Sunday, March 9, 2008  Our Lord is Master of Death and Life. But ultimately, he will raise us and our loved ones from death to eternal life.

Father Felix's Homilies

March 9, 2008

Fr. Munachi wrote: “Traditional Jewish belief had it that the soul of a dead person somehow remains with the body for three days. After three days the soul departs finally from the body never to return, and that is when corruption sets in. When Martha objects to the opening of the tomb and says, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days” (John 11:39), she is expressing the common view that this is now a hopeless situation. It says, “So, when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.”

That's not how you react to sad news about your friend, is it? He remained for two days instead of right away? And yet he loved him? Even Lazarus' sisters just say to Him “Master, the one you love is ill.” They don't even mention his name. They know he knows whom he loves.

Fr. Munachi, “Is that why Jesus delayed coming to the funeral, to let the situation become “impossible” before acting on it? G. K. Chesterton once said: “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.” In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back to life a person who is already four days dead and decaying is as unthinkable as the prophet Ezekiel’s vision in which the gray, dry bones of the dead are miraculously restored to life.

For them this miracle is a challenge to never give up hope even in the hopeless situations in which they found themselves as individuals, as a church or as a nation. It is never too late for God to revive and revitalize a person, a church or a nation.”

St. John the Evangelist wrote this passage upon seeing his Christians falling sick and finally dying. So, the question many of his followers had for him as their leader was what happened to them when they died. Remember the Apostle John lived to be over 90 years if not 100, unlike the rest of the Apostles who had all been martyred and so died very early and prematurely. He, on the other hand, lived to see the church grow and many Christians die both through persecution martyrdom and natural deaths. So, the faithful wanted to know what happens in sickness and in death of the faithful ones. They had questions about the whereabouts of Jesus in the context of their suffering, pain and deaths. Was he there or not? Why were Christians falling sick and dying like each and everybody else? Does he care at all? Is he bothered at all by our conditions?

This story of Lazarus answers such questions.  When some among you are terminally ill, go call Jesus in prayer. When they ultimately die, Jesus will be right there with you, in the thick of your grief and mourning. He will be right there reassuring you with his condolences and he will also be there perturbed, deeply troubled, deeply moved and crying side-by-side with you. You are never alone. Jesus is compassionate when we mourn. The word “compassion” comes from the Latin word “Cum Passion” which means, “suffering with.” Our Lord suffers with us. Twice it says he was “perturbed”, once he was “deeply troubled”, once he wept. It doesn't say he “cried”. It says he wept. Crying you can miss, but weeping is crying with an attitude to it; with an emotion to it; with a heart to it. It means everybody noticed. He probably emitted loud noise.

APPLICATION LESSONS:

1. God is not unemotional. God is not unmoved with pity. God is emotional. God is not a statue that does not cry for us. He is saddened when we are sad, weeps when we weep.

That's exactly what Our Lord delayed and took his time to reveal his feelings.

If he responded one day earlier, this glory would not have been manifested. He would have spared himself the grief. But he chose to go later when all was “too late” to share in our cup of grief, mourning and sorrow.

They say, “Your capacity to grieve and mourn says a lot about your capacity to love.” One, who does not love, does not grieve.

God does not insulate himself from danger, nor does he his friends. Those he loves most, he exposes most. Your friendship to the Lord is not a reason to be comfortable. Comfort prevents us from seeing God's Glory. God's Glory is made manifest in suffering and pain.

Remember, this is the family that gave him tremendous support and consolation whenever he was troubled. It is here, in this family where he was listened to when he spoke, when all around him rejected whatever he said. It is here that his words were taken seriously.

But in time of their need, Our Lord exposes them to suffering; does not protect them. Precisely because he loved them more. Wasn't he supposed to watch their back as they watched his, scratch theirs as they scratched his? Isn't that what friends are for?

If he had insulated Lazarus from illness, Martha and Mary from the Death Experience of their brother, and the grief that goes with it, they would not have seen the Glory of God manifestation.

Example:

It's like any spoiled child. They can't appreciate the Glory of their parents surrounding them. 

They would have not developed and matured in their faith in Our Lord. They faith would still be a baby's faith. It was for their growth and development.

Our Lord waited until the situation was beyond our human capacity to redeem; until it was hopeless, Lazarus had started to decompose before acting. (Jewish belief about 3 days vs.

LESSON:  This was to exhaust our human defenses, and our rational explanation. We like explaining things away. He wanted to rule those out, so that only to God would be the Glory and Honor. To avoid giving credit to our own selves, Our Lord wanted Credit to go to God alone. Notice the word “Credit” is the same as the “Credo” (I believe). He wanted to arouse faith in God in us. Whenever God leaves us in our troubles and suffering, it is to arouse faith in us. It is for our own good.

2. Grief is good for the soul:  It says that even after he had approached the house, he still stayed aloof. Even when Martha came to meet him halfway, Our Lord remained right there.

He allowed the two sisters to grieve. He gave them time to grieve, before he gave them his consolations.

When we lose someone we love, a job, health, it is OK to cry, to weep, to come in touch with reality. He delays, not because he doesn't care or bother, but so that we cry before we can appreciate his consolations.

Sometimes we hide behind our defenses of invincibility, macho attitudes. We hide our brokenness, our vulnerabilities, and our weaknesses. We put up facades of rock in front, on our faces, while inside we are truly deteriorating and decomposing. We bury and hide our dark sides, our negatives, and as a result we are inhibited with the shrouds of death. We are shackled by our fear of the public opinion -- what people would think of us. We stay in our caves, our moles, holes and hideouts. We don't come out: 1) Unless we die to these and rise to Life in Jesus Christ, we are rotting, decaying, and our lives will be stench to those who come close to us; and 2) That is why the sacrament of reconciliation and spiritual direction are such a wonderful practices of coming out of our closets, hide-outs and shackles. We come out to the Light of Christ. Our Lord is an antiseptic to our corruption.

Our Lord is Master of Death and Life. But ultimately, he will raise us and our loved ones from death to eternal life.

This is the good news of it all: Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Master of Death and Life. Death has no last say. He does.

Our Lord is the final fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy in the 1st Reading: “Oh! My people! I will open your graves and have you rise from them. I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land.”

St. Paul, the other fellow Apostle in the 2nd Reading, he too faced the same challenges among his faithful. His answer was also reassuring. It was exactly the same as the one John gave his own church.  “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.”

St. Paul has in mind the story of Ezekiel 37, where Prophet Ezekiel has a vision of gray and dry bones in the valley, bones of the dead children of Israel who died in battle. God asks the prophet to prophecy to these bones of death and miraculously the bones started rattling, bone joining bone and developing sinews and flesh covering them.

But they were then still lying there flat as mere corpses. God asked him to once more prophecy this time to the Spirit, “Oh! Spirit, breathe into these slain that they may come to life. At which point restored to life. They stood upright.

Whatever your situation may be -- you are overwhelmed, you are hopeless, there seems to be no solution to your problems, all seems to be lost, you feel betrayed, deceived, confused cheated. Turn to Jesus, like Martha and Mary. Come out of your house of mourning and valley of tears like Martha and Mary. Come out of your death grave situation towards Jesus like Lazarus. He is right there ready to prophecy over you, “Lazarus, Come out!”

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