Fr. Paul Voisin, CR, Superior General of the Congregation of the Resurrection, will offer this homily today, the 5th Sunday of Lent.
One of the realities of every family with a son or daughter in the military service, is the fear that one day an Officer, or Chaplain, or Commander will come to their front door with the sad news of the death of their child in combat. Movies made famous the scene of registered letters or telegrams being received advising families that their loved one fighting far from home had died in the defense of freedom. The universal response of any parent would be devastation, the deep sorrow over the loss of a daughter or son before their time.
I thought of this when I read in the gospel (John 11:1-45) the simple words, “And Jesus wept”. Jesus, as God-made-man, felt the human emotion of sorrow and loss at the death of his friend Lazarus. He shared with Martha and Mary their grief over the death of their brother.
However Jesus, as God-made-man, could do more than grieve. He had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead, which we see so dramatically in the gospel. We can only imagine the joy and relief of Martha and Mary, and all their relatives and friends in Bethany to have him back among them.
Jesus tells us that “I am the resurrection and the life”. As he rose from the dead, so those who follow him faithfully will share in his glorious resurrection. However, for me, these words are not only talking about his resurrection but that he, personally, is the source of new life for those who following him faithfully. Our relationship with him, here and now, will be the source of that new and risen life. Not only after our physical death will we experience this resurrection, but here and now. When Jesus rose from the dead the impossible and improbable happened, and God has the power to do the impossible and the improbable in our life today.
In our First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (37:12-14) God reveals that he will raise the dead, that his people will live with him eternally. They will share in his Spirit.
In our Second Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (8:8-11) St. Paul reminds us that we are more than flesh and bones, we are spirit. Although the body may die, our spirit is eternal, and lives with God who raised Jesus from the dead. Those who belong to God, live with God eternally.
When we think of the resurrection we naturally think of Easter and the Easter season. However Jesus, as our “resurrection and life” is a reality of every day. His ability to do the impossible and the improbable is not limited to Easter, but is ours every day. That is why the virtue most associated with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is hope. Every day we should have hope, believing that God is with us, and that when we cooperate with his grace we can do the impossible and the improbable. I am sure we can all reflect on our own lives and how God has done for us the impossible and the improbable, surprising us with an outpouring of grace and blessing. Perhaps it was a family situation, or at school or at work, when all seemed dark and gloomy, when tempers flared or hurtful words were spoken. Perhaps it was when a dream was smashed and our plans went unfulfilled. Perhaps it was the grief of losing a loved one. Just as Jesus wept, so too he weeps WITH us in those moments. His compassion goes out to us in our moments of need. His grace is abundant, and at the same time we are bombarded by the grace of his resurrection and new life if we turn to Jesus with hope. Our hope is a sign of our faith in God, and a testimony to our experience that in the past God did the impossible and the improbable.
During our Lenten journey we have been called to die to ourselves in order to rise with Jesus. As we respond to God each day the life and light of Christ grows within us. Thus we are transformed, so that when we celebrate Easter we are a new person, a renewed family, more united friends, and more amicable neighbours. This will not happen against our will. We must will it, and work for it. God can only do the impossible and the improbable with our help. There are still two weeks that remain before we celebrate the new life of the resurrection. May they be weeks that we follow faithfully the Lord Jesus and continue to die to self, in order to rise with him. Through prayer, fasting and acts of charity we are uniting ourselves more closely with Jesus, and moving our hearts, minds and spirits closer to him and his kingdom.
Jesus weeps with us, as he has a compassionate heart and knows our human suffering. He renews our hope that he can do the impossible and the improbable. However, my fear is that if we do not respond to him he will weep FOR us, and the loss of our eternal spiritual life for not knowing, loving and serving him.