My Dear Parishioners,
This weekend we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Our Gospel is of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This past January I was privileged to travel to Jerusalem with several of our parishioners to see the holy sites, one of which was the “Tomb of Lazarus” in Bethany. After Mass that day, I went to his tomb and descended into the darkness. I imagined what it must have been like for Lazarus to hear our Lord shouting from outside “Lazarus, come out!”
Our Gospel begins with Jesus’ late arrival to the town of Bethany after having been sent for by his sisters. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has already died. At first glance, this lateness seems curious. If Bethany is only 2 miles away from Jerusalem, why does Jesus wait 4 days until after Lazarus is buried to make His journey? After all, he loved Martha, Mary and their brother, Lazarus. Two spiritual thoughts emerge from His delay. First, Jesus’ tardiness provides the oppor-tunity to manifest His divine power. If He had raised Lazarus from death immediately, any skeptic might wonder if Lazarus was truly dead. Waiting 4 days removes any doubt as to the authenticity of the coming miracle.
Second, Jesus’ delay reveals God’s attitude towards suffering and death. In the face of his loss, “Jesus wept”. Jesus’ tears teach us that mourning is not simply a human emotion, but also, God’s first response to death. Death was not an original part of God’s plan for us. Death is the consequence for sin, and Jesus’ reaction reminds us of the depths of God’s love for us. Even though Jesus knows that he will raise Lazarus from the dead, nevertheless, death stirs His heart and He grieves. And in this grief, He gives us permission to mourn our own losses, to recognize that death is not what God wants for us and gives us a glimpse into the unfathomable depths of God’s compassion.
But, Jesus’ tears are not without effect. Love is stronger than death. Approaching the grave, Jesus lifts up his eyes to the Father, gives thanks and cries out to Lazarus: “Come, out!” Life emerges from the grave. As Lazarus emerges, he casts a bright foreshadow of Christ’s own resurrection. Just as Lazarus is unfettered from his burial shroud, so we too live in the promise that Christ has the power to loose our sins, to reconcile us with our loving Father, and to raise us to eternal life. This is the hope which allows us to continue with whatever “struggles” burden our Lenten journey and to persevere in following Christ who is our Way, Truth and Life.
During the “struggles” that we face during these difficult and uncertain days dealing with the Coronavirus, I want to assure you that we are here at the parish if you need us. While our parish offices are closed, we are still accessible via phone and e-mail. We are working each day to stay attentive to your spiritual needs. In this regard, I call your attention to our Outreach Ministry on our website who are always there to assist those most in need.
In the absence of Sunday and daily Masses, I also call your attention to the many resources that the Archdiocese has prepared for the faithful on their website. I especially encourage you to watch Sunday Mass on-line with our new Archbishop Nelson Pérez as we hear his words of encouragement at this difficult time. Our parish website has provided various links to the Archdiocese and links to weekday Masses, devotions and individual prayers as well.
Let us continue to pray for each other at this difficult time and I thank those who have remembered us through their continued giving in order to sustain us and help us continue to serve the needs of our parish community.
Until next week, may you and your families continue to have a fruitful and blessed Lent!
Love and prayers,