5laHomily for Mass – Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: Sunday 9:00am & Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 5:00pm)

6 April 2014

(Readings: Ezek 37:12-14; Ps 129; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45)

We all have people we are praying for: “Lazarus-es” of one type or another: someone who is sick for whom we’re asking for health; someone who is suffering some affliction, for whom we’re asking release; someone who is in the grip of their own bad choices, for whom we’re praying that they’ll see the light and come to their senses. As we pray, sometimes we wonder if our prayers will do anything. God appears to be slow, sometimes. Is our prayer doing anything?

The sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was ill – and clearly seriously ill, because he died. And yet, Jesus didn’t come for two more days. It’s not always clear to us – at least not yet – why God seems to delay; or that our prayers aren’t answered in the way we ask, when we ask.

Probably the pinnacle of this Gospel text today are the words that provide the shortest verse of the Bible: “Jesus wept.” Much has been written about these two words, because they say so much about Christ – about God becoming one of us – the Word becoming flesh. The Byzantine Liturgy acclaims: “Thou hast wept over Lazarus as a man, and Thou hast raised him as God” (1). Saint Bernard puts it beautifully: God became man in order “to know what it is to be man, from the inside. God became man in order to experience our condition, our life, from the inside: to know our joys and sorrows as we know them” (1). And, so on that day after Lazarus had died, God knew, from the inside, what it means to weep for a friend, to grieve, to sorrow for one who was alive and is dead. And so when we experience these things, we can remember that God is not just watching, sympathizing from afar, God knows, literally. He knows exactly how we feel.

Jesus weeping doesn’t really answer anything. It doesn’t give us an answer to ‘why?’ – ‘why did this happen?’ ‘why did God allow this to happen?’ But it helps us to realize that grief is truly the price we pay for love – a price that God himself has paid.

Other Christian writers have referred to Christ as “our very human Redeemer.” And as such, it means we can come close to Jesus. He knows our life from the inside: its joys, its sufferings, even its temptations. He knows. And so we should never be afraid of coming to him. But at the same time, we realize that this very human Redeemer is God: God who has the power to raise from the dead! And so, when we come to Jesus in illness, we know that he can give us healing. When we come to Jesus in temptation, he can give us power and strength. When we come to Jesus when we are in the death of sin, he can bring us to life again with his mercy and forgiveness!

As we contemplate this ‘very human Redeemer’, its good for us to feel that connection with Jesus – to know that he understands what we might be going through. It’s good for us to feel that connection because in less than two weeks we’ll be celebrating the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. It’s important that we realize that this isn’t just a remembrance of something that happened two millennia ago – a nice tale retold for its moral lessons. No, we feel that connection to our ‘very human Redeemer’ because the mystery of his death and resurrection – the Paschal mystery – is something that we live every day.

We who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his life, death and resurrection. What is true of Christ in his human body is true of us in his body the Church. The pattern of his death and resurrection is the pattern of our lives – not just an idea, or an historical reality just for Jesus many years ago – but as the very mystery of our own lives too.

=== +++ ===

(1) Aidan Nichols OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, volume 2, p. 135-137.