My brothers and sisters,
We continue our Lenten journey with Jesus as He reaches Bethany, which is not far from Jerusalem, where He will give His life for the love and the eternal life of us all.
In the Gospel today we hear of Our Lord’s coming to the home of Martha and Mary who were in mourning for their brother Lazarus who has died. I, like you, look to this sad scene seeking God’s help at this time of uncertainty due to the pandemic. This family’s home is very familiar to Jesus. Not every door opened to Him or appreciated His presence as He went about preaching and healing with a special concern for the sick, the confused, the marginalised and excluded. Jesus was God fully human and He loved the home of Lazarus and his two sisters. There He was always welcome whenever He came. He was loved, listened to, respected, made a priority, valued and fussed over. On this occasion the sisters are sad for their brother has died but this has not dampened their love for Jesus, their relief at seeing Him, the peace His visit brings and the hope He always inspires.
Each of us today must consciously welcome Jesus who comes to us in our need. We, like Martha, must meet Him with genuine hope. Our disposition facilitates the Lord. Hope is a wonderful and powerful force which our world badly needs. Christians are channels of hope. In the Mass (we cannot physically attend at this time, but it is offered every day by your priest) we know that bread and wine have become the Lord’s Precious Body and Blood. Let us in our Spiritual Communion feel the Lord’s Real Presence in our hearts and homes lifting us out of anxiety and helplessness as He did for Martha and Mary. Jesus will never leave us in the state in which He finds us.
Jesus initially delays when He hears of Lazarus’ death. This seems hard to us, why not go immediately, Lord? The Jews believed that certainly by day four, the soul of a dead person was well and truly gone from the body meaning the person was irretrievably dead. Martha and Mary were well aware of this and yet they still hoped. Jesus gently elicits Martha’s hope, He says: “I am the resurrection. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord” she said, “I believe that you are the Christ.” Martha’s faith is not dependent on the possibility of Jesus` bringing her brother back to life. It is a rock solid faith that was in her heart for keeps irrespective of the outcome, she knew whatever Jesus’ response to Lazarus’ death it would be for the best. Martha’s faith didn’t need a miracle, it pre-existed it – just the voice and reassurance of Jesus, this would have sufficed. His Word is Life.
We as Christians must have such solid faith in God. Currently we feel delay: how long, Lord? In bringing Lazarus back from irretrievable death we must believe in God’s love and grace to carry humanity through our crisis. Nothing is beyond His power. Can we produce the trust, hope and belief of Martha? This is what the world needs of Christ’s Church now and at all times.
Jesus is upset and in great distress for his friend Lazarus. God weeps. Jesus suffers for and with all affected by the virus, and indeed all troubled humanity. He is not at a safe distance from our pain but in solidarity with us, He is the King who still reigns from the cross of suffering. Our Crucifixes keeps this truth before our eyes. Jesus’ hands know pain and are well able to carry us forward in time of distress. Jesus identifies Himself with all troubled lives: “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me. I am with you, through it all”. Sometimes troubles can blind us to the Lord’s Presence. The more we acknowledge the Lord’s Presence in our isolation and need the more we will benefit from that awareness. We are like the Cavalry officer who prayed before the battle, “Lord I will be busy this day, I may forget thee, I pray thee will not forget me”. Many of us in our enforced inactivity can use this time fruitfully for time of prayer and strengthening our relationships. In our preoccupied state let us become, through prayer and the gift of silence, more aware of Him Who is always thinking of us.
Finally, when Jesus gets to the tomb of Lazarus He asks the assistance of those around Him to free the revived man. They are asked to unbind Lazarus, who has returned from the dead in response to the prayer of Jesus to His Father in Heaven. Many people feel helpless in the face of the pandemic and fear can freeze us into inactivity. As we pray to God to deliver the world from this evil, we must play our part in the miracle. To unbind people from fear, anxiety, dread and despair. Jesus said to His Father: “Father I thank you for hearing my prayer. I know indeed you always hear me” and His prayer in the face of the so called impossible was answered.
We need to show such confidence and optimism, particularly in our prayer. Some of us have allowed life and its disappointments to make us so called “realistic” which causes us to lower the bar of expectation and this in turn undermines our sense of God’s miraculous power. Grace builds on nature.
A little 4 year old went next door to console her neighbour who had lost his wife. On returning home with a little note of gratitude from her neighbour to her mother for allowing her child to visit him, her mother asked the little girl what she said to the gentleman? “Nothing mum, I just held his hand and helped him to cry”. Our efforts, no matter how small or silent, count.
Many of us are in isolation and feel disconnection. Let us read through today’s Gospel which is on our website. Stand at the door of our Bethany home with our needs and allow the Lord to enter and minster to us in situ (Social distancing doesn’t apply to Jesus). Lazarus’ coming to life was a window on God’s power, a glimpse of glory, to raise us up and out of fear and powerlessness. Our prayers can unbind people from the limitation we all feel at this present time. We have a little more time on our hands to spend a little more time on our knees (knees permitting). May your Lent bring many blessings. Stay well.
God bless you all,