5th Sunday Lent, year A 2020

5th Sunday Lent year A 2020

This past Friday, Pope Francis gave an address, for an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing, to the city and the world.  He did this outside the entrance of St. Peter’s.  Normally, there are crowds of people who are present to observe and listen, regardless of the weather.  But that day, it was empty.  The sky was dark, it was raining, and not a single person to be found in the square.  If you happen to see a picture or video of the event, its quite powerful.  It shows the reality and physical isolation caused by the virus.  Even here I am by myself.  But it’s powerful for another reason.  Because, despite no one there physically, the pope still preaches, he still adores Christ, he still blesses.  Many activities across the country, and the world, have shut down, but our devotion to Christ, our living the gospel, that must continue.  It must continue because the power of God, the grace and blessings of God, can overcome all things.

During his address, the Pope mentioned the story of the disciples caught in a storm on the sea of Galilee, and how afraid they were, the danger and uncertainty of their situation.  We know that Jesus calms the storm, and then comments on his disciples lack of faith.  Pope Francis says, “We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love.  Embracing Christ’s cross, means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time.  Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.”

In this time, we have all experienced some form of loss.  Loss of lifestyle, loss of finances, loss of health, and for some, loss of life.  And it is that last one, loss of life, that causes the most anguish.  Today’s gospel we see Jesus confront such a loss, his friend Lazarus has died.  His sisters are mourning, as well as their friends.  People question if Jesus could have prevented this.  But Jesus knows what he will be doing.  He is going to demonstrate what faith in Him is all about.  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. Do you believe this?”

Do you believe this?

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, showing that he is indeed the resurrection and the life.  Not even the supposed finality of death is beyond the power of God.  Resurrection of the Dead is the ultimate, most important promise of God. 

Regardless of how many or how few blessings we receive in life, the promise of resurrection is the greatest of blessings.  And it is not to the same old life, but something greater, something more glorious.  I have often spoken much about how our faith in the resurrection shifts our perspective on life, how it gives us confidence, even in difficult times.  This is now a time where that is put into action. 

Remember the words of St. Paul.  “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”  That is the foundation of our faith.  That we turn to Christ, that we cling to Christ, and he will take away our fear.  He will take away our fear of loss, because he fills us with the great love and fulfillment that we all desire.  He takes away our fear of death, because he promises, and has demonstrated, to raise us from the dead. 

In the uncertainties of earthly life, we turn our hearts and minds toward solid certainties of divine life.  This is how the Christian lives in peace, with hope and confidence.  Let us always turn to Jesus Christ in prayer, to offer prayer and blessings to one another, and to support one another in the saving graces of Jesus Christ.