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Jesus calls us out of our tombs

Archbishop Wenski's homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

This is Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 29, 2020. He preached this homily while celebrating the livestreamed vigil Mass for Sunday, at 5:30 pm. March 28, 2020 at St. Mary Cathedral. Watch here.

Last Sunday, Jesus cured a man born blind and in doing so he showed himself to be the Light of the Word. In today’s Gospel, he raises a dead man from the tomb. In raising Lazarus from the dead, he reveals himself to be the Lord of life. As he did for Lazarus, Jesus calls us out of our tombs. For the Christian, life only truly begins when we hear the Word of God and obey it.

As Lazarus was unbound from his shroud, so too we can be freed from the fetters of sin through Jesus’s Paschal victory over sin and death.

God did not create us just so that one day we would die. He made us for himself: to know, love and serve him in this life and to live with him for all eternity. Dying on the cross, he destroyed our death and in rising from the dead, he restores our life.

Of course, God normally doesn’t intervene to prevent the tragedies and sufferings of life as we make our way on our earthly pilgrimage, “mourning and weeping in the vale of tears.” Not knowing why bad things happen to good people can try our faith. Like Job, we want to know why; and God may one day tell us; but not necessarily on this side of eternity. However, in Jesus, God is revealed as one who shares with us suffering, grief and death and in doing so, reminds us that our sufferings joined with his can be redemptive.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a tragedy that took perhaps as many as 300,000 lives, there is a story of a journalist who while surveying the death and destruction around him, asked “Where was God?” He said this standing near a destroyed church – everything had collapsed except a small shrine outside the church. In this shrine, a concrete crucifix still stood amid the rubble. An elderly woman who heard what the reporter had said looked at him and pointed to the crucifix and said, “Where was God? There was God.”

She shared the faith of Martha and believed what she believed when Jesus told her: “I am the Resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me even if he dies, he will live; who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Where is God in the middle of human tragedies? God is there is there among us weeping as Jesus did at the tomb of Lazarus. This is our God who stands in deep, human solidarity with us, and through the glory of the incarnation embraces fully our human condition.

This is faith – the faith of Martha, the faith of the Church. We are “Church” because we believe what Martha believed: “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ. You have the words of eternal life.” Faith leads us to trust Jesus and his word.

To say we believe is easy but to live out that belief in our daily life especially when confronted by death, or by those mini deaths we face every day because of failures, crises, sickness or other realities we experience in this “vale of tears,” is not so easy.

This is why, even in this time of “social distancing,” we need the support of one another.

Therefore, even as we “shelter in place” and endure a “fast” from Mass and Holy Communion, we need to continue to grow in our friendship with the Lord. Jesus, who scatters the darkness of sin with the Light of Faith, and calls out of our tombs into the fullness of life, can bridge any distance that may separate us from him or from one another.

Comments from readers

Jim Marten - 03/31/2020 08:55 AM
I always felt that the church would always be there for me. Now in a time of crisis the church has locked its doors. What a horrible feeling. The church is now in a class of being nonessential. We need creative idea to engage people at this time. I pray that the leadership of the church will have the courage to step up in a meaningful way. People want and need God. Jim Marten Assumption Catholic Church Lauderdale By The Sea

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