of the tomb, into the light, out of the tomb, into His Life we experience indescribable joy.  We are one with Jesus.  We are at peace.  We no longer view others as threats to our happiness.  No, others become a road to happiness as we serve the presence of God within them.  Out of the tomb, away from our sins, we see others as unique reflections of God, as people who can bring us to a deeper understanding of God's love.

So, we ask ourselves today, "Am I happy with myself?  Am I comfortable with my life?  Am I happy with my relationship with God?" Those questions are just different ways of asking the same thing: "Am I alive, or am I dead?"  Or, perhaps, "Is there something that is killing me?"  Maybe, our relationship with others is pretty bad, and we tend to get nasty rather easily.  Maybe we have friends that we try it impress by flaunting our sexuality, by joining them in drinking and drugs.  We do our best to ignore the dying we feel within us, but the dying does not go away because we want it to go away. The way of death only goes away when we choose to walk away from it. 

We ask ourselves today, "Where have I found joy? When has it been in my life that I have been truly happy?  This leads us to focus on the times that our union with Jesus was so intense, so strong, that all we wanted to do was just relax in His Love. 

Lazarus, come out!

We ask God today for the courage to walk away from that which is killing us and to walk towards the voice that is saying, "Leave this place of the dead and live in My Light, in My Love, in My Joy.
From John 3:17

God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that through Him the world may be saved; so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Lent
The Third Scrutiny
(March 29, 2020)

I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis

Bottom line: True life, eternal life is nothing more and nothing less than a personal relation to Jesus.

Today Jesus confronts a terrible reality - death, the death of a friend named Lazarus.

Before considering how Jesus addresses death, I'd like to say a word about how ancient people viewed death. The Greeks saw us as having a place between the gods and the animals. Unlike the gods who are immortal, we must die. The animals die as we do, but they seem unaware of their coming death. We humans, however, live with an awareness of death - our own and those we love.

The prophet Isaiah says death is "the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations." (25:7)

Do we fear death? I don't sense that most people do. I think C.S. Lewis got it right. He used this quote: "I am not so much afraid of death as ashamed of it."* We feel a repugnance for death. We can see that shame or repugnance in our response to the coronavirus. The people of our country and most nations are making extraordinary sacrifices to prevent the death of others - mainly old people like myself.**

The repugnance for death has caused people to adopt an "abundance of caution". Otherwise, we are told, a person could be responsible for someone else's sickness and death.

Jesus himself felt strong emotions in the face of death. When he stood before the grave of his friend, Lazarus, he wept. When his own horrific death approached, he begged the Father to take that chalice from him.

Jesus fought against death by curing people who suffered grievous illness. The Gospels also record three instances of Jesus bringing the dead back to life. He did it as a sign of greater things to come.

First and foremost, Jesus wants to rescue us from spiritual death. Bishop Barron writes that each us "to a degree, is spiritually dead. Maybe you're like Lazarus - four days in your tomb. Maybe you feel there is just no hope for the likes of you."

Bishop Barron continues: "I don't care how far you've fallen. I don't care how dead you are. The voice of Jesus can pull you out of the tomb."

The bishop becomes specific: "Maybe you're sunk in an addiction. Maybe you've done things that you are so ashamed of that you can't even bring yourself to speak of them. Maybe you've fallen out of a relationship with the people you love the most."

There's more: "Maybe you've been a first-class jerk. Maybe you just feel you're a failure. Maybe you're terrified of dying. I don't care. Listen for the voice! 'Untie him and let him go.'"

Yes, Jesus wants to rescue us from spiritual death. But he wants something more. What finally matters is your relation to him. As he tells Martha:
"I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."

Let's sum up: We all recoil from death, but there's something incalculably worse: spiritual death. Jesus tells us that true life, eternal life, is nothing more and nothing less than a personal relation to him - a relation we live in prayer and the sacraments. With that in mind I extend to you the third scrutiny.
"Lord Jesus,
by raising Lazarus from the dead
you showed that you came that we might have life
and have it more abundantly.
Free from the grasp of death
those who await your life-giving sacraments
and deliver them from the spirit of corruption.
Through your Spirit, who gives life,
fill them with faith, hope, and charity,
that they may live with you always
in the glory of your resurrection,
for you are Lord for ever and ever." Amen.
*Here's the full quote: "I am not so much afraid of death, as ashamed thereof. 'Tis the very disgrace and ignominy of our natures, that in a moment can so disfigure us, that our nearest friends, wife, and children, stand afraid and start at us." Sir Thomas Browne
**Even though young people are much less vulnerable if they contract the virus, I am grateful so many have changed their lifestyles in response to the pandemic. What concerns me is how many people, economically vulnerable - like single moms - have lost their jobs.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Lent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Lent

It seems a bit strange that the Church presents us with this gospel reading today on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, it seems to be clearly about the resurrection and yet we haven't got there yet, we are still plodding through Lent and have to get through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday before we get to the resurrection. What's going on; have the Church's liturgical engineers got it all wrong?

Can I suggest that this text is more about death than resurrection? After all, Lazarus isn't walking around today; he had to undergo another death. This text is more about our life and death here and now rather than about the resurrection. We will have time enough to consider the resurrection when we get to Easter Sunday and the weeks of celebration afterwards.

St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, in his book on the Spiritual Exercises suggests that when we come to consider a particular Gospel passage we should put ourselves in the place of each character in turn and use our imagination to see how we would feel in the circumstances. This can be a most revealing exercise.

How about putting yourself in the place of Lazarus? You are dead to everything and then you hear a voice: 'Come out, Lazarus!' You look around and there you are lying in a tomb swathed in bandages and surrounded by darkness.

If we ask ourselves how we would feel the answer, of course, would be different for everyone but I think we might be surprised at how many of us would say: 'Thanks Lord, but I'd prefer to stay where I am.'

By putting ourselves in Lazarus's place we might feel we are unable to move or perhaps we might become aware of how tomb-like our present way of life really is. This exercise might arouse in us a sense of hope; rekindle a longing for freedom which has perhaps been buried for years.

Putting ourselves into the place of a character from scripture can awake all kinds of thoughts within us and lead us to turn to God in prayer with new words on our lips. And yet it is something so simple that we are surprised that we never thought about it ourselves.

I think that this Gospel reading is placed here in Lent to help us to realise that we have to live this life to the full and that it is often only through experiencing death that we are shocked into it. This can happen to us in all sorts of ways; often it can happen through a loss or bereavement, it might be through a religious experience, or a meeting with someone significant. It may be a terrible mistake that we have made or an experience of suffering. It is amazing how often it takes something negative to make us realise how much there is that is truly positive and worth living for.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the great writer and great Christian, was implicated in a plot to assassinate the Tsar of Russia. He was not one of the plotters but he was on the fringes of a group that wanted to overthrow the established order. The plot was uncovered and he was arrested and tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. He put in an appeal even though the chances of getting a reprieve were non-existent.

In the meantime, he was sent to a prison camp in Siberia where he experienced some of the harshest conditions known to man. His appeal was turned down and he was given a date for execution. The day came round and he was put up against the wall to be shot. But at the very last moment a messenger arrived with word from St Petersburg, his sentence was commuted to four years penal servitude.

Dostoyevsky experienced a resurrection. He was a dead man; the book he wrote about his prison life is called 'The House of the Dead', and the title literally sums up his experiences. He was dead; he regarded himself dead, because just waiting for death like that can be considered even worse than being dead. And then he was alive. And although he had to endure very harsh conditions he was alive, and he saw everything in a new way. He was able to live life to the full.

Dostoyevsky experienced life because he experienced death and this is what made him a truly great writer. A writer who has been able to get inside our souls and in his writing has explored some of our deepest feelings and emotions.

This Gospel is not here on this particular Sunday to get us to focus on the resurrection of the body and life everlasting; that comes on Easter Day. This Gospel is here to get us to wake up from our sleep and to realise that we have some living to do. We are supposed to be Christians. We are supposed to be followers of Jesus, the best man who ever lived, the only man who ever fully lived. The only man who really understood how to live.

And if we dare to accept the title Christian then we had better take a few lessons in living. We had better stop moaning and groaning and looking over our shoulder at others and saying: 'Would you look at her, who does she think she is?'

Stop putting a wet blanket over everything and live a bit. God has given us this wonderful creation and all these wonderful people around us, so let us open our eyes and talk to our neighbours and enjoy ourselves. We see the signs of spring all around us, and yet it is we who should be the signs of spring to our neighbours and friends and workmates all through the year.

But, of course, this is very hard for us. We have had years of training not to get above ourselves, not to think well of ourselves, not to enjoy ourselves. And the Church itself, with its penchant for rules and regulations, has played its full part in this process. Most of us have long experience of being pressed down and having our individuality and creativity squashed out of us.

I can give you countless examples of people who have experienced a resurrection in their lives. One of our own previous Provincial Superiors was a dead man. He had a very tricky heart operation which took ten hours. Afterwards he saw things very differently.

I know a man in one of my previous parishes who lost his wife and one of his own legs in a car accident. He had four young children. But he was determined to do his best for them. He told me: 'I painted that skirting board lying on my belly.' He brought those children up and was so proud of them it was unbelievable. He walked two miles each week to cheer up someone else who had lost a leg and was in the depths of depression.

There are dozens of examples. And we have a few in the Gospel today, apart from Lazarus himself. Look at Martha and Mary; they both blamed Jesus for letting Lazarus die. Sounds incredible doesn't it? And yet it is there in the text. But when they hear Jesus speak their faith is restored.

But as we say Sunday after Sunday: We don't experience Christ in a vacuum. We don't find him when things are bowling along as usual and we are keeping our head down. We meet him in suffering, we meet him in encounters with others, we meet him in challenging situations, we meet him when we are vulnerable, we meet him basically when our defences are down and we are open and receptive.

And he shows us the way. And the way is to be like him. And that means getting close to people, it means living for others, it means healing the sick, it means carrying other peoples burdens, it means loving the poor, it means being close to the Father in prayer, it means dying to self so we can rise to new life in him.

I heard about a sign outside a funeral parlour in Brooklyn it said: Why walk around half dead when we can bury you for seventy-five bucks? The question we need to ask is: Why walk around half dead when we have new life in Christ?
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